The 2014 NFL Free Agency period has been kind to the Cleveland Browns and their fans. The recently signed additions will boost the team’s level of play in all three phases of the game. However, there are loose ends the Browns have yet to tie.
One of these loose ends is the quarterback position. There has been plenty of speculation as to what the Browns plan to do with the most crucial role in football, but they have yet to make any moves other than releasing their subpar signal callers. As noted previously, Brian Hoyer appears to be the starter moving into next season, but he cannot be the only legitimate quarterback on the roster (the Browns still have trick shot sensation, Alex Tanney on the roster).
Most of the top available free agent quarterbacks have already landed with new teams, which is leaving the Browns with limited options for a veteran presence. Hoyer, 28, has only thrown 192 passes in the NFL, and his experience is limited. It’s believed the Browns should bring in a veteran and draft a rookie to go along with Hoyer, allowing the new veteran to become an extension of the QB coach on the sideline.
Newly traded Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Schaub was thought to be the front-runner to join the Browns, but he was never released by the Houston Texans and there weren’t any reports of a trade attempt by Cleveland. Until he was signed by the New York Jets, Michael Vick was another name mentioned to land in Cleveland, but it never appeared as though the Browns had real interest in the 10-year veteran. This may be because Vick has been vocal about wanting to be a starter, not a mentor.
If the Browns are seeking to bring in a QB with NFL experience, there are slim pickings. One player who has been brought up repeatedly is former Washington Redskin Rex Grossman. Grossman, 33, had been the backup behind Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins for Kyle Shanahan, so he is familiar with the new offense in Cleveland. If Grossman is signed by the Browns, he would certainly come in as the third quarterback, backing up Hoyer and whomever the Browns draft in May.
The biggest necessity for the Browns must be to retain center Alex Mack, who was transition tagged earlier in free agency. The prospect of Mack signing the tender and sticking with the Browns in 2014 looks promising. Mack has yet to visit with another team, let alone sign an offer sheet. There are reports of teams showing interest, but no attempts to sign the Pro Bowler have been made. One school of thought is that Mack’s potential suitors are shying away as to not irritate the centers they have in place — only to lose out on Mack if and when the Browns match the offer.
The offensive line is a looming questions for the Browns. Along with Mack, left tackle Joe Thomas is a definitive staple up front. The guard positions and right tackle are questionable, and could use some updating. The Browns brought in Seattle Seahawks guard Paul McQuistan, but haven’t made an offer.
If new running back Ben Tate is going to bolster the Browns’ running game, he’ll need guys who can open up running lanes. The Browns play six games in the competitive AFC North against the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, and Tate’s ability to wear down defenses will be key to winning games in the division.
If Hoyer is to succeed in the NFL as a starting quarterback, he will need weapons. The Browns already have Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and the newly signed Andrew Hawkins, but they are still seeking a viable candidate for their No. 2 slot. Greg Little‘s inconsistency is a large concern for Cleveland, and they should be looking to the draft for the role, specifically at Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin, all of whom could be quality choices.
The Browns have made valuable moves this offseason, but they are still in need of adding to the roster. It’s been a slow process in Cleveland, but for the first time, they are looking like a franchise that knows what it takes to win. Browns fans should have faith in what general manager Ray Farmer is doing in Cleveland, in 2014 and beyond.