The Cleveland Browns are hitting the reset button at quarterback. Again.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
On Wednesday, amid a flurry of other moves, the Browns cleared the decks of Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden, who combined to start 13 of the 16 games at quarterback for the team last season, by releasing them.
"First and foremost, the Browns would like to thank Brandon and his agent for being true professionals," Browns GM Ray Farmer said in a statement. "The circumstances in which he found himself were not easy for him or the team. After discussions with Brandon and his agent, we'd like to give him the ability to pursue other opportunities."
[Be sure to check out Shutdown Corner's NFL free-agent rankings. Click here for the list of offensive players, and click here for the list of defensive and special teams players]
Campbell passed for 2,015 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions in eight starts in his only season in Cleveland.
"We appreciate Jason's contributions to the Browns in 2013," Farmer said in a statement. "He's a respected veteran player in this league. We felt like at this time, early in the free-agency period, we would give him a better opportunity to move forward. We wish Jason the best in his future endeavors."
All that's left now is Brian Hoyer, who was a surprising 3-0 in his starts last season — Weeden was 0-5, Campbell 1-7 — but is coming off a torn ACL. Hoyer will be in the picture next season, as there are certainly still supporters of his still in the building, even with his biggest, former GM Mike Lombardi, now working for the New England Patriots.
But this only cranks up the pressure to land a quarterback in the draft, and the Browns have the ammo to pull it off. They own the 4th, 26th and 35th overall picks and should be in a position to land the one of their choosing if they are smart and agressive enough.
There appear to be a few routes to take here:
1. Trade up from 4: This would be the surest route to getting "their guy" if Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine identify a sure leader for their team and don't want to mess around with some other team taking that player in the top three. As things stand now, the Houston Texans at No. 1 and the Jacksonville Jaguars at 3 are in the QB hunt. The St. Louis Rams could stop the No. 2 overall pick to a QB-needy team. Trading up from four allows the Browns to get their man.
2. Stay put and grab a QB at 4: In a worst-case scenario, the team would be drafting the third quarterback in the draft if the first three picks stay as is and the Texans and Jaguars go QB at one and three, respectively. But Farmer has hinted that we might be surprised whom the Browns take a shine to. (Trust us, Ray, we won't be surprised at anything you do.) But staying put and grabbing either Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles would land them a likely starting quarterback and to fill other needs at 26 and 35.
3. Go best player available at 4: This requires trust and patience, two things that Browns fans are a little short of these days. But it could end up being the wisest move if the Browns don't believe that there's a big dropoff from the Big Three (or that they don't love any of them) to the next tier of quarterbacks. Who knows? Maybe Fresno State's Derek Carr or Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garopollo is their real target and they feel they can nab either one, either at 26 or (less likely and more risky) at 35. That could land the Browns someone such as Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. Next to Josh Gordon, are you kidding me? The Browns could bring back Brian Sipe to play quarterback, and the results might not be horrific with those two at wideout.
No matter what the approach, the Browns have some options. We just know they will be taking another quarterbacks and changing courses again. You should be quite used to this ride by now.
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