With the new Cleveland Browns coaching staff coming into focus, along with new ownership and new management, it is uncertain if the Browns have their starting QB for the 2013 season. With this in mind, let’s look around the league at several options that can be pursued by Banner, Lombardi and Chudzinski.
Our first option is possibly the hottest prospect in free agency. Alex Smith has played the best football of his career the past two seasons under 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.
San Francisco signed Smith to a three-year deal after working out Peyton Manning prior to his signing with Denver. The 49ers have structured the deal in such a way that they have several options in dealing with Smith.
The most likely option is that Smith will receive his outright release from the 49ers because of his projected base pay for 2013. Smith will receive a $1 million bonus if he is on the roster as of March 12th, which is tentatively designated the beginning of the league year.
If the 49ers choose to keep Smith past this date, then they will have less than a month to work out a trade. As of April 1st, Smith will be guaranteed his base salary of $7.5 million, which he is set to receive in 2013.
Another reason that Cleveland may have an interest in Smith is the connection between him and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Turner was Smith’s OC in 2006, during which time Smith had his best year as a pro prior to the arrival of Jim Harbaugh.
Before the hiring of Rob Chudzinski, the Boston Globe had reported that new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam had interest in hiring Patriots OC Josh McDaniels as the new head coach of the Browns. If McDaniels had been hired, it was believed that the Browns may have pursued acquiring Mallett. Although McDaniels did not become the Browns new head coach, the Mallett speculation has still persisted.
Mallett was a third-round selection in 2011 by New England. He is a big QB with a strong arm but very little experience. Mallett has appeared in four games, attempting just four passes and completing only one for 17 yards and throwing an interception.
A year ago, Matt Flynn was the top free-agent quarterback on the market. The Browns didn’t as much as look in Flynn’s direction, but that was a different organization with Holmgren at the top.
Seahawks GM John Schneider has already stated that Seattle would be willing to entertain offers for Flynn. The Seahawks had won the Flynn lottery in 2012; however, Flynn was unable to beat out rookie QB Russell Wilson for the starting job. Either in a trade or outright release, Flynn will likely be on the market again.
Quite possibly the riskiest option for the Browns would be to go after veteran Michael Vick. Vick is still under contract with the Eagles but since he has lost his starting job, it is unlikely the organization will keep him on the roster past February 5th. As of the 6th of February, the team will owe him a roster bonus of $3.5 million. And his guaranteed base pay is such a large amount that paying the roster bonus is unlikely.
Even if Brandon Weeden becomes the Browns' 2013 starter, it will not hurt to look for depth at the QB position. Weeden is only expected to earn $757,436 in 2013.
Colt McCoy, of course, is also on the roster and no one has ruled out a second chance for him at the helm in Cleveland. McCoy is expected to make only $575,000 in 2013. McCoy could also make for an interesting bargaining chip in a potential trade situation.
One thing is clear. With almost $49 million in cap room going into 2013, the Browns have the funds to attract almost any potential free agent.