Cleveland has sent 18 different starting quarterbacks to the line of scrimmage in that time, and now the team may be looking for yet another quarterback for the 2013 season.
ESPN Cleveland reported on Wednesday that the Browns are front-runners for quarterback Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are expected to part ways with their former first overall pick after he was benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick. Smith is scheduled to make over $7 million next season if San Francisco decides they wish to keep him on the active roster.
Considering that the Browns have hired a new coaching staff and the team finished with the sixth worst record in the NFL, it is no surprise that the organization would look to bring in another quarterback to compete for the starting role.
In my opinion, Smith is the only quarterback on the market who could fill the position and give the Browns a better chance to win. However, that opinion would hinge on the price Cleveland would have to pay to obtain his services for the next few seasons.
Cleveland currently has the cap space to sign key free agents but does not have the ammunition to make foolish trades.
The Browns currently have Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy under contract for this year. That means that the pursuit for Smith would lead to the release of one of Cleveland’s current signal-callers.
Many believe that Weeden should be released due to his age and salary. However, Weeden runs a similar offense to the scheme that Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner have brought to Cleveland.
This new Browns offense will focus on the downfield passing game, which McCoy has not displayed during his time in Cleveland. Also, the old Cleveland regime used a first-round pick on Weeden in the 2012 NFL Draft, so the team might be reluctant to give him up.
Smith is two years younger than Weeden and has seven more years of NFL experience. In Smith’s last full season as a starter (2011-12), he passed for 3,144 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. Smith was only four touchdown passes away (in only eight games played) from beating his 2011-12 totals this season when he was relieved of his starting duties.
Although Smith has been labeled as a game manager, his efficiency has improved over recent seasons. It is widely expected that the Browns want a "gunslinger" at the quarterback spot, but that does not mean that the team should overlook a player who makes smart decisions and rarely throws a bad pass.
Smith’s career high for interceptions came in the 2006-7 season with 16, but he has not thrown more than 12 interceptions in the past six years. In comparison, Weeden threw 17 interceptions in 2012.
Cleveland's roster can help a player like Smith succeed if he can continue to make smart decisions with the football. Trent Richardson showed throughout the 2012 season that he can be a special running back when he is healthy, and young receivers Greg Little and Josh Gordon would benefit from a quarterback with Smith's experience.
New Browns player personnel director Michael Lombardi is evaluating Weeden throughout the next few weeks to determine if he should be the Browns starter. If the Browns pursue Smith or any other quarterback, we'll know what decision he made.