During his press conference (via ClevelandBrowns.com) on Thursday following OTAs, Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski was asked specifically about the team's interest in former Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Chudzinski avoided referring to Hoyer by name, saying:
I feel good with this group with what they are doing and how they have progressed. We will just move along and keep going in the same direction. As you saw today Brandon was working with the first group. Jason (Campbell) has been working with the second group and Thaddeus (Lewis) has gotten reps with the third group. We will continue along that way, it’s just too early right now to be able to say anything.
Just a few hours later, the Browns signed Hoyer (per Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer).
The Browns and Hoyer have been at least casually linked since the front office changed hands and Michael Lombardi became the team's general manager.
Lombardi's relationship with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick included familiarity with Hoyer, and with the Browns rumored to not be entirely enamored with 2012 first-round draft pick Brandon Weeden, the thought was that Hoyer may be added to the roster to compete with Weeden.
When the Browns decided to sign Jason Campbell to provide that competition and at least a veteran backup presence while Hoyer signed the second-round restricted free-agent tender the Cardinals offered him, it seemed like the Hoyer possibility had dried up.
The speculation was reheated, however, when Hoyer was released by the Cardinals last week after the team decided it was comfortable with Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton as its quarterbacks.
Now Hoyer joins Weeden, Campbell and third-stringer Thaddeus Lewis as the Browns continue their OTAs and head toward training camp. But despite lingering questions about Weeden's ability to be "the guy" in Cleveland and historical evidence of Lombardi's praise of Hoyer, the signing puts neither Weeden nor Campbell on notice.
No, the player who might find his Browns roster spot in jeopardy, at least in 2013, is Lewis.
For all of the Browns front office's enthusiasm about Hoyer, he's largely untested. Since 2009, he's played a total of 225 snaps and has had one start—in Week 17 of 2012. The majority of Hoyer's in-game regular-season experience has come with the Patriots, in games in which his team held a commanding lead and there was no reason for Tom Brady to stay on the field.
So far, Hoyer has thrown 96 passes with 57 completions for a total of 616 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Those aren't the numbers of a quarterback competing for a starting job this year. Those are the numbers of someone who may be forcing Lewis—who was a better fit in the Browns' old, West Coast offense—off the roster.
Lewis has one game under his belt as a Brown—Week 17 of the 2012 season, when Weeden and then-backup Colt McCoy were both recovering from shoulder injuries. He completed 22 of his 32 passes for 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
It's not like Lewis is talentless or cannot be developed. It's just that Lombardi and company are clearly enamored with Hoyer and his Patriots pedigree. When that happens, well, there's simply an odd man out.
While the continuous Hoyer chatter has finally culminated with the Browns getting their man, that doesn't put either Campbell or Weeden in jeopardy.
It doesn't carry with it a sense of complete ease, either—quarterback pursuits, even those of the backup variety, are going to be highly scrutinized and picked apart to find meaning, especially for a team like the Browns that has struggled to find stability at the position for years.
But if there's some plan in Cleveland for Hoyer to eventually take up the mantle of starting quarterback, it's a long-term one which hinges on things like Weeden's development this year and the ability for the coaching and front office staffs to retain their jobs.
It's not happening now. It's not even in an embryonic stage.
Come Week 1, it's likely that Weeden will be the Browns' starting quarterback. If he's somehow not, it won't be Hoyer under center. The only quarterback in Cleveland who needs to worry about his job security after the Hoyer signing is Lewis.
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