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Is Brandon Weeden the Cleveland Browns' Best Option for Replacing Brian Hoyer?

Oct 3, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden (3) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Chris TrapassoAnalyst IOctober 4, 2013

As it currently stands, the 3-2, division-leading Cleveland Browns will play out the remainder of the regular season with Brandon Weeden as their starting quarterback. 

According to Scott Petrak of the Elyria Chronicle-TelegramBrian Hoyer tore his ACL in the first quarter of their Week 5 win over the Buffalo Bills and will be out for the year: 

#Browns Chud: MRI for Hoyer shows torn ACL, will require surgery. No other damage. Out for season.

— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) October 4, 2013

After a disappointing rookie season, Weeden was uninspiring in his two 2013 starts before injuring his thumba development which led to Hoyer taking over the No. 1 job. 

As Hoyer's replacement against Buffalo, the 2012 first-round pick completed 13-of-24 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. 

With 11 more regular-season games to go, is Weeden the Browns' best option under center?

Let's explore the possibilities.

 

Jason Campbell 

Jason Campbell was inactive for Cleveland's game against Buffalo on Thursday Night Football, but he's healthy.

Aug 29, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Jason Campbell (17) practices before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

When Weeden was injured, the Browns coaching staff simply chose No. 3 signal-caller Hoyer over the eight-year veteran.

Campbell's appeared in 78 games during his NFL career, but hasn't been the unquestioned starter since he was a member of the Oakland Raiders in 2011. 

He does have a strong arm, which is likely part of the reason why the Browns signed him, as they have a variety of vertical routes in their offense. 

However, like Weeden, he has somewhat of an elongated delivery and the tendency to hold on to the football too long in the pocket. 

Campbell is very comparable to Weeden in many ways—it'd be a coin flip as to whether he'd be an upgrade. However, the soon-to-be 32-year-old has no upside and is not the future of the franchise.

Therefore, Weeden would get the nod.  

 

Josh Freeman 

Josh Freeman is far and away the best available free-agent quarterback. The 25-year-old was run out of Tampa Bay due to inconsistent play and a sour relationship with head coach Greg Schiano. 

Sep 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) sets to throw during the second half of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

At his age, with a rather large 6'6", 240-pound frame and an impressive set of physical skills, there's plenty to like about Freeman's upside.

But he struggled with accuracy for most of his time as the Buccaneers starter and was carrying a 45.7 completion percentage before being benched following Tampa Bay's Week 3 loss to the New England Patriots

Either way, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reports that the Browns are not interested in the 2009 first-round pick: 

Did a little digging on #Browns QB situation and to answer many questions: Don't expect #Browns to make a run at Josh Freeman.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 4, 2013

Just because that news surfaced doesn't mean there's absolutely no chance Cleveland will make a run at Freeman, but it seems very unlikely to happen. 

Would he be an upgrade over Weeden? 

Due to his NFL experience and athleticism, he would be. 

Barely.

 

Other Options

Don't be surprised if the Browns simply add another backup-level quarterback to play behind Weeden for the remainder of the season. 

Sep 8, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden warms up before the game against the Miami Dolphins at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

There aren't any starting-caliber free agents on the market who'd be better than Weeden. 

Though Weeden has been a general disappointment in Cleveland, his arm strength and time spent learning Rob Chudzinski's offense make him a much more viable candidate than a midseason pickup. 

Weeden isn't nearly as decisive as Hoyer and hasn't been as accurate, but he hasn't been dreadful in 2013. His Pro Football Focus (subscription required) QB rating of 85.02 ranks 18th out of 34 quarterbacks, just .18 below Tom Brady. 

Also, take a look at his statistics on passes thrown at least 20 yards down the field:

In Chudzinski's offense, with Josh Gordon back from suspension, that's important. 

Brandon Weeden may not be the most glamorous replacement for the injured Hoyer, but he's the best option for the Cleveland Browns.

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