On Tuesday, the Cleveland Browns fired CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi after one season with the team. Later that day, Michael Silver of the NFL Network reported that Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft by yet a different regime that is long gone from the team, wants out of Cleveland.
"Given the turmoil with the coaching staff and lack of public support from the most recent front office, he's interested in a fresh start with a clean slate and an opportunity to compete to show he has the talent to develop into a productive player in the league," said Silver on NFL Total Access.
The Weeden situation isn't only connected to the Banner and Lombardi firings, though the front office change-up certainly couldn't have helped. No matter what, it appeared that Weeden wouldn't have a future with the Browns and now, Weeden wants to try to develop into a starting quarterback elsewhere.
Weeden was selected with the 22nd overall pick in 2012 by a regime helmed by Tom Heckert at general manager and Mike Holmgren as team president, with Pat Shurmur his head coach and Brad Childress his offensive coordinator. All of those positions were held by other men in his second season—men who seemingly weren't interested in Weeden as the Browns starting quarterback.
This was punctuated by the team picking up quarterback Brian Hoyer after he was released by the Arizona Cardinals. Lombardi was long a champion of Hoyer's and it appeared to be a matter of time before Hoyer would supplant Weeden as the starter in Cleveland.
Indeed, this happened in Week 3, after Weeden suffered a thumb sprain. Though the thumb healed, Hoyer remained the starter for three games until suffering an ACL tear against the Buffalo Bills that ended his season. Weeden ultimately started eight games for the Browns in 2013 until he lost his job to Jason Campbell; he slipped down to third in the depth chart despite his first-round draft pedigree.
Even though Banner and Lombardi and their rallying cry of needing a "championship-level quarterback" are gone, that doesn't mean Weeden is safe in Cleveland. Weeden has a 5-15 record as a starter, and while wins and losses are a team effort, he didn't do much to help them succeed.
With an ever-changing coaching staff, Weeden's weaknesses in pocket awareness, decision-making and footwork never improved. He has a career completion percentage of 55.9, has thrown 23 touchdowns to 26 interceptions, averages a poor 6.5 yards per pass attempt and has been sacked a total of 55 times, with Weeden taking a sack on 9.2 percent of his dropbacks in 2013.
What should the Browns do about Brandon Weeden?
If Weeden can become a better quarterback, it won't be in Cleveland where the waters are most hostile to his brand of football. The team has Hoyer penciled in as its starter for 2014, Jason Campbell is still under contract as a veteran presence on the roster and the odds are good the team uses it's fourth overall pick in this year's draft on a quarterback. There's no room for Weeden on the roster.
The question is whether or not the Browns can get anything for Weeden in a trade. Silver said the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be interested in Weeden's services, but as of now there's been no real discussion of a trade. Otherwise, they could release him.
According to Spotrac.com, a trade would cost the Browns $2.15 million in dead money connected to bonuses, while releasing Weeden would be a $4.2 million cap hit.
For a team that has $46 million in salary-cap room this year, the cost of releasing Weeden outright could be absorbed with little damage. But taking the time to find a trade partner is still better economics, and it's something the team will surely be asking around about at next week's scouting combine. That is, traditionally, the event at which trade talks take at least a nascent form.
The Browns need to move on in their search for a quarterback of the future. It is certainly not going to be Weeden. And Weeden needs to move forward in his attempt to make his NFL dreams a reality, rather than the nightmare they've become over his first two seasons.
The Browns should take any trade offer they get for Weeden, immediately. And if they get none, they should release Weeden and let him see what free agency has to offer. The Browns have no need for Weeden and Weeden has no need for the Browns, especially a Browns organization so far removed from the one that chose to draft him.