The Cleveland Browns officially moved on to the next era of their franchise Wednesday by releasing one of their 2012 first-round selections, quarterback Brandon Weeden, according to Tom Withers of the Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports). Just two years removed from a draft that was supposed to yield their franchise quarterback and running back, both are gone.
Weeden entered both his seasons with the Browns as the starting quarterback but failed to deliver on his lofty draft status. He was 5-15 in his 20 starts with the team and threw 23 touchdowns to 26 interceptions.
He failed to build on a promising 2012 in which he set the Browns' rookie passing record by throwing for 3,385 yards. Many thought he could flourish under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner in 2013 based on the downfield, aggressive passing scheme. It didn't happen.
After starting the first two games of the season and throwing just one touchdown to three interceptions, he sustained an injury and lost the starting job to Brian Hoyer. That was the beginning of the end for Weeden in Cleveland.
“First and foremost, the Browns would like to thank Brandon and his agent for being true professionals,” said general manager Ray Farmer in a release to the media. “The circumstances in which he found himself were not easy for him or the team. After discussions with Brandon and his agent, we’d like to give him the ability to pursue other opportunities.”
Weeden joins some infamous first-round draft picks that were released early into their NFL career.
Brandon Weeden was released 2 seasons after being a 1st rd pick. Last 1st round QB to be released after 3 or fewer seasons? Ryan Leaf.
— FOX Sports Live (@FOXSportsLive) March 12, 2014
Despite that similarity, former San Diego Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf and Weeden could not be more different off the field. Weeden was a consummate professional in the locker room and was a pleasure to deal with from a media perspective.
As good of a guy as Weeden may be, his future in the NFL is questionable. At the age of 30, he is not a developmental option for any other team in the league. The only team that would sign him is one who has an immediate need for a backup quarterback.
He demonstrated last year against the Buffalo Bills that he could come into a game after an injury and perform well. He finished that game 13-of-24 for 197 yards and a touchdown. It was his best game of the season.
Just because he seemed to flourish in a backup role does not mean he will find himself back in that position this season, however. He will have to be chosen over some other notable names including Mike Vick, Matt Flynn, Josh Freeman and Jason Campbell, whose release the Browns also announce via their website.
Vick will probably get an opportunity to compete for a starting job. Campbell almost immediately becomes the No. 1 option on the market for a backup quarterback after throwing for 2,000 yards in just eight starts last year. That leaves Weeden and a crowd of below-average passers fighting for just a few jobs.
The Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, San Diego and Arizona Cardinals would all be places where Weeden could be viewed as an upgrade over their existing backups. The issue is that most of those teams have backup quarterbacks who know the system and make very little money.
For Weeden to find someplace to land, he will have to take a significant pay cut. Instead of making over $2 million with the Browns this season, he would be lucky to pull $1 million with someone else.
Assuming someone is willing to bring in Weeden to compete for a backup job, he will probably win. He is the type of quarterback who seems to always impress in practice and scrimmage but makes terrible mental errors when the bullets start flying.
In 2013, he was far and away the best looking quarterback in training camp and ended up as the third-best passer on the roster when all was said and done. That is what makes Weeden so frustrating. The talent is in there but rarely shows itself during the regular season.
Any team that signs Weeden as their backup should strongly consider carrying three quarterbacks. Otherwise, they could find themselves in the same predicament that Browns did last year when Weeden turned into the equivalent of a long Cleveland winter. He just would not go away and the results were never pretty.