Who’s next? Looking at Browns QB options

INDIANAPOLIS – Mixing rumors, realities and NFL Scouting Combine quotes to look at options the Cleveland Browns have when it comes to establishing a starting quarterback for 2015 before the NFL Draft. The NFL’s free agent and player movement period begins March 10.

At the combine, Browns coach Mike Pettine said the Browns are exploring multiple options at the game’s most important position and general manager Ray Farmer said a plan is in place to upgrade the position and "drive competition." Farmer said the Browns have discussed possibilities in both free agency and the draft.

The quarterback possibilities — some of them, anyway — are listed in alphabetical order…

Sam Bradford

There are reasons to believe the Rams would be ready to move on from the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, and a video report Friday published by the Bleacher Report said the Browns have Bradford "at the top of their list."

Even if that’s true, there are obstacles — starting with Rams Coach Jeff Fisher shooting down a report that the Rams have given Bradford permission to seek a trade and saying the Rams have Bradford in their plans.

Bradford, 27, tore his ACL last August in a preseason game in Cleveland; it was the second time he suffered the same injury to his left knee in nine months. So, the Browns or any team interested in trading for Bradford would be betting on his health, giving up assets and acquiring a player who’s due almost $13 million in 2015, the final year of his rookie contract.

Jay Cutler

The Bears have a new coach and general manager, and they didn’t say much at the combine about Cutler other than they haven’t decided anything.

Any commitment to Cutler comes with a huge financial commitment as Cutler is due an average of $18.3 million per year over the next five years. His $15.5 million base salary for this season is fully guaranteed, and if he is on a roster March 12 (the third day of the league year), $10 million of his base salary for 2016 is guaranteed.

Cutler and the Bears struggled last season, but he still has two straight years with better than a 63 percent completion rate and has enough arm to play in any conditions. If Cutler becomes available via release or trade — and it’s probably less than 50/50 — it will come down to asking price and commitment for a quarterback who will be 32 next season and has had two consecutive rough seasons.

Brian Hoyer

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Hoyer started the first 13 games of last season for the Browns and is 10-6 as the Browns starter over the last two years. But he was benched for ineffectiveness last December, and his contract is up. Hoyer has spoken to Pettine but Farmer wouldn’t say if he has spoken to Hoyer, and neither Pettine nor Farmer made it sound like Hoyer is in the team’s plans.

Hoyer returning seems like a longshot now, but it shouldn’t be completely ruled out if both parties have to move on their respective Plans B, C and the like.

Jake Locker

Injured last season for the third time in as many years, Locker started just five games and has made 23 starts in his four-year career. Titans Coach Ken Whisenhunt was non-commital on the team’s plans regarding Locker when he met the media at the combine; the Titans finished last season with rookie Zach Mettenberger and have the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft.

Locker, who turns 27 in June, has 27 career touchdown passes vs. 22 interceptions and a career completion percentage of 57.5.

Ryan Mallett

Mallett’s one win in two starts for the Texans last year was in Cleveland. He’ll be 27 in June, has enough arm to play in any conditions and is eligible for free agency next month. Speaking at the combine, Texans coach Bill O’Brien said he was pleased with what he saw from Mallett before the injury and that he hopes to get Mallett back.

Time will tell — money helps, too — if Mallett and the Texans will come to terms on a deal before March 10. O’Brien coached Mallett and Hoyer during Mallett’s rookie season in New England and acquired Mallett via trade last September.

Johnny Manziel

Manziel has been in a treatment center since late January. He’s spoken to Farmer and been visited by Pettine. Both Farmer and Pettine have said they aren’t closing the door on Manziel, but Pettine said it would be hard for the Browns to think Manziel is the answer based on what they saw in Manziel’s rookie season.

That the Browns are acknowledging that there’s a plan in place regarding the search for a quarterback says plenty about where Manziel stands — or doesn’t — in that plan.

Josh McCown

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McCown is already a free agent after being released by the Tampa Bay Bucs just one season after signing there. While the other free agent quarterbacks can’t negotiate outside their 2014 team until March 7, McCown is free to visit and sign anywhere at any time.

That McCown could be in demand says a lot about this year’s pool of available quarterbacks. McCown, 35, has a 17-32 career record as a starter, a 58.8 completion percentage and 61 career touchdowns vs. 59 interceptions. He visited the Bills last week and met with the Bears in Indianapolis; Pettine said Wednesday that the Browns did not have a meeting scheduled with McCown but said that one could take place.

With the Bucs releasing McCown and holding the No. 1 pick — and probably using that pick on a quarterback — it’s unlikely that the Bucs would trade Mike Glennon, whose name had also come up among the myriad quarterback rumors making their way around the Twittersphere.

Mark Sanchez

Sanchez is likely headed for free agency after going 4-4 as the Eagles starter last season. He won 33 games and went to two AFC Championship Games in four years with the Jets before struggling, getting injured and ultimately being released last march.

Sanchez, 28, completed 64 percent of his passes last season but is a 56-percent passer for his career. He’ll attract attention from multiple teams as at least a holdover starter unless the Eagles re-sign him and try to move Nick Foles, who had a breakout 2013 season and a so-so 2014 before being injured and replaced by Sanchez.

Matt Schaub

Schaub is under contract with the Raiders, who signed him last offseason but started rookie Derek Carr. He’s expected to be released by the Raiders before the start of the league year because he’s due to make $5.5 million on his current contract. He threw two interceptions in 10 passes as a backup last season with the Raiders; his quarterbacks coach in Oakland, John DeFelippo, is now the Browns offensive coordinator.

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Schaub will be 34 when training camps open this summer. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2012 after helping the Texans to 12-4 and the divisional round of the playoffs but was released after going 2-6 as a starter in 2013 before being injured.

Connor Shaw

The 2014 undrafted rookie spent most of last season on the practice squad but handled himself well in an emergency start in the Browns season finale at Baltimore. If he’d had more NFL receivers on his side that day, he might have taken the Ravens to the final possession.

Shaw has arm strength limitations but is under contract and figures to compete for a backup job with the Browns starting in the spring.