Cleveland Browns: Free agent quarterbacks who can run the Stefanski offense

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) meets with Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, center, and Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]Browns 10
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) meets with Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, center, and Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]Browns 10 /
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Cleveland Browns
Dec 20, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Nick Mullens (9) throws a pass during the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Browns: Free agent candidates for third string

First of all, there is a decent chance that the Browns might take a flyer on drafting someone and they may not go free agent for the third string quarterback. Or they may decide they only need two quarterbacks.

After all, what’s the chances of Baker Mayfield getting hurt (don’t answer that question!). But if not, let’s take a look at who is available, and how incumbent Nick Mullens might fit within the list.

Mullens performed credibly against the Raiders, who after all, were a playoff team. There are no complaints for a third string quarterback in that situation.

Player                        2021 Team          Age       2021 Salary

Brian Hoyer               Patriots                37       $1,075,000

Garrett Gilbert         Washington         31           $920,000

Chad Henne              Chiefs                    37       $1,625,000

Colt McCoy                Cardinals             36        $1,212,500

Nick Mullens             Browns                27           $920,000

Sean Mannion          Vikings                 30           $990,000

A.J. McCarron            Falcons                32        $1,212,500

Blaine Gabbert         Buccaneers         33        $2,000,000

Jeff Driskel                Texans                   29           $990,000

Josh Johnson            Ravens                  36        $1,075,000

Joshua Dobbs           Steelers                27        $1,040,000

Tim Boyle                  Lions                      28        $2,400,000

Brandon Allen          Bengals                30         $1,500,000

Mike Glennon           Giants                   33         $1,375,000

Geno Smith               Seahawks            32         $1,212,500

Josh Rosen                Falcons                 25             $850,000

Chase Daniel            Chargers               36         $1,075,000

Trevor Siemian         Saints                   31             $990,000

Brian Hoyer currently has the number two job behind Mac Jones of the Patriots. Bill Belichick refuses to pay him anything, but Hoyer laps it up anyway. He would probably not play for the Browns again, who unfairly benched him in favor of Johnny Manziel, who had totally hypnotized Jimmy Haslam III. Let’s put in a phone call, but it probably will not happen.

Garrett Gilbert was the Browns third string quarterback in the 2018-2019, but was taken from the practice squad by the Cowboys. He was the top quarterback in the now defunct Alliance of American Football, but has never gotten much of a chance in the NFL. He has been impressive in limited action. He has a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots.

Chad Henne has started 54 games, mainly for lousy Jacksonville and Miami teams, and put up marginal numbers. Generally, he’s respected around the league as a smart quarterback who is an ideal backup. Those terrible teams in Florida were not really his fault. He seems happy in Kansas City, however, and would be accepting a demotion to come to Cleveland to fight for a number three job. That will probably not happen.

Former Brown Colt McCoy won two games last season as the starter. That’s pretty good for a third string quarterback. Why did the Browns have to hate McCoy? Weak organizations are fearful of having their decisions questioned, so they gave away McCoy so that no one could challenge the decision to start Brandon Weeden.

Great idea, Browns. But McCoy has been a respectable quarterback over the years, playing for bad teams like Washington and the New York Giants. He can play quarterback, but he too would be accepting a demotion to compete for the number three position in Cleveland. That is unlikely.

Perhaps surprisingly, unknown Sean Mannion is listed right behind Browns incumbent Nick Mullens. Mannion graduated the same year that Jameis Winston was the first overall pick in the NFL draft.

At the time, this fan was not so hot on Winston (mid first round instead of high first round) but thought Sean Mannion was a similar player: strong accurate downfield passer, but without much mobility. Mannion never got much chance to play in the NFL, but spent time in Minnesota with Stefanski.

These players need a strong offensive line and a running game to function, but they have that in Cleveland. They are big guys who can fall forward on the quarterback sneak in short yardage, but not razzle dazzle you the rest of the time. He is worth a look.

Jeff Driskel has never had much of a chance to play due to injuries but he and Josh Johnson are among the most athletic players in the free agent pool. Johnson is the ultimate vagabond, travelling the football universe for years and hardly ever playing. He started twice in 2021 with near zero preparation and impressed both times. He can play.

Josh Rosen was ranked higher than Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen by many experts in 2018. Yet despite amazing talent and high intelligence, it didn’t translate to the ability to play quarterback for some reason. Hence he’s way at the bottom of the list.

Quarterbacks get better if you keep them on the same team for an extended period of time. They don’t get worse, despite what you may have been taught in the Sashi Brown era. Even with a veteran, you won’t find out how good they are unless you keep them on the team for three or four years. Let’s keep three this time, and try to maintain long-term relationships.

Even if someone is cut from the team, consider bringing them back next season to see if they have improved. The one-and-done philosophy is just wrong.

Stefanski’s offense doesn’t need a mad bomber type to run it. He does need someone who is smart enough to run a ball control offense, and who can avoid turnovers. Calling a quarterback a “game manager” is considered an insult these days, but that is exactly the skill that the Browns require.

All in all, this fan is not unhappy with either Case Keenum or Nick Mullens. Making a move at second string probably depends on the rest of the NFL making a mistake on someone like Mitchell Trubisky. If that happens, Andrew Berry should pounce, but that probably will not happen. Some NFL team will probably offer him a first string job.

A more likely scenario would be to sign a competitor for third string from the above list, someone like Garrett Gilbert. He could be offered enough of a signing bonus to make it worth his while to come to camp, but not guaranteed the entire deal.

Next. 3 FAs eliminated in Divisional Round Browns should target. dark

If there is a college player that the scouts like a lot, bring him in too. In all, about five players, counting Mayfield, should compete for three spots on the 53-player roster.