Evaluating the Cleveland Browns quarterback room

New additions and a notable subtraction among transactions this offseason

Cleveland Browns, Jameis Winston
Cleveland Browns, Jameis Winston / Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

With the first wave of free agency in the books, the Cleveland Browns presumably have the quarterback position finalized. After making two signings in former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston and former Baltimore Ravens backup Tyler Huntley, both surprising acquisitions in their own ways, they now join a room with Deshaun Watson and Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Winston, entering his 10th season in the league after being the first pick of the 2015 draft out of Florida State, has spent the last four years as a backup quarterback in New Orleans. This followed a five-year stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Known for his big arm and, shall we say, affinity for throwing into tight windows, Winston can make incredible throws while also being prone to turnovers. In 2019, his final year with Tampa Bay, fans league-wide were given the full Jameis experience, as he threw for a league-leading 5,109 yards and added 33 touchdowns to boot.

He also threw an astonishing 30 interceptions as the Buccaneers finished the year 7-9 and missed the playoffs. This sealed Winston's future with the club, as Tampa opted not to offer a contract extension in the ensuing off-season, clearing his move to the division rival Saints.

Since then, Winston has only sparingly seen the field, and his performances have continued to be consistently inconsistent. After backing up Drew Brees for a year, he was allowed to start for the Saints in 2021, following Brees' retirement, and threw 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions en route to a 5-2 record as a starter.

However, he would go on to suffer a season-ending injury to his ACL while facing his former employers in Tampa Bay during their week eight contest that year. The Saints immediately collapsed, going on a five-game losing streak following the injury, effectively ending their playoff hopes. They would finish the year 9-8, just outside postseason qualification.

In 2022, the Saints brass opted to bring in aging veteran Andy Dalton, who would take over as starting QB in place of Winston. Despite putting up pedestrian numbers throughout the season, Dalton remained the team's starter for most of the year, as Winston was only given three chances to begin a game under center, going 73-115 for 858 yards, while throwing four touchdowns and five interceptions.

With neither QB lighting the world on fire, and following a 7-10 season, the Saints moved on to Derek Carr for 2023, thus allowing Winston to reach free agency this offseason.

In his brief stint with the Browns, Winston has already endeared himself to fans. With goofy social media posts and entertaining interviews, as well as speaking outwardly on his role as an added support system for starter Deshaun Watson, Winston seems to understand his duties as a backup quarterback. And, should he need to be called on to play, he has shown the abilities necessary to keep the Browns afloat, much in the same way Joe Flacco did this past season.

Winston's comments, juxtaposed to those recently made by Flacco, could be the reason the team chose the path they did, despite the desire from the fan base to see Flacco back in Cleveland for 2024.

In the case of Tyler "Snoop" Huntley, the signing was peculiar for different reasons. Huntley, an undrafted free agent out of Utah, is entering his fifth season in the league, after spending the previous four years backing up Lamar Jackson for the rival Ravens.

In nine career games as a starter, Huntley has amassed a 3-6 record, while throwing for 1,957 yards, eight touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He also added 509 yards and three touchdowns rushing the ball during that time.

With Watson and Winston being penciled in as the first and second options on the depth chart, it remains to be seen if Huntley is simply an extra arm for training camp, or if he will be given a real opportunity to compete for a spot on the final roster with second-year quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

DTR, a fifth-round pick in last year's draft, started three games in place of the injured Watson last season, throwing for just 440 yards and one touchdown, while adding four interceptions. He did, however, lead the Browns to a crucial win against the bitter rival Pittsburgh Steelers in week 11, which included leading the team on a late drive that led to a game-winning field goal, propelling the Browns one step closer to the playoffs.

With the quarterback room essentially set for the upcoming season, it will be interesting to see how the football quartet will perform, starting this spring during minicamp. Watson is still rehabbing the shoulder injury that knocked him for the season. DTR is nursing a hip injury of his own, which also landed him on the injured reserve late last year.

For Winston and Huntley, this could open up extra opportunities in the spring practices. Winston could get a decent share of reps with the starters, which would be valuable in the event of another injury to Watson, while Huntley could get more of a chance to show he's worthy of a roster spot.

Barring a shocking twist that would involve Cleveland drafting or signing another QB, it's all but certain the room is finalized. If the Browns are to compound on their success from last season, production from the position must improve, regardless of who is taking the snaps. It will be interesting to see how all four handle their opportunities going forward.

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