The Browns have repeatedly expressed faith in veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer despite another coaching change this offseason. But actions speak louder than words, and apparently the organization is now ready to take action.
Hoyer's camp, however, might not be.
The Browns are trying to sign Hoyer to a contract extension, his agent, Joe Linta, confirmed for the Beacon Journal. ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the news this morning. Hoyer is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next March.
Still, the Browns would catch some observers off guard by completing a new deal for Hoyer before the 2014 season because of the unknowns surrounding him.
Not only did the Browns draft rookie Johnny Manziel 22nd overall on May 8 and have yet to see how his competition with Hoyer for the starting quarterback job will play out this summer, but they also don't know whether Hoyer will complete his comeback attempt from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in his right knee last year.
Hoyer also could benefit by waiting and finding out how everything unfolds this upcoming season. After all, if he could win the starting job, stay healthy and play well, he would obviously increase his value. Starter money is much different than backup money.
"Just had a couple of conversations with them [the Browns]," Linta wrote in an email to the Beacon Journal this afternoon. "Very difficult to move forward until we see how the season plays out."
Linta told ProFootballTalk.com today that Nov. 1 is the earliest he believes Hoyer's value could be properly assessed. Linta also told NFL Network today that, "It will be a very difficult deal to do. We're always open to talking with the Browns, but we're content to wait and see what happens down the road."
A North Olmsted native and St. Ignatius High School graduate, Hoyer signed a two-year, $1.965 million contract with the Browns on May 17, 2013. He received a $250,000 roster bonus this past March and is scheduled to make a base salary of $1 million next season with an opportunity to earn an extra $1.15 million in incentives.
The 28-year-old Hoyer, who spent three seasons as the backup to New England Patriots star Tom Brady, has started only four regular-season games in his five-year NFL career. He went 3-0 as a starter last season with the Browns, though he suffered the torn ACL on Oct. 3 in the first quarter of his third start for Cleveland. The team collapsed after Hoyer's season-ending injury, finished 4-12 and fired coach Rob Chudzinski along with his staff.
New Browns coach Mike Pettine believes the team would have won more games and he probably would not have had a chance to replace Chudzinski if Hoyer hadn't been hurt.
So far, Hoyer has bounced back well, but he has yet to fully participate in 11-on-11 drills, let alone live game action. Although the Browns traded up four spots to draft Manziel, who signed a four-year, $8.25 million deal on June 18, Hoyer served as the first-string quarterback throughout spring practices and will head into training camp July 26 as the starter.
When mandatory minicamp wrapped up June 12, Pettine explained that Hoyer held his lead on Manziel in the quarterback competition.
"Brian had been here for those seven, eight weeks before the draft even started [on May 8]. That was essentially a head start, and I don’t think it’s insurmountable," Pettine said. "Brian is securely ahead of [Manziel] right now, but we will compete and we will decide.
"The issue for us as a staff is finding the right time to name a starter. If you wait too late, then nobody’s ready for the opener. If you do it too soon, then it wasn’t a true competition."
And when it comes to working on a contract extension, the issue for Hoyer's camp is clear. Linta's stance hasn't changed since he told ESPNCleveland.com in early June that he would like to take a wait-and-see approach.
"It’s too hard of a deal to do," Linta said in the story that was published June 6. "I think [Browns General Manager] Ray Farmer realizes it’s too hard of a deal to do, too.
"Brian’s value will be much more easily determined in January."
Linta also stressed that Hoyer wanted to stay with the Browns, his hometown team. An exception would be made if Hoyer became Manziel’s backup but saw an opportunity to start elsewhere.
"I think if it’s backup to backup, I think he would [want to stay]," Linta said. "If you’re comparing apples to apples, it’s always Cleveland. If it’s backup in Cleveland versus starter somewhere else, I’m sure he’d like to start."
On May 21, Hoyer said he never thought about trying to flee Cleveland by asking for a trade, even though he knew the Browns would inevitably draft a quarterback who could threaten his status as a starter.
"I think — and everyone else has made it clear — that [they’re] not going to be just kind of pushing me aside," Hoyer said. "So I knew, even going back to last summer, that this was the place that I wanted to be and it ended up working out and I got back here, and then I got a chance to play.
"This is my hometown. This is where my family’s from. This is where I want to make a difference in this program and this organization. I’ll never shy away from competition, and it’s something I had prepared myself for. I didn’t know who it would be. It was almost a sense of relief when [Manziel] was drafted, because I knew exactly right then and there what it was going to be."
Perhaps Hoyer will know exactly what his next contract will look like sooner than originally anticipated. But right now, a waiting game appears to be more likely.
Either way, Hoyer hopes to remain a member of his hometown team beyond this year, and he's determined to reclaim his starting job in the meantime.
In Linta's email to the Beacon Journal, he said Hoyer is still going to the Browns' training facility every day, even though most players vacation away from the team's headquarters this time of year.
"Being a Cleveland guy, he is especially proud of being on the team," Linta said.