Owner Jimmy Haslam told reporters today the Browns will have a quarterback competition this year, meaning the organization will likely acquire someone to square off against incumbent starter Brandon Weeden in the offseason.
Last week during offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s introductory news conference, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said it’s “premature” to label Weeden the team’s starting quarterback for the 2013 season.
Haslam reaffirmed the new regime’s stance this morning while attending a news conference in New Orleans that recognized Browns left tackle Joe Thomas and the other finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. The winner will be announced Saturday during the NFL Honors, which will air on CBS from 9-11 p.m.
“I think Norv and Chud have been very open that they like a lot of what Brandon [Weeden] does,” Haslam told reporters today in New Orleans. “But we’re going to have competition at that position. And I think competition makes us all better, and we'll see where that competition comes from.”
It could come from free agency, a trade or the draft. Haslam said Mike Lombardi, the team’s vice president of player personnel, CEO Joe Banner and the coaching staff are preparing for free agency, which begins at 4 p.m. March 12.
“They’re studying,” Haslam said. “I think we have a pretty good feel for what our needs are. They’re going to look at free agency, and they’re going to look at the draft. I think we’ll be selective in what we do in free agency, but if there’s some talent out there that matches our needs and it’s at the right dollar level, then I think we’ll probably make some moves. I don’t think you’ll see us make any big, splashy, high-priced moves because I think we’ve said all along we’re going to build through the draft.”
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith could be traded or released in the offseason. After suffering a concussion Nov. 11, Smith lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick, who led the 49ers to their upcoming Super Bowl showdown against the Baltimore Ravens. Smith played for Turner in 2006, when Turner served as the offensive coordinator of the 49ers before becoming the head coach of the San Diego Chargers.
“Loved my time with Norv,” Smith told reporters Wednesday during Super Bowl media availability in New Orleans. “[It was] a very, very friendly QB system. For [the Browns], it’s going to be a terminology change going from a West Coast system to the digits but very, very QB friendly, big play potential for the offense with a lot of chunk plays. [Turner is] a great play caller. I just remember he had a great feel for the game on game day and a great feel for what the defense was doing.”
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick also lost his starting job and could be traded or released. For months, Vick has been labeled a logical candidate to join the Browns because of his ties to Banner, the former president of the Eagles.
The Browns have the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, which begins April 25. There might not be a quarterback who warrants a top-10 pick this year, but the Browns could always target one in a trade-down scenario. West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Southern California’s Matt Barkley, North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson are the top rated quarterback prospects.
In addition to Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, the Browns have quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Thaddeus Lewis under contract for next season. But neither McCoy nor Lewis have the type of big arm best suited for the downfield, vertical passing attack Turner and Chudzinski have vowed to bring to Cleveland.
“I don’t know what angle they’re going to take as far as the quarterback goes,” Thomas told reporters today. “But I imagine there will be a competition in the spring, and I’m excited to see who wins.”