Over the past two rocky seasons, Brady Quinn learned to be careful what he dreamed for.
Growing up in Dublin, Ohio, Quinn had been a Browns fan since childhood and thought his life-long wish had been granted when he was drafted by Cleveland with the 22nd overall pick in the 2007 draft.
But a three-year career that brought mostly disappointment for the popular quarterback ended Sunday when the Browns traded Quinn to the Denver Broncos for fullback Peyton Hillis, a sixth-round draft choice in 2011 and a conditional 2012 selection, according to the Broncos.
The deal is pending physicals for Quinn and Hillis.
The trade comes on the heels of the Browns agreeing to terms with 11-year veteran free agent quarterback Jake Delhomme Saturday and trading for Seattle's Seneca Wallace Monday. Cut by the Carolina Panthers on March 4, Delhomme received a two-year contract and will make $7 million in 2010, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
In addition, Scout.com's Adam Caplan reported that the Browns traded outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley to the Oakland Raiders.
“I appreciate everything Brady did for us last year and in his three seasons with the Cleveland Browns,” Browns Head Coach Eric Mangini said in a statement. “He is professional in the way he goes about doing his job and worked extremely hard at every aspect of his game. I wish him the best of success in Denver.”
Hillis, 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, was the Broncos' seventh-round draft pick in 2008 out of Arkansas. When Denver suffered a rash of injuries to their tailbacks that season, Hillis became the team's primary rusher and scored five touchdowns in four weeks before suffering a torn hamstring in week 14. He finished with a team-high 343 yards. But the Broncos' backfield was crowded in 2009 and Hillis returned to his fullback role. In two seasons, he's totalled 397 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and six touchdowns, along with 18 catches for 198 yards and a TD.
The Browns were looking for a running back to share the load with Jerome Harrison, at 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds not considered big enough to handle the rigors of 16 games.
Quinn did not play as a rookie and went 3-9 as the Browns starter over the last two seasons, throwing a total of 10 touchdown passes with nine interceptions. In nine starts in 2009, he went 2-7, completing 53.1 percent of his passes for 1,339 yards and averaging 5.2 yards per attempt.
Quinn's accuracy issues apparently convinced Browns president Mike Holmgren that Quinn was not the right player to run the West Coast offense being installed in Cleveland. Delhomme and Wallace both are well-versed in it, especially Wallace, who spent seven years in Seattle, six in that system.
Trading Quinn makes it seem almost certain that the Browns will select a quarterback in the April 22-24 draft, although perhaps not with the seventh overall pick.
Last summer Quinn won a training camp battle with Derek Anderson for the starting job, but lasted just 2 1/2 games before he was yanked at halftime in a 34-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
During that span, the Browns produced just one touchdown, a 26-yard toss to tight end Robert Royal with 28 seconds left in the opener against Minnesota. Mangini went to Anderson against the Ravens, hoping to spark the team in a 34-3 defeat.
Mangini was particularly upset with Quinn's interception on the first possession of the game in Baltimore, a low percentage throw to Braylon Edwards that was picked off by Domonique Foxworth, setting up a Ravens' TD. Mangini was also distraught when Quinn could not run a play that had been practiced all week.
But after Anderson struggled in the next five games, Quinn regained the top job Nov. 16 against Baltimore and held it until he sprained his left foot on a 24-yard bootleg run in a Dec. 20 victory at Kansas City. This time Quinn ran the no-huddle offense that was installed during the Browns' November bye week. In his second stint as the starter over six games, Quinn completed 50.3 percent with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. His best performances came against Detroit and San Diego, when he threw for a combined 575 yards and seven touchdowns.
His 67.2 passer rating for '09 was the best of his career, but surpassed only the Jets' Mark Sanchez and the Raiders' JaMarcus Russell in the AFC.
For the second consecutive year, Quinn finished on injured reserve. His 2008 season ended on Nov. 26 with a fractured finger on his right hand that needed surgery. Quinn was hurt in the first quarter of a Nov. 17 victory at Buffalo, his second start, and tendon damage worsened after he played nearly three quarters the following game against Houston.
Quinn never appeared to win over the locker room, perhaps because he was making commercials for Subway and EA Sports before he ever took an NFL snap.
After Quinn was benched against the Ravens, Browns linebacker and co-captain D'Qwell Jackson touted Anderson, saying, ''D.A. brought that spark. He can make every throw on that field. It’s good knowing as a defensive player if you get your offense more than enough opportunities, they’ll move the ball and create points.''
The protracted competition seemed to weigh on Quinn, who said even after he won the job that he didn't get that much time in the preseason games.
In August, Canton native Dan Dierdorf, the Hall of Fame tackle now a CBS analyst, said he didn't think a drawn-out battle would be bad for the Browns ''unless there's a clear favorite in the locker room. And that happens. The locker room, they like one of those guys probably a little more than the other. If it's really close, it's not that big a deal. If it's a decided difference and you go with the unpopular guy, that's not conducive to winning.''
More down-to-earth and loose than always businesslike Quinn, Anderson was voted a team captain in 2008.
Dierdorf sounded like most other Ohioans when he spoke at CBS's NFL media day about Quinn.
''I just assumed going into the off-season that Brady Quinn was going to come out as the starter,'' Dierdorf said. ''It's that time in his career where he's had enough experience now as to what it's like to be a professional and that this would be when he would really separate himself. I haven't talked to Eric (Mangini), but apparently there hasn't been a separation.
''I guess you'd have to say to most Browns fans it's disappointing that Quinn hasn't separated himself.''
Trading Quinn and Wimbley left the Browns with only three players taken on the first day of the draft under former coach Romeo Crennel and ex-general manager Phil Savage. Those remaining are left tackle Joe Thomas, cornerback Eric Wright and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, a restricted free agent. Only nine total draft picks remain from the pre-Mangini days.
Savage called the selection of Quinn and Thomas (third overall) in the 2007 draft and the excitement generated his crowning achievement. Savage gave up Cleveland's first-round pick in the 2008 draft for Quinn, which Dallas used to select running back Felix Jones, then saw any hope of Quinn starting as a rookie foiled by a training camp holdout that cost him 11 days and 16 practices.
In Quinn's debut in November, 2008, he threw for 239 yards, two touchdowns and a 104.3 passer rating, but the Browns blew a 13-point lead to the Denver Broncos and fell 34-30.
Quinn was thought to have an edge with Mangini's new regime because offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was receivers coach in New England under then-offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, Quinn's coach for two years at Notre Dame.
When he arrived in Cleveland, Quinn became a fan favorite not seen since the likes of Bernie Kosar. Thrilled to play for his favorite childhood team, Quinn brought the same element as Youngstown's Kosar, who orchestrated his way to Cleveland in a supplemental draft, and the good looks of Brian Sipe.
Quinn remained a good soldier despite being forced to sit behind Anderson through the first eight games of 2008 and watch the Browns' constant turmoil during a 4-12 season. He reportedly was punched in the face in December of that season by defensive lineman Shaun Smith during a weight-room confrontation.
Quinn was a virtual bargain despite a five-year, $20.2 million contract with $7.75 million guaranteed. His deal included salary escalators that would bump its value to $30 million if he played 55 percent of the offensive snaps in any two of his first three years or 70 percent in the third year (2009), numbers he did not reach.
Last spring Quinn was rumored to be part of a deal for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler, but Cutler landed in Chicago.
''Obviously I want to be in Cleveland, I grew up rooting for 'em, I'm totally living my dream now,'' Quinn said then. ''It's out of your control.''