INDIANAPOLIS: Browns CEO Joe Banner isn’t comfortable labeling Brandon Weeden the team’s quarterback of the future, but he indicated the organization is willing to give Weeden a shot to earn the title.
The Browns have vowed to create a quarterback competition this offseason. And they’re challenging Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, to rise to the occasion.
“We see potential that we’re going to try to work with it and see what it’s going to develop into,” Banner said Saturday morning during a 55-minute interview with local reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Some of that is just going to come from how bad he wants it. So I think we’ll know a lot more than we know now shortly.
“I think we want to give him the best chance to succeed. We have a huge vested interest in him being successful. We think that we’re bringing in coaches that can maximize that. ... It will accelerate our ability to get to where we want to if he succeeds.”
Banner said the team hasn’t figured out how it will acquire competition for Weeden, though he doesn’t expect to use the sixth overall pick on a quarterback. West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Southern California’s Matt Barkley are the top-rated quarterbacks in what is widely considered a weak draft class at the position.
“[Targeting a quarterback at No. 6 is] not the focus of our thinking,” said Banner, the former president of the Philadelphia Eagles. … “But at the same time ... you can’t have too many good quarterbacks. They’re valuable assets.”
Banner insisted he wasn’t using a smokescreen.
“I will not lie to anybody here,” Banner said. “I will not mislead you. I may not answer you. I may be incomplete in my answer. So I’m not telling you we would or wouldn’t pick a quarterback in the first round or the second round. I’m just not doing that. But I’m also kind of, I think, implying that that’s not what I expect to have happen.”
The Browns seem more likely to acquire a quarterback via a trade or free agency, which begins March 12, than to take one early in the draft, which will run April 25-27.
“If we picked a quarterback just because we’re worried we’re not good enough there just to pick somebody who we’re not even that sure about, that would be a bad mistake,” Banner said.
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday that quarterback Alex Smith is on the trading block. Matt Moore of the Miami Dolphins, Chase Daniel of the New Orleans Saints, Brian Hoyer of the Arizona Cardinals and Derek Anderson are among the quarterbacks the Browns could pursue in free agency.
When asked if the Browns have talked about trading for Smith, Banner said, “We’ve discussed every quarterback who’s available in trade or free agency or even those that we think we could maybe make somebody who wasn’t planning on making available in trade.”
Banner said the Browns won’t be “comfortable” with their quarterback situation until they find someone they believe can lead them to a championship. They don’t know whether Weeden will evolve into that type of player, but there is reason for hope, Banner said.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have said Weeden possesses a strong arm, which could help him succeed in their vertical, downfield passing game.
“They think they can work with Brandon,” Banner said. “He obviously has a lot of redeeming qualities. … He’s in the window where you need to see the kind of development if he’s going to be the long-term answer.
“There’s a lot of players who turn out really, really good that struggled in year one. It’s yet to be seen whether he’ll be one of those or not. But I think the bigger bet is that you’ve got people who have proven they can work with a young quarterback and develop him combined with the fact he’s going from year one to year two.”
Banner said if Weeden “can do the job,” he would not have a problem investing in him despite his age. Weeden, a former minor-league baseball player, will turn 30 on Oct. 14.
“Would it be better if he was 24?” Banner said. “Of course, but there’s no reason to think he can’t play five or six more years. And if he can play well for us for five or six years, that would be great.”
Banner lumped Weeden and wide receiver Josh Gordon together while explaining that they have talent, but how much they commit to improving will ultimately determine their fate.
When asked if there was an issue with Weeden’s work ethic last season, Banner said, “My impression was that he took coaching well. So I’m hoping that will be a positive thing.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.