BEREA: Hope you enjoyed your second honeymoon, Brandon Weeden.
Not only did the Browns pass on quarterbacks who could have provided more competition for the incumbent starter in all three days of the draft. but they also traded with the Miami Dolphins for slot receiver Davone Bess, who will become their best third-down target since Joe Jurevicius in 2008.
And Jurevicius — known for his emphatic first-down signal — never moved the chains like Bess. According to the Browns, Bess has 130 third-down receptions, second most in the NFL during the past five years.
The Browns made a statement this weekend. They are giving Weeden a year to prove himself in new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s system. They didn’t jump off the high dive for a quarterback in a weak year at the position.
Next year, however, is another matter.
Matt Barkley’s drop from a projected high first-round pick in 2012 to the fourth round, No. 98 overall in 2013, could prompt a rush of quarterbacks to declare early for the 2014 draft. The four-year starter and three-time captain at Southern California elected to return for his senior season, then suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the final two games. It must have scared off NFL general managers, especially since he was considered a reincarnation of Colt McCoy, anyway. At one point during his junior season, Barkley was expected to be the No. 1 pick in 2012.
Among the quarterbacks who could leave school with eligibility remaining after next season are Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M’s Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, Michigan’s Devin Gardner, UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and N.C. State’s Pete Thomas. Ohio State’s Braxton Miller will probably submit his paperwork to the NFL’s Draft advisory board, although he doesn’t seem ready. A Heisman-winning season could change that thinking, though.
There is also a talented class of seniors, including Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, Georgia’s Aaron Murray, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Miami’s Stephen Morris and North Carolina’s Bryn Renner.
Saturday’s final four rounds of the draft also gave the Browns ammunition for next year. Trades with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts netted third- and fourth-round picks in 2014. Presumably those will be late in their respective rounds, which might be more valuable to cobble together in a trade package.
The Browns had plenty of chances in this draft to add a quarterback to the room occupied by second-year man Weeden, free-agent signee Jason Campbell and No. 3 Thad Lewis, who started the season finale in December.
On Thursday, they could have had Florida State’s EJ Manuel, who went to the Buffalo Bills. Solomon Wilcots, in Berea for the NFL Network, thought the Browns had interest in Manuel, presumably if they traded down.
On Friday, West Virginia’s Geno Smith went to the New York Jets in the second round, when the Browns had no pick. The Browns investigated Smith extensively and many mock drafts by long-time NFL analysts and beat writers had Smith going to the Browns. In the third round, N.C. State’s Mike Glennon went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 73rd overall, five picks after the Browns.
Saturday could have been the day that rattled Weeden. Overnight, Barkley, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones were among those still available. If the Browns wanted to turn up the heat on Weeden, they would have taken one, even if the prospect were considered a project. It would have made for an interesting training camp with Weeden, Campbell and a drafted rookie.
Instead they traded out of the fourth round entirely, giving the 111th overall pick to division rival Pittsburgh. (I’m not a fan of that move, mainly because of the visions of Haloti Ngata it stirs.)
Weeden and his wife, Melanie, wherever they are, could have popped the champagne.
The Browns are rumored to be in the market for another signal-caller, although he would likely replace Lewis since Campbell signed on March 26. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported Saturday that the Browns were “sniffing around” for a backup and could be interested in the Arizona Cardinals’ Brian Hoyer. A native of North Olmsted and a Cleveland St. Ignatius graduate, Hoyer, 27, has started one game in four NFL seasons, that a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17 last year.
But even if the Browns want another quarterback for camp, it appears it will be no one who will immediately unseat Weeden. Weeden’s one-year tryout officially began Saturday.
Physically Weeden seems to be a perfect fit for the stretch-the-field scheme of Turner and new coach Rob Chudzinski. Turner in particular seems a fan. But the Browns’ braintrust still has questions about Weeden’s preparation, work ethic and leadership. There’s also a concern about the former professional baseball player turning 30 on Oct. 14.
The Browns’ lack of attention to the quarterback position in the draft saved Weeden from what could have been a stressful weekend. But they served notice he’s now on the clock.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.