Brian Hoyer should be able to rest a little easier now because one potential contender for the Browns’ starting quarterback job won’t be coming to Cleveland after all.
The Browns expressed some interest in creating a reunion between their new offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, and Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, but the Oakland Raiders traded a 2014 sixth-round draft pick for Schaub, ESPN reported Friday. The Raiders also announced the move.
That’s one less guy who could cause Hoyer to look over his shoulder as he attempts to reclaim a spot atop the depth chart of his hometown team.
Of course, the Browns are also still expected to draft a quarterback this year. Even if they don’t pick one like Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater or Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel fourth overall, they have a late first-round selection (No. 26 overall) and an early second-round choice (No. 35 overall). Fresno State’s Derek Carr, Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo and Alabama’s AJ McCarron form what is generally considered the second tier of this year’s quarterback class.
It would be stunning if the Browns used a top-five pick on a quarterback and sat him behind Hoyer as a rookie. It just doesn’t happen. However, if the Browns wait to pick a quarterback later in the draft, perhaps Hoyer would receive a fair shake in a true competition and could serve as a bridge at the position if he prevailed.
Any scenario in which Hoyer, a North Olmsted native and Cleveland St. Ignatius High School graduate, would enter next season as the starter is contingent upon him bouncing back from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in his right knee last October. He believes he’s on track to do so and expects to participate, at least in some capacity, in the team’s offseason workout program that begins April 7.
Hoyer, who led the Browns to back-to-back wins in September before suffering his season-ending injury during his third start, also expects to hold off whichever rookie challenges him.
“Veterans have an advantage on rookies anyway ’cause those guys — I know from my first year — you train so much for the combine, things like that, that you’re not really training for reading defenses, playing football,” Hoyer, 28, said last month at a community event hosted by the Browns. “You’re worried about your 40 [-yard dash], your drops, things like that. For a veteran, I’m worried about minicamp. I’m not worried about going out and running a 40. So we’ve got an advantage anyway, and there’s always going to be competition. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Hoyer made it clear he considers himself the starter and anyone who hopes to wrestle that away will be in for a fight.
“My goal is to be the starting quarterback again,” Hoyer said. “That’s what every day I come in here and work towards, and it’s definitely a motivation for me.”
Speculation about the Browns possibly trading Hoyer if they were to acquire Schaub will die. Texans coach Bill O’Brien was Hoyer’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach when the two were with the New England Patriots.
Although Schaub is on his way to the Raiders, the Browns can still reunite Shanahan with a veteran quarterback familiar with his version of the West Coast offense. Free-agent quarterback Rex Grossman spent the past five seasons with Shanahan — one with the Texans and the last four with the Washington Redskins.
Grossman, 33, wouldn’t give the Browns a projected starter the way Schaub likely would have had he gone to Cleveland. But if the Browns sign Grossman, he could be a third-stringer and a valuable mentor in the quarterback room while helping Hoyer and likely a rookie learn Shanahan’s system. Grossman has a career record of 25-22 as a starter, but he hasn’t appeared in a regular-season game since 2011.
It also wouldn’t be completely shocking if the Browns drafted a quarterback in the first or second round and then picked another one later. When Shanahan was with the Redskins in 2012, they drafted Robert Griffin III No. 2 overall and Kirk Cousins in the fourth round (No. 102).
The Browns have 10 picks in this year’s draft, including seven in the first four rounds. After cutting Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell last week, they have only two quarterbacks on the roster, Hoyer and Alex Tanney, 26, who has never appeared in a regular-season NFL game.
Schaub, 32, became expendable when the Texans signed former Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on Thursday to a two-year contract reportedly worth $7.5 million. Schaub has a $14.5 million salary-cap figure, and he’s scheduled to make a base salary of $10 million next season, plus another $1 million in roster bonuses.
Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowler, lost his starting job last season. He went 2-6 and threw 10 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. His career record as a starter is 46-44.
Many observers expected Schaub to sign with the Browns or Raiders after the Texans cut him, but it didn’t reach that point. Perhaps the Raiders feared Schaub would choose to reunite with Shanahan once he hit the open market, so they opted to trade for him.
The Texans now seem more likely than ever to use the No. 1 overall pick in May’s draft on a quarterback. On the other hand, the Raiders seem less likely to select a quarterback fifth overall.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. 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.