Who is the bridge quarterback now?
Well, well, well. Didn’t see that one coming.
Neither did Browns General Manager John Dorsey and it sent him back to the drawing board.
Late Tuesday, the Kansas City Chiefs (unofficially) traded quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins, a move that directly impacted the Browns. It is unofficial because it cannot be consummated officially for another month or so.
It had a direct impact on Dorsey’s plans to remodel his team from the studs out on offense. Smith was to be the key piece of those plans. The GM reportedly attempted to deal for Smith, but apparently with not enough ammunition to pull it off.
The Redskins had been looking for a reason to disinvite Kirk Cousins back for another season and found it through the Chiefs, who made Smith available to pave the way for Patrick Mahomes to take over their offense.
Smith would have been a perfect bridge quarterback for the Browns, the veteran presence who would immediately improve a moribund Cleveland offense and serve at least a couple of seasons as a teacher for the young quarterback Dorsey is certain to select in the college draft.
That radically changes the initial plans for Dorsey, who now faces the distinct possibility of having to choose from seconds as his choice to become an interim quarterback until the next rookie quarterback is ready.
The list past Smith and Cousins is weak at best. That means Plan B for Dorsey. Or C. Maybe D and E.
Unless Jimmy Haslam III opens the vault completely for Cousins and says, “How much is enough?” and even that might not be enough to land him, the list of possible bridge quarterbacks is not encouraging.
Cousins is more likely to wind up with either Arizona, Denver or Buffalo, teams desperate for a quarterbacks with solid defenses, strong running games and decent receivers.
At this point in his career, money might not be the deciding factor. It is entirely possible he would take less money than the Browns can offer in order to land with a franchise that has a much better chance than the Browns to make the postseason. He is also too young to be a bridge to the future quarterback.
There is also the remote possibility Dorsey can convince Cousins Cleveland is where he should be. In that case, he most likely would abandon his search for the young quarterback, at least at the top of the draft, and concentrate on filling other vital areas on the roster.
If that fails, leading candidates are the Minnesota Vikings trio of Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum and Sam Bradford, Cincinnati’s AJ McCarron, Tyrod Taylor of Buffalo, Blake Bortles of Jacksonville and Chase Daniel, who backs up Drew Brees in New Orleans and was a backup in Kansas City when Dorsey was GM there.
Then there are Jay Cutler and Matt Moore in Miami, Tampa Bay’s Ryan Fitzpatrick and the freest of free agents, Colin Kaepernick, the toxic quarterback whose name inevitably lands on lists such as this.
Forget Jimmy Garoppolo. There is no way the San Francisco 49ers let him go after he pumped life back into a staggering franchise at the tail end of last season.
The Browns also might consider bringing back Josh McCown, who played surprisingly well for the New York Jets last season, to guide the high draft pick in the right direction as he acclimates to the National Football League.
The Vikings most likely will keep two of their quarterbacks – Keenum, who led then to the playoffs, and probably Bridgewater, who is still young enough to overcome an injury-filled career. Bradford, who has missed 32 games in seven seasons, is an injury waiting to happen.
Unless the quarterbacks landscape around the NFL changes drastically in the next six week, the leading candidates are Bradford, Daniel, Taylor (if released by the Bills), Bortles (if released by the Jaguars) and McCarron, who almost became Cleveland’s quarterback last season before the front office screwed up the deal.
Then again, it is entirely possible new offensive coordinator Todd Haley thinks he might be able to unlock the mystery that was DeShone Kizer last season, something head coach Hue Jackson was unable to do, and Dorsey concentrates on the draft selection.
What looked promising as recently as a few days ago now joins the Browns’ mounting scrap heap of disappointments and serves a reminder of just how difficult Dorsey’s new job is.