Browns: Advised to Reunite With Former Starter as Deshaun Watson’s Backup

Joe Flacco‘s playoff performance may have shut the door on a true QB controversy for the Cleveland Browns this offseason, but addressing the backup quarterback position remains a top priority with free agency less than two months out.

Deshaun Watson continues his recovery from a November surgery to repair a broken bone in his throwing shoulder and has made only six starts in each of his first two seasons with the team. While the Browns fully expect Watson to start the 2024 campaign healthy, the end of their season made starkly clear the value of a feasible No. 2 option under center.

Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com on Friday, January 19, suggested one of two paths forward for Cleveland — either a reunion with Flacco or a reunion with Jacoby Brissett, who started 11 games for the franchise to begin the 2022 season while Watson sat out due to a suspension from the NFL.

“Flacco, who turned 39 on Tuesday, saved the Browns’ season, and they’d be open to bringing him back as the backup to Watson if he doesn’t find a chance to start elsewhere. Likewise, Flacco has made it clear he loves it here and would be open to a return,” Cabot wrote. “The Browns might also have a chance to bring back Jacoby Brissett, 31, if he doesn’t get an opportunity to start elsewhere. … He knows the system — although it will likely change with a new coordinator — and is loved by his coaches and teammates, including Watson.

Brissett led Cleveland to a 4-7 record two seasons past, though the Browns were more competitive than that win/loss mark suggests.

Cleveland dropped four of those seven games by three points or fewer and built a far superior defense in 2023 than the one that played opposite Brissett the year before. With the roster Cleveland has now constructed, even despite the potential offseason turnover, Brissett should have the potential to play .500 ball — or better — if the Browns need to turn to him for any extended stretch of time.

Brissett, like Flacco, remains interested in an opportunity at a starting job. He played second-fiddle to second-year man Sam Howell with the Washington Commanders last season after losing the battle for the starting job in training camp.

Brissett didn’t start a game in 2023, though he appeared in three of them, completing 78.3% of his 23 total passes for 224 yards and 3 TDs, per Pro Football Reference. Brissett threw for 2,608 yards, 12 TDs and 6 INTs across 11 starts with Cleveland in 2022.

Flacco became a fast fan-favorite after leading the Browns to a 4-1 record down the stretch. His style was a strong fit with the offense, though that scheme may change, as Cabot noted Friday.

Still, based on his success and connection with the fan base, Flacco is probably the preferred choice in Cleveland over Brissett. However, Flacco’s play down the stretch may allow him this offseason the same opportunity to start that Brissett sought following the 2022 campaign.

Flacco appeared on the January 18 edition of the “Pardon My Take” podcast and spoke about his NFL future.

“How lucky was I to get on a team that was ready to make a run like that and to be around a bunch of great guys in the locker room? There was something special about being there and how people treated me. I felt a lot of love, and my family did as well,” Flacco said. “I’m open to [being] back in Cleveland, but I don’t want to rush to any decisions.”

Max Dible covers the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and Golden State Warriors for Heavy.com. He covered local and statewide news as a reporter for West Hawaii Today and served as news director for BigIslandNow.com and Pacific Media Group’s family of Big Island radio stations before joining Heavy. More about Max Dible

 

 

Gideon Canice

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