Quarterback Joe Flacco’s stint with the Cleveland Browns may not be over just yet.
On Monday, Browns GM Andrew Berry stated that he is considering re-signing the veteran signal-caller who went 4-2 as the starter and propelled Cleveland into the playoffs, according to Tom Withers of the Associated Press.
Berry stated at his season-ending press conference:
“He played winning football for us. I want to bring all of our good players back, but there are constraints to that. I’m really kind of both sides of the aisle but would have no problem having Joe back.”
Flacco came to Cleveland after starter Deshaun Watson had season-ending shoulder surgery. The Browns used rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson and journeyman P.J. Walker before signing Flacco to right the ship. Watson was 4-1 as the starting QB before getting injured.
Berry also stated that Cleveland would have some financial limitations that might stop Flacco from coming back to the Browns for 2024, but that he is willing to discuss the possibility of this return strictly as the backup to Watson. A $230 million contract paid to Watson creates those problems.
Since Watson was signed to the Browns, he has played in just 12 games with an 8-4 record in two seasons. However, 11 of those games missed were because of his league-sanctioned suspension to begin the 2022 season.
He played in all six remaining contests last season but suffered a displaced fracture to the glenoid in his right shoulder during the first half of the Week 10 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Three days later, Watson had surgery to repair a broken bone in his throwing shoulder. In these six games of 2023, he had 105 completions on 171 attempts for 1,115 yards, seven touchdown passes, four interceptions, sacked 17 times, and an 84.3 QB rating. He also had 26 rushes for 142 yards and added one score.
There are lots of media opinions that believe Flacco will not be in Cleveland next season. The advantage to re-signing Flacco is basically insurance just in case Watson is again injured whether it is for a few games or any lengthy period.
But with Flacco’s success with the Browns albeit brief, he may want to sign with a club that will allow him the opportunity to become a starter again. Depends on his market value as well. It does seem clear that Flacco could start with at least eight clubs that need a seasoned veteran.
If the Browns can persuade Flacco to re-sign, would this become a problem within the QB room? Fans who became enamored with Flacco during his brief time with Cleveland will become the most vocal if Watson struggles or if the Browns aren’t winning.
Berry addressed that concern:
“Zero considerations because of how both individuals are. It’s not a concern internally at all.”
Berry is expecting a full recovery for Watson who has made the necessary progress in rehab and recovery. There is internal hope that Watson will somehow elevate his game to the three-time Pro Bowl status he had while a member of the Houston Texans.
Berry noted that he is confident in Watson’s progression:
“We’d all love to have him on the field more often. Feel really good about him, happy with the progress that he’s made within our organization, both on the field and off. We’re looking forward to getting him back next year. We think he’s going to have a really big year and have a ton of confidence in him as our starting quarterback.”
Along with being a highly experienced NFL quarterback, Flacco is very durable. He started all 16 games in his rookie campaign after being a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens. He was also the MVP of the Senior Bowl. He missed six games in 2015, and then was replaced by rookie Lamar Jackson in Week 11 of the 2018 season after Flacco suffered a hip injury. Before that, Flacco had only missed six games in 160 starts.
Flacco is not the runner that Watson is, but he can get out of the pocket and continue to look downfield for an open receiver when flushed, or take off and gain some yardage.
With the Browns, Flacco had 123 completions on 204 attempts for 1,616 yards, 13 touchdowns, eight interceptions, was sacked eight times, and finished with a QB rating of 90.2. His two pick-six interceptions in back-to-back drives against the Texans decimated the team in the playoffs.
In five of six games for Cleveland Flacco threw for over 300 yards including a high of 374 in the 20-17 comeback win over the Chicago Bears. Watson has yet to toss for more than 300 yards in a game as a Brown.
Flacco would also be beneficial for the development of Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
It is a certainty that Watson is expected to make a full recovery and be the starting QB going forward for Cleveland, If Flacco is re-signed, it would give the Browns instant insurance for the franchise in the event of another injury situation with a proven veteran who has played in 17 playoff games and has won a Super Bowl.