RAC: What QB Controversy?

The Browns head coach is convinced that he already has a quarterback. Others are not so sure. Here's a recap on the QB-controversy to date as well as a the team's positioning heading into the off-season.


Browns coach Romeo Crennel is convinced he does not have a quarterback controversy. As far as he is concerned, he does not even have a quarterback question.

Others might disagree.

The two players in the discussion are Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn. Anderson would be a restricted free agent on Feb. 29 without a new contract. Quinn is the quarterback from Notre Dame the Browns got in the first round of last year's draft in April by trading Dallas their first-round pick in 2008. Quinn played only one series in 2007 -- at the end of the first half in the final game -- and that was because Anderson was temporarily sidelined with an injury to the pinkie on his right hand. Anderson returned for the second half.

"There's a lot of space between now and training camp, but Derek Anderson is the starter," Crennel said. "The guy won 10 games for us. You (reporters) are the ones who always bring up this quarterback thing. I don't see anybody saying Jason Wright should be the starting running back, but everybody says Brady Quinn should be the starting quarterback.

"Anderson has done a good job with his opportunity. Brady will do a good job with his opportunity when he gets it. He will because he's that type of guy. When that's going to come, I don't know."

First the Browns must retain Anderson for at least one more year. They have three options. They can sign him to a multiyear contract. They can tender him a $2,562,000 offer, in which case a team signing Anderson to an offer sheet would have to compensate the Browns with a first-round and third-round choice if the Browns do not match. They could also give Anderson the franchise tag. A team offering Anderson a contract in that case would have to compensate the Browns with two first-round picks if they do not match.

Giving Anderson the franchise tag would cost the Browns less in the long run than matching a long-term offer. As a franchise quarterback, Anderson would be paid about $10.6 million in 2008 -- a huge salary-cap hit, but the Browns are about $30 million under the cap. The franchise tag would pair Anderson and Quinn for one more year. The negative to that strategy is Anderson would be an unrestricted free agent on March 1, 2009.

"Hopefully I'll be back, but I obviously don't control that," Anderson said. "I really enjoy my teammates, and I love these guys in this locker room. We've done a lot this season. Obviously we were 4-12 last season. I had a lot of fun this season. Obviously I was a little disappointed in the way it ended."

Anderson threw 29 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions. He threw four interceptions in Cincinnati on Dec. 23, when the Browns lost 19-14. Had they won, they would be getting ready to play the Chargers in a wild-card playoff game.

Interestingly, different players have opposing views of the future.

Kellen Winslow Jr. says the starting job will be Quinn's -- not next season, perhaps, but eventually. And it isn't as if Winslow was jilted by Anderson; Winslow led the Browns with 82 receptions. He had 1,106 receiving yards -- third most in franchise history.

"You know how it works, man," Winslow said. "We drafted the guy and he's probably going to play, so we'll see what happens. Derek's a great guy, but that's just the way this business works. You draft a guy, especially in the first round, he's playing. That's just how it works."

Joe Jurevicius dresses directly across from Winslow. He is firmly behind Anderson. Jurevicius was third on the team with 50 catches for 614 yards and three touchdowns.

"I just think Derek Anderson's our man," Jurevicius said. "He deserves to be here, he deserves everything he has coming to him. Not only is he going to get better, we're all going to get better. That's what happens when you have a good year and do some learning."

The question then becomes how long can Anderson and Quinn be on the same team. The Browns traded the fourth pick of the second round in 2007 and their first pick in 2008 to the Cowboys so they could draft Quinn in 2007 with the 22nd overall pick. Anderson said co-existing with Quinn won't be a problem.

"We function," Anderson said. "He gives me a hard time. I give him a hard time. We both annoy each other at times. The relationship is good."

Feb. 21 is the deadline to give Anderson the franchise tag. Feb. 28 is the deadline to tender contracts to restricted free agents.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Browns finished 7-1 in Cleveland Browns Stadium in 2007. It was the first time in franchise history the Browns ever won seven home games in the same season. Teams started playing 14 games in 1961, so the mighty Browns teams of the 1950s could not have won seven at home. Teams started played 16 games in 1978.

The Browns won six home games 11 times, most recently in 1986, when they were 12-4. The expansion Browns won a total of 11 home games from 1999-2003, and four of those came in 2001.

--The Browns were 31st in scoring in 2006 with 238 points. This season they scored 402 points, eighth best in the league.

--The Browns scored seven rushing touchdowns in 2006. They almost doubled that this season with 13.

--RB Jamal Lewis will be an unrestricted free agent without a new contract. He was working on a one-year contract in 2007 and said he'd be willing to sign one-year deals "all day."

"I feel like I will (return)," Lewis said. "I love this team. I love the coaches and the staff as a whole. It's a great organization, and everybody pulls together. It's not like coming to work. It's like being around your family every day."

--The Browns allowed only 19 sacks all season, and five of those were Charlie Frye being sacked in the first quarter and a half of the first game. Derek Anderson was sacked 14 times during the balance of the season.

Nineteen is the fewest sacks allowed since Vinny Testaverde (12) and Mark Rypien (2) were sacked a total of 14 times in 1994.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We won way more than anyone thought we would. But we know we could have done better. We let games slip away we should have won. We still have a lot to be proud of." -- LB Andra Davis on the Browns improving from 4-12 in 2006 to 10-6 in 2007.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The mission this offseason is simple to define, if not simple to accomplish. The Browns must improve the defensive front seven, starting with left end.

Orpheus Roye is 34. He plays hard when he can play, but his body is breaking down. A foot injury kept him on the inactive list for the final game. Usually his right knee was hampering him.

OLB Antwan Peek was not the pass rushing threat the Browns hoped he would be. He battled numerous injuries all season and delivered only four sacks.

The Browns do not have a first-round draft pick.

COACHING CAROUSEL:
If Romeo Crennel had been on the hot seat, he is certainly not on it after a 10-6 season. An Internet rumor has Bill Parcells trying to pry Crennel away to coach the Dolphins. Crennel has two years left on his contract with the Browns and says he will honor it. The rest of the coaching staff appears safe.

The Falcons, Dolphins or Ravens could offer a head coaching job to offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, but Chudzinski just completed his first season running the offense. If Chudzinski were to leave, quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer would be a candidate to replace him.

FREE AGENT UPDATE: The Browns' significant unrestricted free agents to be are CB Gary Baxter, RB Jamal Lewis, G Seth McKinney, NT Ethan Kelley, LB Chaun Thompson and OL Lennie Friedman.

Re-signing Lewis is a priority. The run defense was at its best when Kelley was healthy enough to play. McKinney and Friedman add depth on the offensive line. Thompson is valuable because he can play inside or outside. Baxter has not played since tearing both patellar tendons in October 2006.

QB Derek Anderson, CB Daven Holly, and DL Simon Fraser will be restricted free agents. Retaining Anderson is a priority unless a team is willing to give the Browns a first-round and third-round pick in compensation. Even then, the Browns have to be very sure Brady Quinn will be productive.

Holly is a reliable nickel back, but with rookie Brandon McDonald improving, Holly would be the dime back next year. Fraser adds depth on the defensive line.

FEELING A DRAFT:
The Browns do not have a first-round pick in 2008 because they traded it to the Cowboys for the pick they used to take Quinn in the first round in 2007. Coincidentally, they drafted Quinn 22nd, and their first-round slot this year would have been 22nd.

When the Browns do get around to drafting, they will concentrate heavily on defensive line and linebacker. They will need a running back if they do not re-sign Lewis.

TEAM NEEDS

Pass rusher: Whether it's a defensive end or an outside linebacker, the Browns have to find a pass rusher to pair up with Kamerion Wimbley.

Nose tackle: Ethan Kelley and Shaun Smith played hard, but the Browns have to improve run defense to be included in the league's elite.

Wide receiver: This is a thin position after starters Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius, and Jurevicius plans to retire after next season.

MEDICAL WATCH
:

TE Kellen Winslow Jr. might require surgery on his left shoulder and his right knee. He is putting off a decision. ... DE Orpheus Roye has chronic knee problems but will not have surgery.


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