"The Browns are in the process of releasing him," Andrew Kessler, an associate of Couch's agent, Tom Condon, told The Green Bay News-Chronicle.
Couch was the top overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft but never panned out. Much of the blame can fall on an expansion-quality supporting cast surrounding Couch. Nor has he had a stellar offensive line providing pass protection.
The imminent release will rid the Browns of the final two years of Couch's contract. He was due to make $7.6 million for the coming season.
Couch became expendable in Cleveland when the Browns signed former San Francisco starter Jeff Garcia during free agency. Last month during minicamp, Browns coach Butch Davis said he planned on keeping Couch, but that seemed little more than a ploy to try to drive up Couch's trade value.
Clearly, while there are major obstacles to overcome, the Packers remain the most likely destination for Couch. The two sides have been negotiating for weeks, but Couch reportedly wants just a one-year contract while the Packers would like to sign him for two. Money is an issue, as well.
Most teams, however, are set at quarterback for 2004, and with Green Bay in the market for a starting quarterback at some point, a deal seems logical from both viewpoints.
Former NFL standout Cris Carter, in a column posted on Yahoo!, says Green Bay is a perfect fit for Couch.
"Sitting under Brett Favre in Green Bay is the best option for him," the former Pro Bowl receiver writes. "Even in the backup role, he would not be considered a slouch because he would be sitting behind the best. It also is a good place to learn. Favre isn't going to play that much longer, which makes it even more attractive."
Another possibility for Couch could be San Francisco, Garcia's old stomping grounds. Couch knows a version of the West Coast Offense, and the 49ers could be without projected starter Tim Rattay when training camp opens after he tore a groin muscle during the postdraft minicamp.
Packers coach Mike Sherman did not meet with reporters on Wednesday. On Monday, reacting to rumors of Couch's rumored release, Sherman noted the positives and negatives of the quarterback hitting the open market.
"Obviously you want not have to give something up if in fact that's something we end up doing," Sherman said. ... "As with anybody else on the free market, there's also a lot more people involved in it so it gets crazy."
In a move that may or may not be related, the Packers finally released underperforming defensive end Joe Johnson on Thursday, ridding themselves of the final four years of his six-year, $33 million contract. The transaction saves the team $4 million on this year's salary cap.
Couch, the former University of Kentucky star, has passed for 11,131 yards, 64 touchdowns and 67 interceptions in 59 career starts. He has a career completion percentage of 59.8 and a 75.1 rating.
His best year came in 2002, when he connected on 18 scoring strikes — with 18 interceptions — in 14 games. The Browns made the playoffs that season, but it was about that time when his Browns career began to spin out of control. An injury to Couch provided an opening for Kelly Holcomb, who starred in a playoff defeat.
Injuries and ineffective play started a quarterback shuffle that began with Couch as the training camp starter, Holcomb as the opening-day starter, Couch getting the job back only to lose it again. He wound up starting eight games last season, completing 59.1 percent of his passes for 1,319 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions.
While his career stats are anything but great, plenty of blame can fall on the Browns' perennial makeshift offensive lines, a receiving corps that was void of top talent and, until selecting William Green in the first round of the 2002 draft, the lack of a standout running back to take away some of the pressure.
Carter is sold on Couch's potential to turn around his career.
"Quarterback is the toughest position to play in the league," Carter wrote. "It takes a good four or five years before a quarterback taps into his true potential. I believe that the best years for a quarterback are when he is in his early 30s. The future is bright for Tim Couch."