Quick Bit: The Browns finally know how long they will be without Deshaun Watson for the 2022 season. Who is the best quarterback to fill in during his six-game absence?

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The Browns finally know how long they will be without Deshaun Watson for the 2022 season. Based on the ruling of retired judge Sue L. Robinson, the the former Texans quarterback has drawn a six-game suspension from the NFL in relation to his numerous sexual assault allegations.

Cleveland’s massive five-year contract for Watson was a big risk and it will come with much bigger salary cap hits in 2023 and beyond. But in 2022, he counts only a little more than $10 million toward the cap. Even with that, the team has the most cap room of any team in the NFL, at more than $48 million.

That gives the Browns ample space for a viable veteran contingency plan. The big question is, will they actually add another quarterback to help them meet their high expectations for the upcoming season with a team that’s loaded elsewhere?

Without Watson, after the Baker Mayfield trade, Cleveland’s QB depth chart reads Jacoby Brissett, Joshua Dobbs and Josh Rosen. Here’s what’s next for the Browns’ QB situation with Watson suspended:

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Do the Browns really trust Jacoby Brissett?

The Browns already have one of the league’s best backups in Brissett. It’s no coincidence they signed him a week after trading for Watson, knowing they needed non-Mayfield insurance on the field in 2022.

Brissett was put in a tough post-Andrew Luck spot with the Colts in 2019. He fared about the same filling in for Tua Tagovailoa with the Dolphins in 2022.

On his fourth team, Brissett can be a capable caretaker playing off a strong running game to complement the defense. In that regard, the Browns can win with him much like they did with Mayfield. The key is protecting the ball and executing efficient short-to-intermediate passing.

The Browns, with Watson, would have their work cut out for them competing again in a tough AFC North. Getting to 10-7 seems to be key to get into the playoffs in the AFC.

Watson would have put Cleveland right at that number. With Brissett and lesser passing, the Browns will need to pull out a few more games via other, non-QB means. Brissett remains the direct and easiest option to replace Watson, especially given the suspension will mark less than half the season.

Would the Browns aggressively trade for Jimmy Garoppolo?

The 49ers’ Garoppolo is the big veteran left sitting on the trading block since free agency began in March with Mayfield moved.

Garoppolo, if retained to keep starting in San Francisco for one more season before free agency, will now be at best backing up young 2021 first-round pick Trey Lance. In Cleveland without Watson, Garoppolo would be guaranteed start right away as a pricey but worthy outside fill-in.

The 49ers would clear $25.55 million by trading or releasing Garoppolo right before the season, which can bump up them significantly from being No. 31 in the NFL in cap space. The Browns, if needed, can handle that cap hit in the final year of Garoppolo’s contract with more than $48 million available after trading Mayfield. Garoppolo is also bound to see an adjusted contract with his new team, with the 49ers likely to pay some of his salary with the bigger overall relief in mind.

For Garoppolo, he would join another run-heavy, defensive-minded contending team with a chance to be a savior in a Kevin Stefanski offense well suited to him and also provide a QB upgrade from Mayfield in 2021.

The Browns have been adamant they want to just roll with Brissett and would rather not make another big QB move to counter the massive one they made with Watson. But that story can quickly change if Garoppolo becomes an affordable rental in a season of high expectations.

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Could the Browns desperately sign another QB?

Ryan Fitzpatrick already retired before wanting to add Cleveland as his 10th NFL team. Cam Newton is out there, but he’s generated little-to-zero interest since his second flopped stint with the Panthers.

Former Browns starters Tyrod Taylor (Giants) and Colt McCoy (Cardinals) are locked into backups behind 2019 first-rounders. Case Keenum, who went 2-0 playing for Mayfield last season, is now the Bills’ new No. 2. Then it’s getting into QBs such as Mike Glennon and AJ McCarron.

The Browns should think about signing a QB for depth beyond pre-camp flyer Rosen with Watson suspended and Mayfield traded. But don’t expect him to be another starting option.

Might the Browns quickly look more at Joshua Dobbs?

Dobbs, a 2017 fourth-round pick from Tennessee, has had two stints with the Steelers wrapped around a short time with the Jaguars.

The 27-year-old has stayed in the league because of intriguing size (6-3, 218 pounds), smarts, arm and athleticism. His football intelligence also makes him a quick study in Stefanski’s offense.

The Browns added him in April as an extra backup ahead of maybe moving Mayfield during the draft, which didn’t materialize. Dobbs has enough within his skill set to get a shot at doing what the Browns need from him should Brissett falter or get injured.

Without Watson and Mayfield, Brissett and Dobbs are headed to hold down the Browns’ QB room, with the latter developing into the acceptable contingency for the former.

The Browns gambled big on Watson for 2022 and likely have lost, given it will be hard to make up for his lost time and make the playoffs in the tough AFC North. The Ravens and the Bengals are formidable co-favorites in the division and they have MVP-caliber QBs. The Browns are looking at third place ahead of the also quarterback-transitioning Steelers.

Will the Browns just roll with what they have at QB and do so again, hoping Watson’s true impact at the position will just be felt starting in 2023? Or will they come through with an expensive Plan B with Jimmy G?

While Cleveland figures out its dilemma, there’s one piece of good news — at least the franchise has plenty of experience trying to clean up quarterback messes.

Originally found on Sporting News Read More

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