The Cleveland Browns will now be without starting quarterback Deshaun Watson for the remainder of the 2023 NFL season due to a shoulder injury. With the Browns firmly in playoff contention in the AFC, should they be looking to enter the market for a replacement?
With Watson now done for the season, these are the top remaining QB free agents who the Browns could consider as veteran options for the rest of 2023.
Top Free Agent QB Options for the Cleveland Browns
It’s currently expected that rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson is the starter moving forward ahead of P.J. Walker in Cleveland. However, Adam Schefter has reported that the team will look to add a third quarterback. For a team that firmly believes they are a contender for the Super Bowl, which veteran QBs could they be interested in?
Despite now being in the booth as a football analyst for CBS, Matt Ryan hasn’t formally announced that he is retired from the NFL. The former league MVP was last with the Indianapolis Colts but is now a free agent. Speaking in May, Ryan said that “the stars would have to align” for him to return to the NFL.
As a playoff-caliber team, the Browns might at least intrigue Ryan. With an elite defense and solid offensive line, Cleveland likely has the tools to suit Ryan for a potential return.
Joe Flacco potentially returning to the AFC North would be as controversial as it would be dramatic. A former first-round pick for the Baltimore Ravens, Flacco spent 10 years in Baltimore, winning Super Bowl XLVII.
Flacco is open to a return to the NFL, stating in September to ESPN, “Listen, I can still play.” Flacco went on to say, “I can be available to anybody.”
While Cam Newton hasn’t played up to his MVP-winning season in 2015, he’s still considered an option for NFL teams. Having started his career for the Panthers, Newton signed with the Patriots in 2020. Despite re-signing for the 2021 season, he was cut by New England and found himself back in Carolina for a second spell.
Newton has been here before, in November 2021, when he signed with the Panthers for a second time and played his first game in Week 10 that season. In an even more mysterious coincidence, the other quarterback whom Newton shared his starts with was P.J. Walker.
Newton didn’t live up to his former self, losing all five games he started in 2021. Given their prior battle, it seems unlikely that the Browns would select to move forward with him over DTR or Walker.
Whenever there is a potential QB position opening, Colin Kaepernick is one of the first names mentioned. And we know that Kaepernick is open to a return to the NFL.
In September, Kaepernick wrote a letter to Jets general manager Joe Douglas about his “desired return.” While it seems unlikely that the Browns would be open to Kaepernick as their starter for the rest of the season, he’s certainly a compelling name to watch for.
Colt McCoy went into the 2023 offseason as the presumptive starter for the Arizona Cardinals while Kyler Murray was still sidelined. Instead, McCoy was cut and hasn’t yet found himself a new home.
Field Yates reported that McCoy recently worked out for the Minnesota Vikings following Kirk Cousins’ season-ending Achilles injury.
Of course, McCoy is no stranger to the Browns. Cleveland drafted him No. 85 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. He went on to become the starter in his sophomore season, and while things didn’t work out for McCoy as the future of the Browns, he’s gone on to have a successful career as a backup QB.
McCoy could be viewed as a useful pickup as an experienced veteran for Cleveland.
It’s unclear if Nick Foles would be open to a return, saying after his release from the Indianapolis Colts to the Philadelphia Enquirer in May that “every year of my career, I’ve almost retired.”
But if any team is capable of enticing a quarterback away from potential retirement, it could be the 2023 Browns. In the same way as the team may suit Ryan, Cleveland has all the pieces to support an aging QB who could support what the Browns do well and be a game manager.