Six months ago, the Browns made their most obvious move yet to bring a “Moneyball” philosophy to the NFL, completing a deal that nominally netted them one of the most accomplished passers the franchise had employed in years: Someone who had already led one team to a playoff spot and who had been one of the most intriguing free agents just a season before Cleveland acquired him. Brock Osweiler was heading to the Browns, and all it cost the team was a fourth-round pick. The excitement Osweiler immediately injected the city of Cleveland with was palpable. That deal netted reactions like:
- “We’re really excited to acquire a second-round draft choice in this trade,” from executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown
- “Obviously, [Brock’s] a player on our team and we’re going to treat him just like we do all of our other quarterbacks until he’s not,” from Browns coach Hugh Jackson
And speculation like:
- “The #Browns are planning on cutting Brock Osweiler, source said,” from NFL insider Ian Rapoport
And analysis like:
- “For the Browns, it’s all about acquiring that second-round pick and not about Osweiler, who may or may not even be on the team long,” from Browns beat writer Mary Kay Cabot.
Now, the long-anticipated day has finally come: The Browns cut Osweiler on Friday, eating a $16 million cap hit, the 26th-largest figure in the NFL, to do so. After rookie DeShone Kizer won the starting job from the sixth-year pro last Sunday, Osweiler became expendable, so it was no surprise that Cleveland made the final move to turn this into the trade NFL fans always knew it was: a $16 million check for a second-round pick.
It’s been a remarkable downfall for Osweiler. Handed one of the most talent-rich rosters in the league after taking over for injured starter Peyton Manning in Denver in 2015, Osweiler racked up a 5-2 record and at least one prime time performance that made multiple teams believe the very tall QB could be a franchise signal-caller when he hit free agency the next summer. He then landed in another favorable position when he signed with the Houston Texans, but quickly proved that any success he seemed to have with the Broncos was a mirage. His combined stats through those two seasons: 25 TDs, 22 INTs, 4,924 yards, 60.0 percent completion, 6.3 yards per attempt, a 77.2 passer rating, and one mesmerizing fumble:
Never has one "throw" so embodied a quarterback's entire career work pic.twitter.com/kWJFc5rFRz— Laurie Horesh (@LaurieHoresh) October 25, 2016
Posting pedestrian numbers like that while throwing to the likes of Demaryius Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins make it little wonder that Osweiler couldn’t win the Browns job. Now he’s back on the open market, but with considerably less hype than last time. The only remaining intrigue is seeing whether he heads back to Denver, where Paxton Lynch is expected to be sidelined until October, leaving a hole at backup quarterback behind Trevor Siemian. More likely though, is that a quarterback-needy team like the Jaguars, Jets, or Colts will take a flier on Osweiler. But it also may be that, after two lackluster seasons, NFL squads have seen enough.