It’s been four weeks since the Cleveland Browns grabbed everyone’s attention with a frenzied opening day of NFL free agency. After splurging on upgrades to a flimsy offensive line and swinging an NBA-style trade for a draft pick and Houston Texans QB Brock Osweiler, everyone was left to anticipate an even bigger move on the horizon. Surely all of this activity was setting up for a blockbuster trade, likely for New England Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo.
Since then…nothing. No moves have been made since Cleveland’s busy day. No trades have been triggered, nor have they even been discussed. Despite momentum and rumors indicating more activity was on the way, it’s been all quiet for the Browns in the weeks since.
It’s safe to say nobody benefits this more than quarterback Cody Kessler. Even though there have been a few indications hinting he’s not part of Cleveland’s future plans, this suddenly calm offseason has opened up an opportunity for the former USC Trojan to prove his worth next year.
It should be noted Kessler has hardly received a ringing endorsement from Cleveland’s front office this offseason. He’s barely been mentioned by team reps, while coach Hue Jackson turned a few heads when he noted his ideal quarterback is 6’2″. Since Kessler is listed at 6’1″, many assumed this was a subtle claim that his chances of being the Browns’ franchise QB were slim at best.
However, this was when everyone assumed Cleveland had a trade up its sleeve. Technically it did, it was just for Osweiler. At the moment, said deal doesn’t appear to have pushed Kessler out of the picture.
Nothing the Browns’ higher-ups have said since dealing for Osweiler has indicated he was anything more than a throw-in, that the second round pick acquired in the deal was the real prize. Hell, Jackson talks up the former Texan with the same tone as a 10-year-old describing the value of vegetables. The gist has simply been “he’s…fine” or “he’s on the roster ’til he’s not.”
With that said, it certainly appears as though Kessler shouldn’t be fearing the concept of Osweiler stealing his chance to start. Since talks surrounding Garoppolo have all but died off for good, and with no other trade rumors to be found, it doesn’t seem like additional competition is on the way.
One could argue otherwise, especially with many under the belief Cleveland will select a quarterback at some point of the upcoming draft. While this will likely be the case, I still wouldn’t see it as a sign Kessler would no longer start.
This is all based on the simple fact none of the available rookie QBs are being labeled as a sure thing. Despite various accolades being given to Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson or Pat Mahomes, these three and every other incoming quarterback is viewed as a project in some way or another. Things may change, but as of now nobody the Browns draft is expected to start in Week 1.
Knowing this, and knowing Jackson and crew need to show progress after their 1-15 debut season, it’s difficult to see them wanting to rush an unprepared rookie along. As a result, Kessler’s chances of being the 2017 starter, at least to open the year, have greatly increased.
For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t read this as a bad thing. Sure, his arm-strength doesn’t wow anyone. At the same time, Kessler performed admirably in his nine starts last season, throwing six touchdowns and only two picks. Toss in the fact the newly revamped O-line should hopefully keep him upright and, you know, alive, and you can see why going with Kessler next year is a safe play for Cleveland.
There’s still time for things to change, but as of now said scenario looks very likely. Kessler may have been sweating bullets as the Garoppolo rumors hit their peak, but with those now all but gone and no sure-thing quarterbacks to pick from in the draft, his chances to start next year are now much higher than they seemed.