Browns’ Reason for Signing Jameis Winston Over Joe Flacco Revealed

Joe Flacco, Browns

Getty Quarterback Joe Flacco, formerly of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns chose former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston over last season’s instant hero Joe Flacco as their backup quarterback for one specific reason.

According to Tony Grossi of The Land on Demand, Cleveland went with Winston in order to protect starter Deshaun Watson.

“Browns didn’t want the shadow of Joe Flacco hanging over Deshaun Watson,” Grossi posted to X on Wednesday, March 13.

Surprisingly, Flacco actually casts a fairly lengthy shadow in Cleveland given the success he had down the stretch of the 2023 campaign. He earned a 4-1 record as the regular-season starter and formed strong bonds inside the locker room and with the city over a short period of time.

Scott Petrak of Browns Zone detailed Tuesday how beloved Flacco became.

“For many, Flacco made watching the Browns fun again,” Petrak wrote. “He was a breath of fresh air, and his enthusiasm for the game at 38 years old was obvious and appreciated. He told stories of being cheered at restaurants around town.”

Deshaun Watson Has Done Nothing Over Past 2 Years to Deserve Protection From Browns

The Cleveland Browns bringing back Joe Flacco will cause some additional pressure for Deshaun Watson.

GettyThe Cleveland Browns bringing back Joe Flacco would have created additional pressure for Deshaun Watson.

Watson has rarely been on the field since joining the Browns two years ago, missing 11 games in 2022 due to a league suspension Cleveland knew would come down and another 11 contests last season due to a lingering shoulder issue that led to surgery in November. When Watson has been on the field, he has rarely been good.

But the Browns tethered themselves to the quarterback by trading away three first-round picks — plus more draft assets — to the Houston Texans to acquire him after a full season on the sidelines, then paying Watson $230 million fully guaranteed over a five-year contract.

The bet GM Andrew Berry made on Watson was sensical in a couple of ways. First, Watson was a three-time Pro Bowler between 2018-20, and just one season had passed between the final campaign of that run and Cleveland’s signing of the quarterback.

Second, the godfather offer to the Texans and the enormous contract offer to Watson was the only combination of actions by which the Browns could get a player of his caliber to choose the cold, relatively small market of Cleveland over destinations like Atlanta or New Orleans.

In retrospect, however, it was an inane combination of decisions that brought Watson to the Browns — even if the organization could justify those choices at the time.

It feels somehow even more ridiculous to now double-down on protecting arguably the worst investment in franchise history (and his ego) at the cost of bailing on the most competent QB on the roster over the past two years.

Browns Ensured Joe Flacco Would Not Return by Low-Balling Him With Offer

Joe Flacco is well aware that he'd be the backup if he returns to the Browns.

GettyQuarterback Joe Flacco, formerly of the Cleveland Browns. 

In reality, though, Cleveland isn’t just protecting Watson from calls for a change to Flacco from fans and media should Watson’s struggles continue next year. The team is also protecting head coach Kevin Stefanski from those demands, as well as Berry who orchestrated the entire debacle with a green light from ownership.

The Browns assured that Flacco’s return wouldn’t to be a problem — despite the quarterback saying that “all things being equal” he’d like to be back in Cleveland next season — by low-balling him with their free agent offer earlier this week.

“Can confirm Browns didn’t even offer Joe Flacco a split minimum contract, which is even a worse offer than full minimum,” Grossi reported. “Smh (shaking my head).”

In the interest of fairness, it must be mentioned that Flacco’s success late last year surprised just about everyone in and around the NFL, Browns fans included. Now 39 years old, Flacco hadn’t been that kind of player in a half-decade.

Cleveland’s brass and coaching staff had a closer look at Flacco day in and day out last season — and thereby more information — than anyone else around the league. As Petrak noted, the Browns may have felt that Flacco’s run was “lightning in a bottle” and that offering him anymore than the minimum was a risky proposition, particularly considering his status with the city of Cleveland as compared to that of Watson — the man they have already dubbed their starter in 2024.

Even still, it feels a bit like bizarro world in Northeast Ohio when the Browns are casting aside a fan favorite in Flacco who helped them make the playoffs last season to protect a player in Watson on an albatross contract who has accomplished next to nothing in two years.

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