Browns, QB Jameis Winston finalizing one-year contract 

If anyone learned the importance of having a quality backup quarterback in 2023, it was Browns general manager Andrew Berry, who was forced to give Joe Flacco a call in the middle of the campaign because of multiple injuries suffered by Browns quarterbacks. What ended up happening was nothing short of a fairy tale. Flacco rediscovered his passing talents, stringing together the best four games for a Browns quarterback in franchise history, leading Cleveland to a playoff berth as a wild-card qualifier and earning Comeback Player of the Year honors.

Flacco spoke on multiple occasions of how much he enjoyed his half-season in Cleveland, where he said he “felt like a kid again,” and said he’d be very interested in a potential reunion in 2024. That outcome now seems all but impossible after the Browns chose a quarterback who is much closer to the archetype of Watson than Flacco, a move that also can be interpreted as Cleveland preventing fans from clamoring for Flacco at the first sign of difficulty with Watson.

Winston’s career began as the first-overall pick of the Buccaneers in 2015, but never reached the sky-high expectations that came with winning the Heisman Trophy. He’s struggled with turnovers for most of his career, becoming the first member of the 30-touchdown, 30-interception club in his final season in Tampa, and though he’s shown flashes of growth in New Orleans, rarely has he demonstrated enough consistency to be taken seriously as a starter.

He’ll join a Browns team entering 2024 with a new offensive coordinator in Ken Dorsey, who is expected to work with play-calling head coach Kevin Stefanski to craft a new scheme that maximizes the skills of Watson and the group of weapons around him, including recent receiving addition Jerry Jeudy. Should Watson be forced out of action again, Winston can step in with a similar skill set that should make such a transition smoother than the one Stefanski was forced to make with Flacco in 2023.

The plan, though, is for Watson to play the entire season. But as the NFL learned in 2023 — a season in which 66 different quarterbacks made a start for a team — the backup is often just as important as Plan A.

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