Cleveland Browns: Quarterback battle breakdown, 2017 edition

Dec 24, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (6) throws a pass during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 24, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (6) throws a pass during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Four players and one starting job. Four men who must prove their worth. Cleveland Browns quarterback battle breakdown. Someone’s getting cut, one man wins.

NFL minicamps have opened. OTAs and training camps begin this month. We are officially out of the offseason and into the preseason. With that, it is time to speculate wildly on everything from depth charts to position battles to standings to signings.

Related Story: Running Back or Wide Receiver in Fantasy Football First Round?

First up is the polarizing quarterback battle of the Cleveland Browns. Four players competing for a roster spot and one starting job. A rebuilding team in need of a leader. Who wins? Cleveland Browns quarterback battle breakdown.

Two brothers from New York, Dan Salem and Todd Salem, discuss the Cleveland Browns in today’s NFL Sports Debate.

Cleveland Browns QB Contenders

Cody Kessler
Kevin Hogan
Brock Osweiler
DeShone Kizer


Todd Salem: There are four guys in consideration to be Browns starting quarterback. Osweiler is the most experienced in terms of starts in the league, and it’s not close. Kessler is the most experienced in the Browns system. No one outside of Osweiler, though, has started more than eight times in the NFL. Kizer, obviously, has yet to play a game.

This is essentially a battle between Osweiler’s experience and everyone else’s upside. Because of that, I am ruling out Kevin Hogan. He has less experience than everyone but the rookie. He has less upside than everyone else too. Hogan is a prototypical backup who can fill in in a pinch, like he did last year. No one banks on him playing, though.

For this year, I am also ruling out Kizer. I don’t see any way he is more ready than the other two guys at any point in 2017. Maybe Cleveland throws him into some games to get snaps or in an injury situation, but this should be a year to watch and learn for him.

Dan Salem: Very few teams carry four quarterbacks into the season, so one of these players is likely getting cut. We can assume Kizer is safe, since he was just drafted. That leaves three quarterbacks for two roster spots.

More from NFL Spin Zone

Osweiler is the “veteran” of the bunch, but that is more of an insult than anything. He has some experience, but little to brag about. This competition feels truly open on paper.


Todd Salem: So that leaves two things to decide. Who starts Week 1 for Cleveland and who gets the most starts this year for the Browns?

The pick to start Week 1 is Kessler for me. He was named the de facto starter entering minicamp, and he is the only guy with much experience in this offense. The dirty little secret about Kessler is he also wasn’t too bad last year. Injuries are what knocked him out of the lineup, not poor play.

I actually think Osweiler starts the most games for the team, though. The decision is threefold. Cleveland will be forced to turn to someone with some level of competency if Kessler gets hurt again or struggles for an extended stretch. Osweiler does actually possess upside, even though everyone forgets that at this point.

Also, the Browns want to show him off to other teams even if they have no plans for him. If he looks capable, two years at roughly $17.5 million per is not bad for a starting quarterback. The team might as well see if he shows something. Otherwise, they can jettison him after this season with no cap hit; no risk, but also no reward.

Dan Salem: Kevin Hogan is getting cut this summer. It’s useless for Cleveland to carry all four quarterbacks into the season. My New York Jets had four quarterbacks last year and we all know how wonderfully that played out. Hogan is the odd man out in Cleveland.

Kizer gets a “redshirt” season of sorts, likely seeing the field in the final few weeks of the year. Since my Jets already broke ground by giving Christian Hackenberg a year on the bench in 2016, it’s much easier for the Browns to do the same with Kizer. This leaves Osweiler and Kessler competing for the starting job.

While I like Kessler, its no secret how much money Osweiler is making this season. He has a huge chip on his shoulder, wanting to prove to the league he’s worth his contract. The Browns also want to make him an attractive option for other teams.

Fantasy Football: Top 7 WRs on New Teams, Ranked for Fantasy Football

That means both Osweiler and Cleveland desperately want him to succeed in 2017. He is also a decent quarterback when the pressure is off. Despite wanting to prove himself, there is little pressure as the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback. No one expects them to win.