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Browns QB Brian Hoyer has one more chance to up dwindling free-agency value

CLEVELAND -- Brian Hoyer's second chance as the starting quarterback is about more than reigniting the Cleveland Browns' offense.

It’s about the mighty free-agency dollar -- more pointedly, trying to recoup the potential loss of millions due to recent struggles that led to a brief benching while navigating a murky second-tier starting quarterback market.

When Hoyer was playing well, particularly through the first six weeks, he was making a compelling case for a long-term deal with the Browns.

That deal still might be available, especially if Hoyer guides the Browns to the playoffs, but a large money gulf exists when it comes to comparables outside the league’s top 15 quarterbacks.

Where Hoyer fits in that game is still difficult to decipher. The next four weeks will carry huge implications for Hoyer. The jury's still out.

After a consistent 16-game season, Hoyer likely would’ve aimed for the Andy Dalton-Alex Smith range of money.

Smith got four years for $68 million and a reported $45 million in guarantees. Dalton’s deal is more deceiving -- six years for $115 million on paper that’s really more like two years and $25 million according to ESPN correspondent Andrew Brandt.

Maybe throw in Carson Palmer, who just landed a three-year, $50-million deal before tearing his ACL last month.

After those three, the money pile shrinks into the Josh McCown range of two years, $10 million. McCown money would be Hoyer’s fallback, Smith/Dalton would be his ceiling.

If you’re counting at home, the difference between Dalton and McCown money is roughly $15 million guaranteed, since McCown’s $10 million seems pretty secure.

Does Hoyer fall into that range? Or does he fall out of it? Even if you’re not high on Dalton, he’s still got 60 NFL starts to Hoyer's 16, though Dalton's 2014 stats (63.0 comp. pct., 2,589 yards, 13 TDs, 13 INTs) are similar to Hoyer’s (56.2 comp. pct., 3,056 yards, 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions).

Based on Hoyer’s 12-game slate, I could see him getting more than McCown but somewhere south of Dalton.

If the first six games of the season made Hoyer money and the last six cost him some, maybe the last four will punctuate his true value.