The signing of Dwayne Bowe may mean nothing in terms of the Cleveland Browns’ long, lost quarterback position. It may well be that the Browns intend to go into the 2015 season with Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel -- scary as that sounds.
Then again, maybe the Browns are laying low for a major move -- a trade up to acquire Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.
With Bowe on the roster, the trade makes more sense than it did without him.
Without Bowe, the Browns were in dire need of a receiver. With him (and with Brian Hartline), they can get by for a year or two, assuming all goes as planned. Other moves on paper seem to complement adding a young quarterback.
With cornerback Tramon Williams, Mike Pettine has two long-armed corners who can play press coverage the way the coach likes.
With Randy Starks, the defensive line has another body to rotate in the mix.
They need a tight end to replace Jordan Cameron, but that player can be found in the second or third round of the draft.
The only glaring need is quarterback, but the Browns have those two first-round picks and are better positioned to offer them plus another in 2016 to move up for Mariota.
It’s a lot to give up, especially coming off a draft when they used a first-round pick for Manziel. Teams that use back-to-back first-round choices on the same position are teams that lose -- or are run by Matt Millen.
But owner Jimmy Haslam has made it clear the team needs to “fix” its quarterback problem, and it is Haslam’s belief that a team needs a top-10 quarterback to win.
McCown may be better than folks gave him credit for when he signed with the Browns, but he’s nowhere close to the top 10. Manziel presents more questions than answers at this point.
There are no other quarterbacks on the market remotely close to the top 10.
Which leads to the draft, the only place the Browns can take a significant step this offseason at the game’s most important position.
There, Mariota seems to be the strongest and most logical answer.
Mariota is 6-foot-4, has a strong arm and exudes humility to the point that some say he’s too humble (if there is such a thing). He had 105 passing and 15 rushing touchdowns in 41 career starts for the Ducks -- with just 14 interceptions. He has touch, feel in the pocket and great speed. He has his degree, he treats the game with respect and (unlike Jameis Winston) has zero off-field red flags.
But there will be growing pains.
Mariota played in Oregon’s fast-paced, spread offense, so there will be an adjustment period just like the one Manziel had. But the general thinking on Mariota is that he has more long-term potential than Manziel because of his size and arm strength -- and because he’s faster.
Think Alex Smith, but a better overall player.
The Browns have the feel of a team that is far away from winning, but they were 7-9 last season and have filled some needs this week.
Their quarterback situation remains a puzzle. But the notion of McCown joining the team to hold the fort as Mariota learns makes a lot of sense. And it makes a lot more sense than turning the team over to McCown.
Acquiring Mariota would raise questions about Manziel’s future, but the Browns can’t count on Manziel being available until they know where he stands after rehab. Then they have to make a judgment on whether Manziel can play in the NFL.
They could simply decide Mariota is a better long-term option.
Mariota’s learning curve can’t be underestimated. But a team that is patient might benefit.
The Browns rarely have shown patience with a young quarterback, but they do have the ammunition needed to trade up.
Will they do it? Nobody knows, and the team can’t say. There have been no leaks that Mariota will work out privately for the Browns, nothing other than speculation and chatter.
But with Bowe on the roster, the Browns are in a better position to ponder the possibility.
If the team truly wants to come out of this offseason with a top-10 quarterback, trading up to grab Mariota is the only move that makes sense.
Read more: A Marcus Mariota trade might be enticing, but does it make sense for the Browns to try to move up to get him, asks Jeremy Fowler.