<
>

Browns' QB options down to two?

PHOENIX -- Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer is due to meet with the local media Monday at the annual NFL owners meetings.

It is the first time Farmer has spoken publicly since the team signed Josh McCown; it's fair to say the team's quarterback position will be discussed.

At this point, the Browns' options are few. There is nobody in free agency worth considering as a starting quarterback.

Which is why it continues to make sense to me that the team -- if it believes another move is needed -- would be focusing on moving up to acquire prospect Marcus Mariota in the draft. The price would be high, but it would give the Browns something credible to sell at the position.

ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi today offered five options for the Browns' quarterback spot, two of which depended on trading up for Mariota. One involved trading for Mariota and then using him to acquire Sam Bradford and the Eagles' first-round pick. The fifth: Loading up on draft picks in hopes of landing Ohio State QB Cardale Jones in next year's draft.

The latter would be appealing, but Jones at this point is a projection. He has immense talent and intangibles that can't be taught, but he's still a projection with three college starts.

Which leaves Mariota. Or perhaps Bradford.

Is Bradford coming off two ACLs a better option than Mariota? That's debatable. Mariota has size, arm strength and mobility. The negatives, which are strong, are that he hasn't been in a huddle or under center since high school and he would have to adjust to a pro system after running the college spread his entire career.

It's also not certain the Eagles would trade Bradford. Eagles coach Chip Kelly said after trading for Bradford that he did not acquire Bradford as a chip, that the only chip in Philadelphia is the coach.

Anything can happen, but at this point Bradford does not seem like a realistic option.

Jones is a hope, not an option.

Mariota remains the only realistic option.

I'm not saying the Browns should trade up for Mariota, but just that he's the last and best option. Adding him makes the quarterback room (the "room" has gained great importance with NFL teams these days) much more appealing.

The Browns can go with the Josh McCown-Johnny Manziel tandem in place. The risk-reward of that choice is well known. But it's the choice if the team decides that Manziel's long-term is more promising than Mariota's.

The other option is to trade up for Mariota. Surrender the draft picks to improve at the most important position and have McCown hold the fort until Mariota is ready. This move also assumes Manziel is dealt.

The Browns may have something up their sleeves nobody knows of, but at this point the realistic option to improve is to try to trade up.