Much of the Browns’ success on offense in 2023 will be dictated by Deshaun Watson‘s ability to rebound from a suspension-shortened debut season with the team last year. Cleveland will likely have a pair of signal-callers backing him up this campaign.
The Browns have Watson on the books through 2026 after going all-in on him via a huge trade with the Texans and a subsequent fully-guaranteed contract. The three-time Pro Bowler put up less-than-impressive numbers during his six games in 2022, which marked his first regular season action since 2020. After a full offseason in Cleveland, one which has included upgrades to the team’s receiving corps, expectations will be raised significantly for Watson.
His backup will be veteran Joshua Dobbs, who was in Cleveland in 2022 to serve as Jacoby Brissett‘s backup until Watson’s suspension had been served. Dobbs signed with the Titans late in the year, and he started Tennessee’s final two contests while the team dealt with the absence of Ryan Tannehill. Cleveland lost Brissett in free agency, but brought back Dobbs to resume his QB2 duties.
The Browns added a long-term backup option in the form of Dorian Thompson-Robinson by selecting him in the fifth round of this year’s draft. The presence of the UCLA product leaves Cleveland likely to keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster this year, per Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal. The NFL’s move to allow emergency QBs to dress despite not counting as a gameday activation has left teams with interesting roster decisions to make.
As Easterling notes, the Browns view Thompson-Robinson as their Watson understudy for the foreseeable future, though Dobbs has seen second-team work in spring practices. Thompson-Robinson had a career-year in 2022, which helped make him one of several developmental passers selected on Day 3 as teams looked to emulate the success the 49ers found with Brock Purdy in 2022. Given his experience in Cleveland in particular and the NFL in general, though, Dobbs represents a logical candidate for the backup position at this point.
With a top three on the QB depth chart seemingly settled, Easterling adds that the Browns are unlikely to retain Kellen Mond. The former Viking was claimed off waivers last August and he remained on Cleveland’s roster throughout the year. After the moves made at the position this year, however, he is likely to find himself on the outside looking in come roster cutdowns at the end of the summer.