Sirius XM Radio's Adam Caplan, who always seems to talk about the Browns a little more than he does other teams in the NFL, was a guest on The Really Big Show (WKNR 850 AM) with Tony Rizzo Friday morning.
Caplan had a lot of interesting things to say regarding the Browns' quarterback situation and which free agents could come in to compete with Brandon Weeden, how Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi have been viewed in the NFL and what they need to do to avoid turning into a disaster, and his thoughts on the hiring of Rob Chudzinski as head coach.
If you would like to listen to the segment (about 15 minutes in length), click here. If not, I took the time to transcribe what was said below.
Rizzo: "You got our attention here in Cleveland tweeting last night about the possibility of the Browns bringing in a quarterback. We all agree here in Cleveland that the Browns haven't said anything good about Weeden in about four months. What do you know about the Browns possibly bringing in a free agent [for competition]?"
Caplan: "Well, as I reported back in November, Mike Lombardi was pulling the strings on personnel, he was advising Banner really on who he liked who he didn't like. And the guy he was bashing was Brandon Weeden, and this is not a secret -- everybody knew this one was or the other, it's just that I kind of knew exactly what he was looking at, and I knew that he wanted competition, and they're going to have competition at quarterback.
They are going to sign a veteran. The three names that I've thrown out there -- Chase Daniel of the Saints, Brian Hoyer of the Cardinals, and then, I think you've got to look at Alex Smith, who's going to be released if he's not traded. I think those would be the three names. Now, Alex Smith does not have the best arm, but he also played one year under Norv Turner with the 49ers, and talking to a couple of their executives at training camp over the years, they really thought Turner made some progress with Alex Smith. They are going to have a veteran. I also would not discount them drafting a quarterback. It would not shock me at all."
Rizzo: "Chase Daniel of the Saints? Gosh, I don't think I've seen him play ever."
Caplan: "He's a good player, he's had some really good preseasons. He has a good arm, they've really developed him. He's not real tall, he's 6 foot even, he was a good college quarterback at Missouri. As an undrafted free agent, he was be able to become Drew Brees' backup. Any time you're the backup for Sean Payton, that tells you the kid is really smart. If the Saints don't re-sign him, he's a guy who could compete for a starting job somewhere."
Rizzo: "Hoyer we know about, but what do you make of Alex Smith? He was 6-2-1 as a starter this year with a 104 QB rating when he lost his job to a guy who eventually took them to a Super Bowl. If he were to switch teams, what would you expect from Alex Smith?"
Caplan: "Well he's certainly not going to be back because they are not going to pay him the contract that he has to be a backup. He'll either be released or traded. I give him all the credit in the world with everything that's happened to him -- he'll turn 29 in May, he's been through a lot, had seven offensive coordinators in his career. At this point, he's playing his best ball. He played very well statistically before he got hurt and lost his job. He really did nothing to lose his job except that Colin Kaepernick has much better arm strength and athleticism.
I think if you put Alex Smith in an offense, I think he'd be better in the West Coast Offense. The 49ers' offense is West Coast terminology with the passing. Norv Turner's offense is power running with the passing. I think the thing that is not great for Alex Smith is the deeper passing. His arm got stronger as the years have progressed, but I think Brian Hoyer and Chase Daniels have stronger arms. Out of those three, let's put it this way: Alex Smith would cost the most probably out of those three, but I think the other two are better fits [for the Browns] due to their arm strength."
Rizzo: "Talk a little bit about Hoyer. He's been behind Tom Brady for a good chunk of his career. When he's played in the regular season, he hasn't overwhelmed people, but we knew Belichick always liked him. What did Bill see in him, and will he ever have the chance to start?"
Caplan: "Here's the thing you have to understand with Brian Hoyer -- first of all, as a rookie, and this is unprecedented, as an undrafted free agent in 2009, he beat out four quarterbacks to be Tom Brady's backup, and they only had two quarterbacks on the roster. That's how highly Belichick thought of him. I think Hoyer's a guy that really should've been drafted in the 4th or 5th round. He didn't get drafted, he's a local kid, went to Michigan State, but I think what they saw is because he was a restricted free agent, they looked at him and said, 'we're probably not going to keep him long-term,' so they drafted Ryan Mallett.
Mallett took Hoyer's job, and Hoyer bounced around and had a very good workout for the Cardinals. They signed him, and then he had to play. I watched the tape of his one start and it wasn't too bad. You know, off the bench in garbage time, he might not have looked good, but that doesn't mean anything. His preseason tape is pretty good from what I'm told. He's got decent size, 6'2, 220 lbs, is a smart kid, and turns 28 in October. I think he's the guy Lombardi would like because he comes from that Belichick tree. Remember, Lombardi has been consulting for the Patriots for a couple of years. I think this makes all the sense and it would not surprise me if they made a run for Hoyer."
Rizzo: "What about Mallet? We heard that Lombardi had him rated as a first rounder."
Caplan: "It's an interesting situation here, because when you look at the Patriots and what they are dealing with, right now, they signed Mike Kafka as their third-string quarterback. There is simply no way he'll be a starter ever for the Patriots. He doesn't have good enough arm strength, and he has issues with his mechanics with the way he throws the football. Kafka has gotten better, he's a former Eagle, a West Coast Offense type of quarterback.
Ryan Mallet would be a great fit for this system with the Browns because it's a Norv Turner system. Turner wants a dropback quarterback who can get rid of the football. Mallet can do that, he just doesn't have great feet. He's big and has got a real big arm. The Patriots, the reason they drafted Mallet is this: Brady turns 36 in August, and they figure by the time Mallet's in the final year of his contract, Brady will be 38 and they can consider looking at Mallet as his potential replacement. At worst, maybe they eventually trade him. And now, the question will be, who else will be interested in Mallet besides maybe the Browns? That ultimately would really determine his value."
Rizzo: "With Chudzinski, are you surprised by the hire? He didn't interview anywhere but Cleveland."
Caplan: "I think Chudzinski interviewed last year, but only with one team this year. As a playcaller, I thought he was a little inconsistent. I thought they got too in love with Cam Newton's arm as a passer this year. He got heavily criticized -- there's absolutely no question about this, I've talked to executives around the league who criticized him, but he's a guy who if he just gets back to what he did last year with Cam Newton, which was tremendous in 2011, [it'll be good]. The thing is he'll be more of a head coach now because Norv Turner will call the plays.
Chudzinski and Turner are going to gameplan, and then you've got Ray Horton who is an outstanding defensive coordinator. I love the staff they've put together. I think Chris Tabor's a good special teams coach. Chud's done a good job here, I think he set himself up well. Banner's great at crafting contracts, he's going to make sure they are in much better cap space. I think things are really looking up for the Browns."
Rizzo: "We're hearing Banner will have a lot more to do with player selection than he did in Philly."
Caplan: "Yeah, he will."
Rizzo: "People are concerned with that here in Cleveland."
Caplan: "Let me break down what's going to happen. First of all, with the Eagles, he did not have final say on personnel, but he had final say on contracts. Unfortunately, over the years, he nixed some players that the Eagles and Andy Reid wanted to sign because he could. He did design contracts and could say who they would sign or not sign by contract structure. So, he'll do the same with the Browns, PLUS, he's made it perfectly clear he's going to be way more involved in personnel. That to me is a major mistake.
Joe's clearly not qualified to be making personnel decisions. He doesn't know how to watch tape, I've talked to people who work with him and it's clearly not his strength. His strength is contractual, that's where he should stay. He hired Mike Lombardi to be his eyes and ears when it comes to personnel, that's fine, but when it comes down to free agency and the draft, he's got to be very careful here. It doesn't matter how great your coaching staff is if you don't sign and draft the right players.
Joe's got to be very careful here. As long as he does not make decisions on who they are going to sign, and he lets Chudzinski and his staff, and let Lombardi evaluate, and let those guys make decisions, this team will win and possibly win big. If Joe's ego gets in the way, there are going be problems."
Rizzo: "Now you made me nervous, Adam. The word we get is that Joe came here because the Eagles wouldn't let him do this, and he is dead set on proving he can get this done. He keeps talking about the coach having a lot, but we believe that Joe Banner will have the final say on everything and that he is running the draft."
Caplan: "Well, Joe couldn't...control that, that's a joke. He's not qualified for the draft. What he'll do is he'll be there, front and center, with Lombardi and Chudzinski, and they'll have what you can call a triangle of authority like the Vikings had. Unfortunately, the Vikings' triangle of authority blew up in their face.
It's funny, I'm actually a Banner supporter, but I know Joe's strengths and weaknesses. He's got to be very careful with how much influence he has on personnel selection. It's one thing to advise them, OK, here's what we know based on background and personality, and security checks and how much this guy should make, this is a guy we should sign, but he can't say, 'we don't like this guy, so we're not going to sign him.'"
Rizzo: "How much do you trust Mike Lombardi in that position?"
Caplan: "Mike, I've felt all along, there's another chance for him. I think Mike made his mistakes, it's not a secret that he's not the most liked guy in the NFL, but you know what, that doesn't matter -- what matters is his ability to evaluate personnel. He evaluates personnel the right way. And, he has to come in with an open mind. I think he can do a good job here. He's a smart guy, he really understands how to scout, he just has to be very careful -- he needs to keep his nose to the grindstone and just evaluate players and recommend the right ones and I think he'll do better."
Rizzo: "Do you expect Weeden to still be here, even if they get a guy like Daniel or Hoyer and he wins the job, will they keep Weeden around? And, do you think Weeden is a guy who could start in the NFL?"
Caplan: "Here's the thing, this is a dropback system [under Turner], and I think Weeden, who turns 30 this fall, actually fits fairly well in this. It's going to really come down to A) how do Chudzinski and Turner evaluate him, and then B) if Lombardi wants him out of there, even if those guys like him -- if he says 'forget it, we're just going to trade him,' then that's what's going to happen. I think that Lombardi and Banner have to listen to Turner and Chudzinski. They are the ones who are going to be coaching him, and whatever they want, they should get. And that's the bottom line, because they have to coach these guys."
Rizzo: "Great stuff Adam, we appreciate it. Are you hearing anything about the draft yet, I know it's a little early?"
Caplan: "Yeah, it's a little early, we haven't even gone to the Combine yet."
Rizzo: "[laughing] No, you're in Cleveland, it's never too early for the draft!"
Caplan: "[laughing] No, no, listen, you know, the only thing I can do right now is evaluating what teams need, and then as we get past the Combine, I start hearing who they might like. Always remember that free agency always dictates where players go in the draft. Free agency is first on March 12th."
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