Report: Brandon Weeden could return next week; will it matter?

By Josh Katzowitz | NFL Writer

Will Brandon Weeden have a job when he gets healthy? (USATSI)
Will Brandon Weeden have a job when he gets healthy? (USATSI)

His running back, Trent Richardson, is gone. His job might not be his for much longer. But hey, good news for Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden. A report Thursday from ESPN said that doctors have determined that his sprained right thumb will not need surgery and that he could be ready to play as early as next week.

Assuming Weeden starts when he's ready to play -- that would be a big assumption, by the way -- he'll have running back Willis McGahee, who signed a deal Thursday to replace Richardson, in the backfield. But it's also become clear that, even though we're entering Week 3 on the NFL schedule, Cleveland's front office has decided to look beyond 2013.

As my colleague's Ryan Wilson wrote in his Coach Killers column, that future might not include Weeden. And that also might be why the Browns are starting Brian Hoyer this week instead of the No. 2 quarterback, Jason Campbell, so they can get a look at Hoyer and see his potential in coach Rob Chudzinski's offense.

Plus, when Michael Lombardi, now the Browns general manager, discussed the Weeden first-round draft pick when Lombardi was working as an NFL Network analyst, he called the selection a “panicked disaster.”

It would appear as though Weeden hadn't done much to impress Lombardi since he was hired, and he said this during his introductory press conference, “I think it's going to take some time to study him. I've got to go back through and watch practice tapes.”

Weeden looked good in the preseason and appeared to have some much-needed confidence heading into the season, and even after his 48.4 passer rating from Week 1 surpassed only Blaine Gabbert in the entire NFL, his coach said this:

“I don't look at it as a leash,” Chudzinski said. "These guys are developing players and they're learning how to play in this system and I expect us to keep getting better and improving.”

Well, now one of those developing players, Richardson, is gone, and it makes sense to wonder if Cleveland will pick up another quarterback with the extra first-round selection it took from Indianapolis in the 2014 draft.

And the most important question from Weeden's point of view: what happens if Hoyer plays well Sunday? Because this is what Lombardi said in 2011 when he was at the NFL Network.

"I think Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett are starters," he said. "I've said this many times: If I would have taken the GM job of the 49ers, I would have gone after Brian Hoyer, because I think he has all the traits and characteristics. If I were the Cleveland Browns, I'd rather have Brian Hoyer behind center than Colt McCoy."

And maybe Brandon Weeden, too.

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