Brian Hoyer might have considered himself the Browns' best quarterback option heading into the offseason, but the team felt differently. It's why, two days into free agency, Hoyer signed with another team in desperate need of a veteran quarterback, the Houston Texans.
Hoyer isn't the long-term answer in Houston -- the team re-signed Ryan Mallett, who has a history with coach Bill O'Brien from their days together in New England -- but he could serve as a bridge quarterback in the Alex Smith mold in Kansas City.
1. The money. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora has the details:
Brian Hoyer will sign a 2yr deal worth $10M with $4.75M guaranteed with the Texans today— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 11, 2015
Meanwhile, Mallett, who was traded to Houston before last season, also signed a back-up deal.
Ryan Mallett's new deal with #Texans: 2 years, $7 million, including $1.75M guaranteed portion of $2.5M base salary in 2015.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 10, 2015
Looking strictly at the money, Hoyer is the front-runner heading into training camp, though we'd expect Mallett to be in the mix too. There's also second-year quarterback Tom Savage. (Twenty-four hours ago, the Texans had five quarterbacks on the roster, but Case Keenum was traded the Rams and Ryan Fitzgerald was shipped to the Jets.) Of course, the Texans have two other quarterbacks on the roster: Case Keenum and Tom Savage.
2. How he fits in Houston. Hoyer had a lot to do with the Browns' 7-4 start last season. But he was also terrible during the team's 0-5 record down the stretch (save the handful of quarters we were subjected to Johnny Manziel). According to Pro Football Focus, Hoyer ranked 21st in passer rating (83.3) among quarterbacks in Weeks 1-11, just ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andy Dalton. From Weeks 12-17, however, he ranked dead last (61.4), behind Blake Bortles and Josh McCown.
So yeah, there are reasons for skepticism if you're a Texans fan used to seeing the likes of Matt Schaub and Fitzpatrick aimlessly winging the ball all over the yard.
The good news is that Hoyer is familiar with O'Brien's system from their time together in New England (though you could make that argument about Mallett, who didn't make his first start until Week 11 last season). He also graded well in PFF's deep-passing metric (7th) and on play-action passes (3rd). The bad news is that Hoyer, in addition to passer rating, performed poorly in accuracy percentage (29th) and performing under pressure (26th).
Put another way: Hoyer won't magically revitalize a below-average Texans' offense. But he makes fewer mistakes than Schaub or Fitzpatrick and, well, that's something.
3. Expectations (of a bridge quarterback). Of course, fans are looking for something more than a warm body to play the most important position on the field. It's a fair point, and leads to plenty of revisionist history about why O'Brien didn't consider Blake Bortles with the first-overall pick.
But Jadeveon Clowney, the defensive end Houston drafted No. 1, could go a long way in helping Hoyer. Any conversation about this defense starts with J.J. Watt, but if Clowney can get healthy (and avoid D.J. Swearinger's dog), they become a formidable unit capable of masking some of the offensive shortcomings. We've seen this in various iterations over the years; the 2000 Ravens' defense was so dominant that they got Trent Dilfer a Super Bowl ring. More recently, the 2004 Steelers' defense carried then-rookie Ben Roethlisberger, and the Seahawks' defenses have been absolutely dominant while Russell Wilson has grown into the position.
And then there's Alex Smith, who was traded from the 49ers to the Chiefs after the 2012 season and helped Kansas City to 11 wins and the playoffs in 2013, and a 9-7 record last season. He was an average NFL quarterback, according to Football Outsiders' metrics, but he also benefitted from a solid running game and a good defense. This could be the blueprint for Hoyer in Houston.
4. The rest of the market. It's slim pickings, but that's not unusual; quarterbacks are hard to come by, which is why we see teams desperate for them make suspect draft-day decisions. But with Hoyer headed for Houston the "biggest" free agents include the likes Michael Vick, Christian Ponder, Matt Moore and Colt McCoy.