August 30, 2014

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Next Browns QB? Say … it ain’t this Joe

Joe Flacco as Browns quarterback sounds great.

The Browns have had a revolving door at the game’s most important position, and a Super Bowl MVP in his prime would certainly stop it.

Don’t get your hopes up.

A Flacco-to-Cleveland scenario is possible because his rookie contract with the Ravens expired after the Super Bowl, he’s scheduled to become a free agent March 12 and the Browns have more than $40 million in salary cap space.

The idea was floated in the emptiness that follows the Super Bowl and picked up steam Monday when Sports Illustrated’s Peter King suggested it as a possibility — not probability — in his well-read “Monday Morning Quarterback” column.

But it’s way too premature for serious consideration, and too unlikely to draw so much attention.

Here’s why:

  • Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is one of the best in the business and knows it’s idiotic to let a proven franchise quarterback walk out the door. He could spend the rest of his years searching for an adequate replacement.
  • Flacco likes Baltimore and told Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan on their TV show he expected to re-sign.
  • The Ravens have until March 9 to negotiate with Flacco without interference from other teams. That should be plenty of time to work out a deal.
  • There’s no reason to think Flacco wants to come to Cleveland. He’s 10-0 against the Browns and knows their flaws as well as anyone. And other teams would be chasing him.
  • The Ravens can assure Flacco’s return by using the exclusive franchise tag.

Joe Linta, who represents Flacco, is scheduled to meet with the Ravens this week to begin negotiations. He said Flacco should be the game’s highest-paid quarterback, and the only chance for the Browns to land Flacco is for the talks to break down.

It would still be a long shot.

If a deal doesn’t get done, the Ravens can apply the exclusive or non-exclusive franchise tags by the March 4 deadline. The exclusive tag would mean about a $20 million salary in 2013 but lock him up for at least another season.

The regular franchise tag is about $15 million for quarterbacks for 2013, but allows other teams to negotiate. Here’s where the Browns come in.

If Flacco were available under this tag, they would have to reach a deal in which he was willing to leave Baltimore if the Ravens didn’t match. The Browns could frontload the contract to make it difficult for the salary cap-strapped Ravens to afford.

The Ravens would receive two first-round picks from Cleveland if they let Flacco leave. The Browns would also be on the hook for a multiyear contract that would likely average $20 million a season.

Owner Jimmy Haslam said during Super Bowl week the Browns wouldn’t make any “big, splashy, high-priced” moves in free agency, but landing a big-time quarterback might be the exception. No matter the price tag.

The only way that’s possible with Flacco is if the Ravens can’t reach a deal, choose not to use the exclusive tag and Flacco gets frustrated enough to walk away.

“Don’t be so sure of that exclusive tag,” King wrote on SI.com. “The Ravens were $5 million over the league’s $121 million salary cap at the close of business Friday, and that figure doesn’t include a dime for Flacco.”

King then quoted Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.

“We’ve proven it two years in a row that we can kind of shock the world and disappoint our fans at the same time, by letting some of these guys go, but letting young guys fill in and then going out and getting good values on the free-agent market,” he said.

That’s the crack in the door. Just don’t expect it to open much wider for the Browns.

Rumor mill

Until free agency starts March 12, the Browns will be the subject of many rumors because of their room under the salary cap, which ranks second in the league behind Cincinnati. CBS’s Jason La Canfora reported Monday many in the Steelers organization expect the Browns to sign speedy receiver Mike Wallace.

The Steelers are prepared to let Wallace leave, and he would be a boost to Cleveland’s young and improving receiving corps. But Wallace isn’t the only big-name receiver expected to be available — Greg Jennings, Brian Hartline, Dwayne Bowe — and could command upward of $10 million a season.

Wallace, 26, has played four seasons. He had 60 catches for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010, 72 catches for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011 and 64 for 836 and eight in 2012.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.