CLEVELAND - Derek Anderson has chosen to ignore the impending reality.
He will be a restricted free agent after the season. He will be coveted by teams across the league. He will receive a huge bump from his $435,000 salary.
"I don`t really want to talk about that," he said.
If Anderson were interested, he could get a glimpse of his future today by glancing across the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Houston`s Matt Schaub was last year`s hot restricted free agent quarterback, and the Texans traded two second-round picks to get him from Atlanta. The Texans quickly signed him to a six-year, $48 million deal with $7 million guaranteed.
"It was a bold move," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We feel like we have the answer in this kid."
Schaub had been Michael Vick`s backup and made just two NFL starts in three years as a pro. Anderson is more of a known commodity, as he makes his 13th start today and has the Browns in the middle of the playoff race.
The Vikings are already rumored to have Anderson at the top of their wish list and are one of the six or seven teams desperate for a quarterback. Is the exciting but uncertain future affecting Anderson?
"He`s still a goofball. So, no," receiver Joe Jurevicius said. "When somebody tries to bring that up to Derek, he usually does the old fingers in the ears and says, â€˜La, la, la.`
"I don`t think it`s getting to him. I don`t think he`ll worry about that until that time comes. If it does come, then he`s deserving of it."
"All he can do is go out and play, and that`s what he does," center Hank Fraley said. "He goes out and plays every day."
The Browns can match any offer Anderson receives. They can also give him the highest tender, which would pay him $2.562 million for one year if he stayed and give the Browns first- and third-round draft picks if they didn`t match the offer from another team.
The loss of draft picks may not discourage someone from pursuing Anderson.
"I would take him right now and they can have my first and third picks," an anonymous coach said in a story on NFL.com.
The Browns can try to reach a long-term deal before Anderson reaches the free-agent market, but that may require $20 million guaranteed. It would also put Brady Quinn on the backburner indefinitely, if not move him to the trading block.
The Browns traded a first-round pick in 2008 to draft Quinn, then paid him $7.75 guaranteed. That`s a lot to give up to watch him hold a clipboard.
While the future of the quarterback position is a relevant topic, the playoff push comes first.
"His whole focus is helping us get to the playoffs and taking it game by game," Jurevicius said of Anderson.
Before the season, no one expected Browns-Texans in late November to mean anything. But after 10 games, both teams are wild-card contenders and the meeting could prove pivotal by late December.
The Browns are third in scoring offense and last in scoring defense, and the Texans are 11th and 25th. The weather`s supposed to be nice â€“ mid-40s and sunny â€“ so a shootout could break out between Anderson and Schaub.
Anderson was asked if he saw similarities between him and Schaub.
"We`re big and good-looking," he joked. "Other than that, no."
Browns right tackle Kevin Shaffer played with Schaub in Atlanta and disagrees.
"They are tall guys, have good arms, are smart and get rid of the ball," Shaffer said. "They are very similar."
At 6-foot-6, Anderson is an inch taller. His 88.8 rating is .2 better than Schaub`s. Anderson has thrown 20 touchdowns to Schaub`s seven, while Schaub has completed 67.3 percent of his passes compared with Anderson`s 57 percent.
Perhaps the biggest impact of the pair comes in avoiding sacks. The Browns and Texans saw the first pick of their expansion eras, Tim Couch and David Carr, ruined after taking a pounding. Both teams improved their offensive lines, but Anderson and Schaub have made the difference by delivering the ball on time. Anderson`s been sacked nine times and Schaub 13.
"I think Matt has a better pocket presence than David had," Texans receiver Andre Johnson said.
"He`s brought a big presence to our football team â€“ calm," Kubiak said. "I think we`ve played much calmer as a football team. The guys believe in him. He should be doing this for a long, long time."
Anderson`s teammates say the same things about him. The question is: Where will he continue his career?
For now, the answer can wait.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.