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Browns faced with looming QB conundrum

| Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007

BEREA, Ohio - There's not a quarterback controversy in Cleveland. It's more like a conundrum.

Derek Anderson's emergence as a quality starter, which has left rookie Brady Quinn on the bench, has the Browns faced with an interesting dilemma once their so-far surprising season ends.

Anderson will be a restricted free agent, and the Browns will be able to match any offer made to him by another team.

If the club offers him the highest contract tender of $2.56 million, and he signs elsewhere, the Browns would receive a first- and third-round draft pick as compensation. In that scenario, Anderson could become an unrestricted free agent in 2009, so it's possible the Browns may want to sign him to a long-term deal.

And then where does that leave Quinn, the first-round pick assumed to be the franchise's quarterback of the future?

General Manager Phil Savage has some tough decisions ahead. He'd like to put them off as long as possible.

"Right now, we're letting the season play itself out," Savage said Wednesday. "I think that we're trying to keep some of that talk out of the focus of him (Anderson) and the team because it can become a distraction.

"The NFL is full of distractions and I think right now we just want to focus on our next game and then go from there."

For the first time, Savage acknowledged that Anderson, who began the season as Charlie Frye's backup and had made just three career starts, has far exceeded his expectations. He also didn't rule out the potential of working out a long-term deal for Anderson with his agent, David Dunn.

"There's always a possibility out there," Savage said. "Dave and I have a good relationship. Dave's had a number of our players, we talk to him and I've known him for a long time. I wouldn't say that is out of the realm, without a doubt.

"He seems to find my e-mail address and texts me after every game, particularly when it's a win or when Derek plays well. I'm sure there will be some communication at some point."

Anderson has 22 touchdown passes, thrown for 2,758 yards and is leading a multifaceted Cleveland offense averaging nearly 30 points per game. He's having a career year, just in time to cash in.

His future couldn't be brighter, but Anderson doesn't want to talk about contracts.

"I'm not going to go there," said the laid-back 24-year-old from Scappoose, Ore. "I'm not going to talk about it. That stuff will take care of itself when the season is over."

Savage, who drafted Anderson in Baltimore and then swept in and signed him when the Ravens waived him in 2005, has been impressed with the young quarterback's composure and growth.

"He's done an excellent job overall," Savage said. "There have been some wobbly moments and some times where you wonder, 'What's happening here• He's missing a few passes.' But at the end of the games, with no timeouts, backs against the wall, a do-or-die situation, he has hit the key passes.

"I think that is something you can't really coach. Some of it is instinctual and some of it is just his personality. It's a good trait to have at that position."

The Browns spent years looking for one good quarterback, and now they may have two. They traded a 2008 first-round pick to get into the first round in April's draft to get Quinn, who has yet to make his NFL debut and may not for some time.

Savage insists the Browns are pleased with Quinn's progress and he could start if the club needed him to.

"We're comfortable with what Brady's shown us," he said. "He's getting some pretty quality reps during the week. During the preseason people were ready to put him out there and now that he's sat on the bench for a while, everybody's like, 'Have you seen enough?' You can't have it both ways."

Quinn's upside will be unknown until he's in a game, but his readiness to take over as Cleveland's starter will be something Savage must take into account in the coming months. Along with No. 3 quarterback Ken Dorsey, the Browns have depth at a premium position and Savage would like to keep it.

"I'd love to see us go forward with all three and hold on to the depth we have for a while," he said.

But for now, Savage is trying to savor moments from a season that began with a 34-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 9, which was followed by him trading Frye two days later.

"If somebody were to have said on that Tuesday, what was that September 11th or 12th, that Derek would have thrown 22 touchdowns, and the team is 7-4 and swept the Ravens, I would have said, 'I'll sign up. Where does that line form?'"

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