CLEVELAND – Robert Griffin III is scrambling again.
The injury-prone quarterback was released Friday after one flawed season with the Cleveland Browns, who remain in search of a QB to turn around their once-proud franchise. The Browns terminated Griffin’s contract one day before he was due a $750,000 roster bonus.
The expected move also came one day after the Browns acquired quarterback Brock Osweiler in a trade from the Houston Texans, and amid speculation Cleveland is loading up assets to make a strong run at another quarterback, perhaps New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo.
After he was waived last year by Washington, Griffin signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Browns, one of the only NFL teams interested in him. Once one of the league’s biggest stars, Griffin was eager for a fresh start with the Browns under first-year coach Hue Jackson, who came to Cleveland with a strong track record of fixing quarterbacks.
His comeback story didn’t last long as Griffin broke his right shoulder while trying to run out of bounds in the season opener at Philadelphia and missed 11 games. To his credit, Griffin didn’t give in, worked tirelessly during his rehab and got healthy enough to play, even leading the Browns to their only win in an otherwise historically bad season.
But Griffin’s inability to stay healthy and other, better options convinced the Browns he was not their long-term answer or worth hanging on to. So the team decided to part ways with the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner.
Griffin thanked Browns fans on Twitter, posting a photo of him holding his jersey. “Thank you, #DawgPound,” Griffin wrote. “All love. #TheWorkContinues. #I’mHungry.”
Griffin wasn’t the only departure Friday as the Browns lost wide receiver Terrelle Pryor in free agency to Washington.
Pryor was one of Cleveland’s only bright spots last season, catching 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns. The converted quarterback had wanted to stay in Cleveland, but couldn’t get what he wanted financially from the Browns and signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Redskins.
The Browns anticipated Pryor leaving and protected themselves by signing wide receiver Kenny Britt to a four-year, $32.5 million deal when free agency opened Thursday.
While they say goodbye to Griffin, Cleveland’s quarterback situation remains cloudy. The Browns have had 26 starting QBs since 1999, and the team’s inability to find the right player at the game’s most important position continues to hold back the Browns.
Osweiler gives the Browns another option, but there’s no guarantee he will be around for long. Cleveland obtained a 2018 second-round draft pick in the deal, giving the Browns three next year, and they are planning to make an offer to the Patriots for Garoppolo. New England coach Bill Belichick has given no indication that Tom Brady’s backup is available, but could the Browns entice him into a deal with the right package?
Currently, the Browns have Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan on their roster. Kessler started eight games and sustained two concussions last season while Griffin was hurt.
Cleveland could opt for drafting a quarterback to groom. The Browns have the Nos. 1 and 12 selections and six picks in the top 65 to make that possible.