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Browns GM says he would 'absolutely love' to re-sign Flacco, even as Watson's backup

Cleveland Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry speaks to the media about the 2023 season in Berea, Ohio, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. (Joshua Gunter/Cleveland.com via AP)

AP Sports Writer

Published: February 12, 2024

BEREA (AP) — Joe Flacco's short, surprising stint with the Browns could lead to a second season in Cleveland — maybe as Deshaun Watson's backup.
General manager Andrew Berry said Monday that he would "absolutely love" to re-sign the 39-year-old Flacco, who went 4-1 as a starter and helped the Browns make the playoffs after Watson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
Berry noted there could be financial limitations that prevent Flacco from returning, but said he's open to the possibility.
"He played winning football for us," Berry at his season-ending news conference. "I want to bring all of our good players back, but there are constraints to that. I'm really kind of both sides of the aisle but would have no problem having Joe back."
Flacco hasn't decided if he wants to continue playing or if he would settle for being a team's No. 2 QB. The former Super Bowl MVP was signed by the Browns out of desperation in November and resurrected his career by throwing for more than 300 yards in each of his last five games.
It's possible Flacco could get a better offer elsewhere. The Browns were in a similar situation last year with quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who made 11 starts when Watson was suspended, and signed as a free agent with Washington.
While Watson is expected to make a full recovery and start for Cleveland next season, Flacco would give the Browns protection in case Watson got hurt again or struggled.
Berry said he has no doubt the two players could coexist and doesn't believe Flacco's potential presence behind Watson would cause any polarity.
"Zero considerations because of how both individuals are," Berry said. "It's not a concern internally at all."
As for Watson, Berry said the 28-year-old has made steady progress in his rehab and recovery from surgery to repair a fractured glenoid bone in his throwing shoulder.
Watson has played in only 12 of 34 possible regular-season games since the Browns acquired him in a controversial trade, but Berry is confident the three-time Pro Bowler will become the player the team hoped.
"We'd all love to have him on the field more often," Berry said. "Feel really good about him, happy with the progress that he's made within our organization, both on the field and off. We're looking forward to getting him back next year. We think he's going to have a really big year and have a ton of confidence in him as our starting quarterback."
Berry touched upon several other offseason topics during the 35-minute session with media members.
He made it clear the Browns intend to keep star running back Nick Chubb, who suffered a gruesome, season-ending knee injury in Week 2 at Pittsburgh. Chubb underwent two separate surgeries to repair torn ligaments.
The 28-year-old Chubb's contract has no guaranteed money for next season and will need to be restructured. The four-time Pro Bowler has rushed for 6,511 yards and 48 touchdowns in six seasons with Cleveland.
"Nobody wants to see that carry in Pittsburgh be the last time he carries the ball for the Cleveland Browns," Berry said. "And obviously there are things that we'll have to work through, but that (moving on from Chubb) would not be our intention, as well. We obviously will work to keep him on the team."
Berry would not provide any clarity on the surprising departure last week of offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, one of three coaches not returning on Kevin Stefanski's staff. The Browns have interviewed two candidates to replace Van Pelt and have a meeting scheduled this week with Texans quarterback coach Jerrod Johnson.
As for Stefanski, Berry raved about the job he did this season in guiding the Browns to the playoffs despite numerous key injuries. Stefanski is in the running to win AP Coach of the Year for the second time and likely will receive an extension from the Browns.
"We're really happy with Kevin," Berry said.
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