The Cleveland Browns have just signed Derek Anderson to a 3-year deal. And in doing so, they might have missed a great chance to improve their roster.
Had another team signed the QB, Cleveland would have picked up first- and third-round picks in the process. That would have allowed the team to improve a defense that ranked 30th in 2008, while turning over the reins of a high-powered offense to Brady Quinn. The combination of a strong defense, great offensive weapons, and a young QB, incidentially, is the model the Steelers have used to rule the NFC North over the past few years. While two draft picks would obviously not put their defense at the level of Pittsburgh's, it would be a step in the right direction.
Of course, the Browns' move to sign Anderson - and forego the chance at the draft picks - is a smart one if Anderson is the great QB the Cleveland brain trust apparently thinks he is. But how much of the former 6th-rounder's breakout 2007 performance due to the fact that he had Braylon Edwards, a healthy Kellen Winslow, a resurgent Jamal Lewis, and the great rookie O-Lineman Joe Thomas on the field with him? Let's also not forget that Anderson managed only a 9 TD - 10 INT ratio over his last seven games, a severe drop-off from the 20/9 ratio of his first nine. The move to forego the picks is all the more questionable considering the Browns' solid recent draft history.
The other twist here is that the Browns might think they can do better than a first- and third-rounder if they turn around and deal Anderson; there have been rumors of such a sign-and-trade move.
In any event, the move leaves Cleveland with two now-big-name QBs with a half-season of good NFL work between them and serious sunk costs in terms of money and foregone draft picks, all with the bitter taste from last year's late-season failure still in their mouths, great offensive weapons, and a defensive-minded fourth-year coach who still has yet to guide his team to the postseason. How this shakes out should be one of the NFL's more interesting storylines of the next year.