BEREA — Derek Anderson’s fall was as fast as his rise.
His turbulent five-year run with the Browns came to an abrupt, if anticipated, ending Tuesday as the Browns terminated his contract.
He becomes a free agent and can sign with any team. Quarterbacks who are 26 years old with a strong arm are always intriguing, so he shouldn’t have trouble finding another team. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Arizona will be among the strongest pursuers.
Anderson’s free fall in Cleveland didn’t have the same soft landing. Despite being a Pro Bowler in 2007, Anderson was never accepted by fans and two years later was unceremoniously dumped in a two-paragraph press release.
“I want to thank Derek for everything that he gave to the Cleveland Browns organization over the last five years,” coach Eric Mangini said in the statement. “He did everything we asked of him and it was a pleasure to coach such a competitive person. I want to wish him all the best in the future.”
Anderson had a different message for Browns fans, who booed him often and cheered a serious knee injury in 2008.
“The fans are ruthless and don’t deserve a winner,” Anderson wrote to the News-Herald in an e-mail. “I will never forget getting cheered when I was injured.
“I know at times I wasn’t great. I hope and pray I’m playing when my team comes to town and (we) roll them.”
The release came less than 24 hours after the Browns traded for Seahawks backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. Brady Quinn and third-stringer Brett Ratliff are also on the roster, and it’s uncertain how the depth chart will read when the season starts. President Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert are still exploring options, including another trade and the draft.
If Anderson wasn’t the unquestionable starter, he didn’t fit into the equation with a $2 million roster bonus due March 19 and a $7.45 million salary. It was too expensive for the Browns and made a trade impossible.
Anderson’s three-year, $24 million contract was only possible after an out-of-nowhere 2007 season.
He was claimed off waivers by former GM Phil Savage as a rookie in 2005. The Ravens had drafted him in the sixth round and were trying to slip him onto their practice squad, but Savage knew his potential and had worked for the Ravens.
Anderson didn’t play in 2005 and lost all three starts in 2006 after an injury to Charlie Frye. Some within the Browns organization thought Anderson showed enough to start, and coach Romeo Crennel held a training camp competition in 2007. Frye was awarded the starting job after a bad preseason for both, then was yanked for Anderson in the first half of the opener.
Suddenly Anderson was an NFL starter, and he ran with the opportunity. He won 10 games, threw for 3,787 yards, 29 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, an 82.5 rating and went to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
He was scheduled to become a restricted free agent, but Savage didn’t want him to hit the market and signed him to the deal that paid him about $14 million guaranteed.
But fan sentiment had already begun to turn. Anderson played poorly in late losses at Arizona and Cincinnati, costing the Browns a playoff berth. He threw four interceptions against the Bengals, when a win would’ve clinched the first postseason trip since 2002.
And with Quinn — the first-round draft pick from Columbus and Notre Dame — on the bench, many fans were quick to criticize Anderson. The low point came when the home crowd cheered as Anderson lay on the turf with a knee injury that cost him the final four games of 2008.
Anderson didn’t do anything to curb the tide, as he went 3-6 as the starter in 2008 and the Browns failed to live up to the lofty expectations. Savage, coach Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski were all fired, despite receiving contract extensions following the lightning-in-a-bottle 2007 season.
Anderson stayed, but followed the 66.5 rating of 2008 with a disastrous 2009. He lost the preseason battle to Quinn, then replaced him in Week 3.
Anderson flopped — he threw for more than 125 yards only once — and was yanked after five starts. He played the final two games after Quinn hurt his foot, but finished the year with a 3-4 record, 44.5 completion percentage, three touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 42.1 rating.
Holmgren said Saturday he never got the chance to talk to Anderson after the season. Anderson said no effort was made.
“I never heard from anyone until today,” Anderson wrote the e-mail. “Nobody ever tried to reach out to me, which is fine.”
In 39 games, Anderson went 16-18 as the starter with a 52.9 completion percentage, 46 touchdowns, 45 interceptions and a 69.7 rating.
St. Louis, Seattle, Buffalo and Carolina join Arizona with questions at quarterback and could make a run at Anderson.
- According to multiple reports, Patriots tight end Ben Watson will visit the Browns today. He’s made 47 starts in six years, including seven in 2009, when he had 29 catches for 404 yards and five touchdowns.
- Profootballtalk.com reported the Browns will work out Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes. He would play inside in Cleveland’s 3-4 scheme, and is projected to be drafted in the first or second round.
- Running back Thomas Jones, who seemed a good fit for the Browns, signed with the Chiefs.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.