Derek Anderson played arguably his worst game of the season Sunday in the Browns` 27-21 loss in Arizona. He finished with 304 yards, but completed just 51 percent of his passes (21-of-41) and, more importantly, committed three turnovers, two of which led to a 14-0 Arizona lead in the first quarter.
The desert disaster, coupled with uneven games in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, has some fans bailing from Anderson`s bandwagon. A few rash ones have even called for coach Romeo Crennel to play rookie Brady Quinn.
So this may seem like a weird time to pitch a plan to ensure that Anderson doesn`t leave after the season, when he`s eligible to become a restricted free agent. But a shaky game on the road, even if it does follow a pattern of schizophrenic play in enemy territory, isn`t enough to erase the impact Anderson`s had on the team.
The Browns wouldn`t be 7-5 without him and wouldn`t be a favorite to capture an AFC wild-card spot.
General manager Phil Savage, who said last week that he`s open to the idea, should pursue a long-term deal with Anderson. Get agent David Dunn on speed dial and see if Anderson`s willing to sign a four-year, $32 million deal with $12 million guaranteed.
Once Anderson hits the restricted free-agency market, there`s a good possibility he`ll be signed elsewhere. While that would mean first- and third-round draft picks for the Browns, they would be watching a guy who`s thrown 24 touchdowns in 11 starts walk away.
That just doesn`t strike me as a good idea.
A long-term deal would keep the Browns from being forced to play Quinn, who`s never taken an NFL snap. The Browns would have nearly unparalleled quarterback depth and be dealing from a position of strength if a team came looking for a trade.
The deal also works financially. The team`s in good shape in relation to the salary cap and could afford to carry Anderson and Quinn, who signed a five-year, $20.2 million deal with $7.75 million guaranteed.
Even if Savage likes the idea, Anderson must be a willing partner. The $12 million guaranteed isn`t elite money for a quarterback, but it`s much more than the $435,000 Anderson`s making in 2007. And Anderson is guaranteed no more in 2008 than the $2.562 million high tender the Browns are expected to offer.
Anderson would be in line for Tony Romo money ($30 million guaranteed) when he hits the open market if he continues to play well and stay healthy - but those are two big ifs. Anderson may prefer the security, knowing full well that any contract is renegotiable if he turns into the next Tom Brady.
If Anderson is determined to find out his worth as a free agent, the Browns must give him the high tender and hope the price of first- and third-round picks is too steep for another team to pay. The interested team would also have to commit at least $20 million guaranteed in a long-term deal, so it`s not a slam dunk that if Anderson hits restricted free agency he`ll get away.
But if he does sign elsewhere, the Browns have no choice but to take the two picks, use them wisely and hope Quinn can match Anderson`s success throwing to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. While that would suit at least a few Browns fans, it`s a dangerous alternative.
NFL teams do whatever they can to find a big-time quarterback they can trot out every Sunday with confidence. So if you`ve found a guy that looks the part (Anderson`s 6-foot-6 and has a huge arm) and has had success, you`ve got to think twice - or a million times - before letting him get away.
The Chargers let Drew Brees leave in favor of Philip Rivers and they kick themselves every day. A proven commodity at the most important position can`t be overvalued.
While Anderson doesn`t fit that category yet - the sample is a tad small - he`s close and the final four games could clinch it. If the Browns finish this improbable run with a postseason berth and a playoff win, they would be foolish to let the guy who led them there walk out the door.
By then, they might need $25 million guaranteed to keep Anderson.
It would be a no-brainer.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or email@example.com.