The Browns kept three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster.
They have zero wins in the NFL and two years experience combined.
Rookie DeShone Kizer is the starter and will be backed up by Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, mid-round draft picks in 2016 who made the roster Saturday. Kessler went 0-8 as a starter last year and Hogan saw limited action off the bench.
The Browns embraced the youth movement at the game’s most important position and don’t plan to add a veteran. The decision was made that Kessler and Hogan were better options than veteran Brock Osweiler, whose release became official Saturday after being reported Friday.
“Our young guys were playing good and we needed to continue to grow them,” coach Hue Jackson said in the release announcing the roster cuts. “The only way you can do that is by keeping them on your roster and giving them a chance to keep getting better behind DeShone.”
Hogan was fourth on the depth chart and an afterthought in the competition until playing well in the final two preseason games. He was 21-for-32 (65.6 percent) for 269 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, two sacks and a 123.0 rating.
“Wouldn’t have probably predicted it would’ve ended this way but happy because all four of the guys competed,” executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said. “Depending on when we had cutdowns, it could’ve broke in different ways. But in the end, we really felt good about the three young guys being in the room and it was a difficult decision with Brock because he brings that veteran presence and experience, but do feel good about Cody, Kevin and DeShone.”
Osweiler will reportedly sign with Denver, where he spent the first four years of his career. The $16 million guaranteed the Browns owe him for this season would be reduced by whatever the Broncos or another team pays him. The veteran league minimum is $775,000.
The final roster moves were made before the 4 p.m. deadline Saturday. The most noteworthy cuts were receivers Rannell Hall, Jordan Leslie and Jordan Payton, as one of the first two likely lost a spot when the Browns acquired receiver Sammie Coates earlier Saturday in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The biggest moves were known Friday, as Osweiler, veteran offensive lineman John Greco, defensive tackle Xavier Cooper and kicker Cody Parkey were told of their impending release. Greco had been with the team since 2011 and started 56 games across the interior of the line.
“John was a warrior throughout, played multiple positions and we have a tremendous respect for him as a person and as a Cleveland Browns player on the field,” Brown said. “So we wish him nothing but the best of luck moving forward so I’m sure we’ll see him out there on the field this fall.”
Getting rid of Greco, 32, came on the heels of the release of 28-year-old cornerback Joe Haden, the second-longest-tenured member of the team. They’re the latest moves that drive home the overhaul of the roster and the ever-expanding youth movement.
Left tackle Joe Thomas, 32, punter Britton Colquitt, 32, and cornerback Jason McCourty, 30, are the only players over 30. Thomas is the only holdover from before 2014, as 42 of the 53-man roster were added since Brown took over following the 2015 season.
Twenty of the 42 were from the last two draft classes in which Brown made 24 picks. Nine of the 10 selections from this year made the team, with the lone exception cornerback Howard Wilson, who’s on the physically unable to perform list.
“We have some core guys that we expect, who are not only here now but will be here for a long time, and then adding a lot of fresh young talent to the roster in guys that are competitive and embrace the way we want to build who obviously fit our scheme,” Brown said. “We do like we’re young and the talent is not only better, but also ascending.”
Also waived Saturday were: running back Terrence Magee, linebacker Deon King, tight end J.P. Holtz, offensive lineman Anthony Fabiano, linebacker Kenneth Olugbode and defensive back Najee Murray.
The Browns kept 10 offensive linemen, including rookie fifth-round tackle Rod Johnson, who suffered a knee injury Thursday in the preseason finale. The Browns are deciding whether to place him on short-term injured reserve but it seems likely. He would have to miss at least eight games.
The Browns also kept 10 defensive linemen, including rookie tackles Larry Ogunjobi and Caleb Brantley and end Nate Orchard, a second-round pick in 2015.
The Browns have first priority on the waiver wire that opens Sunday afternoon after finishing a franchise-worst 1-15 last season. They are expected to make at least a few moves, with linebacker, secondary and receiver the likely targets.
The Browns claimed five players last year the day after roster cuts, and three of those players remain.
“You never quite know. Waivers and claiming a player sounds really nice but you don’t have a familiarity you have versus a guy you’re going to have to get rid of on your roster, so there’s some risk involved,” Brown said. “We do a lot of diligence, our pro groups are always tremendously well-prepared and organized so it’ll be a long night and morning, but hopefully we can find some young guys who can help us on our roster.”
Rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez was the second-last pick in the draft and won the job over Parkey, the incumbent.
“We could’ve went either way to be very honest with you because Cody has done some good things here, but Zane came in and proved that we did a great job in making the selection in drafting him,” Jackson said. “He held his own, guy obviously nailed a 53-yarder the other night (in Chicago) and he’s done a great job thus far in camp and kicks the ball out of the end zone whenever we need him to do so.”
Quarterbacks (3): DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan.
Running backs (3): Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson Jr., Matthew Dayes.
Fullback (1): Danny Vitale.
Wide receivers (5): Kenny Britt, Corey Coleman, Sammie Coates, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins.
Tight ends (3): Randall Telfer, Seth DeValve, David Njoku.
Offensive linemen (10): Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, JC Tretter, Kevin Zeitler, Shon Coleman, Rod Johnson, Marcus Martin, Spencer Drango, Austin Reiter, Zach Sterup.
Defensive linemen (10): Myles Garrett, Danny Shelton, Trevon Coley, Emmanuel Ogbah, Caleb Brantley, Tyrone Holmes, Jamie Meder, Carl Nassib, Larry Ogunjobi, Nate Orchard.
Linebackers (5): Jamie Collins Sr., Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert, Dominique Alexander, James Burgess.
Defensive backs (10): Jamar Taylor, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Jason McCourty, Marcus Burley, Darius Hillary, Jabrill Peppers, Derrick Kindred, Ibraheim Campbell, Calvin Pryor III, Kai Nacua.
Kicker Zane Gonzalez, punter Britton Colquitt, long snapper Charley Hughlett.