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Analysis: Younger doesn’t necessarily mean better when it comes to Jameis Winston, Joe Flacco and 2024

The Browns are returning to The Greenbrier in West Virginia for nine days of training camp.

They’re re-signing defensive end Za’Darius Smith, defensive tackles Shelby Harris and Maurice Hurst II and guard Michael Dunn, all of whom were eligible for free agency.

The team’s attempt to replicate the success of 2023 didn’t extend to quarterback Joe Flacco.

Browns pick Jameis Winston, not Joe Flacco, to back up Deshaun Watson

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In a move that angered many fans, the Browns decided to not bring back Flacco. They prefer Jameis Winston and reached an agreement Tuesday to sign him to a one-year deal worth $4 million that can reach $8.7 million with a string of incentives.

The disappointment and frustration from fans are understandable.

For many, Flacco made watching the Browns fun again. He was a breath of fresh air, and his enthusiasm for the game at 38 years old was obvious and appreciated. He told stories of being cheered at restaurants around town.

In late November he went from unemployed to the middle of a playoff race. He didn’t flinch, throwing for 300 yards in four straight victories to finish the run to the postseason.

Notes: RB Nyheim Hines agrees to 1-year deal

The Browns were 7-4 when he took over, and it’s a legitimate argument whether they would’ve collapsed without Flacco, who had stayed prepared for an opportunity by throwing to his brother and dad on a field in New Jersey.

The memories of the remarkable run are still fresh, which makes the team’s decision questionable. It’s easy to picture Flacco throwing long completions to Amari Cooper and David Njoku — and the newly acquired Jerry Jeudy — if called upon again in 2024 to replace Deshaun Watson.

And we know the backup quarterback is important. That was made painfully clear across the league last year.

The Browns organization agrees. It just wants Winston in that role.

DE Za’Darius Smith, DT Maurice Hurst II returning; LB Jordan Hicks agrees to two-year deal

General manager Andrew Berry has his reasons.

At 30, Winston is nine years younger than Flacco. That mattered in the decision.

So did Winston’s projected fit.

He knows Watson and pledged to support him during an interview with CBS’ Josina Anderson. Flacco was prepared to do the same, and Berry meant it when he said Flacco lurking behind Watson wasn’t a deterrent to keeping him. But the dynamic had the potential to be awkward.

If Watson struggled, particularly early in the season, calls for Flacco would’ve come from the fans. The same sentiment might’ve existed among teammates who quickly grew fond of Flacco and believed he could lead them to the Super Bowl.

Winston is less of a threat despite being a Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 1 overall pick of the Buccaneers in 2015. The Browns need the blockbuster trade for Watson to finally pay off in its third season, and trying to create the best environment makes sense.

The styles of Winston and Flacco are similar. Both are tall and sturdy — Flacco 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, Winston 6-4, 231 — with big right arms they trust, perhaps too much. Flacco threw 10 interceptions in six games last year, including the pair of pick-sixes in the playoff loss, and Winston threw a league-high 30 in his best year of 2019 and has 99 in 93 career games.

The interceptions are offset by deep completions and lots of yards. Flacco has thrown for 43,936 yards and 245 touchdowns in 188 games, with a high season of 4,317. Winston has 22,104 yards, including an NFL-best 5,109 in 2019, and 141 touchdowns.

Winston doesn’t pose the running threat of Watson, but he can extend plays and rushed for six touchdowns as a rookie and a career-best 281 yards in 2018.

The choice of Winston feels like the Browns believe they caught lightning in a bottle with Flacco last year. They might be right. He’d have a hard time duplicating that success at 39.

But if the Browns need to win one game next season, either in the playoffs or to make them, and Watson isn’t available, I’d trust Flacco before Winston.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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