Robert Griffin III has found his next NFL home. The former Heisman winner and Offensive Rookie of the Year has signed with the Cleveland Browns, the team announced on Thursday. The deal will be for two years and $15 million with a chance to earn up to $22 million with incentives, per Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to join the Dawg Pound and help build something here in Cleveland," Griffin said. "Coach Hue [Jackson] and [offensive coordinator] Pep [Hamilton], I had a great meeting with them. I really believe in what they preach and how they can help not only me as a player but this team win games and that's what we're all about."
Griffin entered the league with considerable fanfare four years ago. Washington traded a throng of draft picks to move up for the quarterback in 2012, selecting him one spot after the Indianapolis Colts took Andrew Luck. Despite the lower draft slot, Griffin had the far more productive rookie season, completing 258 of his 393 passes for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. He added seven touchdowns and 815 yards on the ground.
In large part due to Griffin's immediate success, Washington won its first NFC East title since 1999 and made its first playoff appearance since 2007.
However, Griffin's rookie season hit a snag when he tore his ACL during his first playoff game. That injury came weeks after the quarterback badly sprained the same knee during a regular season game, forcing him to wear a bulky brace for the remainder of the year. Head coach Mike Shanahan came under fire for allowing Griffin onto the field, signaling the beginning of the end for the relationship between the coach and quarterback.
After a disappointing 2013 campaign, Shanahan and his staff received their walking papers. A year later, new head coach Jay Gruden benched Griffin for backup Kirk Cousins, effectively ending the RGIII Era in D.C.
Now in different surroundings with a new coaching staff, Griffin and his new team hope the second chapter of his career goes smoother than his first, though he is joining a team that lost four starters to free agency, including star center Alex Mack and offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
The Browns are also looking for a fresh chapter after years of failure at the quarterback position. The team has had a whopping 24 different starting quarterbacks since returning to the league in 1999, by far the most of any franchise in that span. It's very possible that Griffin's name soon could be added to this infamous "jersey of sadness" in Cleveland.
Over the past 17 years, no NFL club has had as poor a collective group of signal callers than the Browns. Excluding the expansion teams, Cleveland ranks last in the league in passing yards, passing touchdowns and completion percentage.
Despite the Browns' well-documented history of subpar play under center, there is a sense of optimism in Ohio this spring with the arrival of new head coach Hue Jackson, who is widely known as a quarterback savant. He has extensive experience developing quarterbacks, most notably with the recent work he's done with Andy Dalton in Cincinnati and Joe Flacco in Baltimore.
Jackson hasn't promised anything to Griffin, but he believes strongly that he'll be an important part of the roster, whether it's as the number one guy or even as a mentor to other quarterbacks on the depth chart.
"Robert will have to earn every opportunity he gets," Jackson said on Thursday, "He will compete with the rest of the quarterbacks on our roster and he helps improve our QB room, which was one of my goals upon taking the job."
Even after adding Griffin, it's difficult to imagine that the Browns are now content with the talent on the roster and won't look to add a young passer in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Cleveland holds the No. 2 pick in the draft and most figured the team would use its high choice on a quarterback, either California's Jared Goff or North Dakota State's Carson Wentz. Jackson and Hamilton both attended Wentz's pro day Thursday morning in North Dakota, just hours before the Griffin contract was announced. That, according to Adam Schefter, was not an accident.
"I don’t believe this agreement with RGIII changes anything with how the Browns approach the draft." -@AdamSchefter— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 24, 2016
But Griffin may have the edge as a 26-year-old player with 35 NFL starts under his belt and a year away from the physical toll of the game.
That said, the Browns will have to make a decision on veteran Josh McCown. McCown threw 12 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2015, and has two years and $10 million left on the deal he signed with Cleveland last offseason. While Jackson said McCown "played great when he was healthy," he also admitted that the 36-year-old quarterback may not have much left in the tank. Cleveland could now look to deal McCown to one of the quarterback-needy teams in the league.
If Griffin wins the starting job in Cleveland next season, he will get the chance to go up against his former team when Cleveland visits Washington for a regular season matchup.