Nov 27, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (85) talks to Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports Nov 27, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (85) talks to Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

With Deshaun Watson having suffered a shoulder fracture that will require season-ending surgery, the Cleveland Browns unexpectedly find themselves in the market for a new quarterback.

And with the NFL trade deadline having passed, Cleveland’s options are now limited, meaning that the Browns will have to get creative if they’re going to acquire a true difference-maker at football’s most important position.

How creative is Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry willing to get? We’ll find out in the days ahead. But until then, here are five far-fetched — at least for now — the Browns could consider in an attempt to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Tom Brady

All indications have been that Tom Brady is still happily retired, but could Cleveland entice the three-time MVP to chase an eighth Super Bowl ring? With arguably the best defense in football, a strong offensive line and a plethora of playmakers on offense, the Browns could provide Brady with the opportunity to do just that.

Sure, he’s 46-years-old and has no apparent connections to Cleveland or the Browns’ coaching staff or front office. But if you’re Cleveland and you’re serious about contending, you have to at least make the call, right?

Matt Ryan

Could the Browns’ best option for replacing Watson actually be in the broadcast booth?

Like Brady, Matt Ryan isn’t currently on an NFL roster, but unlike the former Patriots and Buccaneers quarterback, the current CBS analyst has made a point of saying he isn’t officially retired. Sure, there might be financial reasons for that, but it’s also worth nothing that he admitted his agent reached out to the New York Jets when Aaron Rodgers went down with his torn Achilles in Week 1.

If his most recent season with the Indianapolis Colts was any indication, the Boston College product’s best days are behind him, but he did thrive playing in a system similar to Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski’s during his MVP season in 2016. Between his availability and alleged interest in playing, Ryan is at least worth some consideration.

Philip Rivers

Philip Rivers hasn’t played since the 2021 season, but the 41-year-old has considered coming out of retirement at least once before. According to head coach Kyle Shanahan, the San Francisco 49ers were prepared to sign the eight-time Pro Bowl selection if they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in last season’s NFC Championship Game.

Would Rivers still be willing to come out of retirement on short notice? For what it’s worth, he does have some free time after the high school football team he coaches lost in the Alabama state playoffs last week.

Jimmy Garoppolo

The Las Vegas Raiders signed Jimmy Garoppolo to a three-year, $72.5 million contract last offseason before benching him halfway through the 2023 season. While “Jimmy G” didn’t play particularly well, he’s still a capable veteran who thrived in San Francisco while playing with a strong defense and offense similar to Cleveland’s.

While Garoppolo is an obvious fit for the Browns, acquiring him at this point in the season is the tricky part. Could the 32-year-old obtain a contract buyout from the Raiders in order to start for a potential playoff team in Cleveland? As is the case with Brady — who shares an agent with his former Patriots backup — it’s worth a call.

Colin Kaepernick

While he hasn’t played organized football since the 2016 season, that hasn’t stopped Colin Kaepernick from being linked to NFL openings. As recently as September, he made his case to the Jets following Rodgers’ injury, but ultimately remained un-signed.

At 36-years-old and nearly seven years removed from his last NFL game, it’s fair to wonder how capable of a quarterback Kaepernick currently is. But if he’s anything like he was the last time we saw him on the field, he’d make for an intriguing fit as Watson’s replacement in Cleveland.

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.