BEREA, Ohio (AP) While protecting their backs, Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas has seen quarterbacks come and go over the past decade.
Only a few have stuck around Cleveland for more than a year. RG3 could be a keeper.
As the team remains in search of its franchise QB, a quest that has befuddled the organization since 1999, Thomas believes Robert Griffin III, who has been limited by injuries in his first season with the Browns, might be the long-term answer.
''We've got a limited amount of film on him so far, but I think the things we've seen in meeting rooms, on the practice field, in some of the games, I think you've seen franchise-level talent for sure, and I wouldn't write him off by any stretch of the imagination,'' Thomas said Wednesday.
''I wouldn't be shocked at all if he was our guy at the beginning of next season because I think he has shown enough that if they do decide to make Robert the guy, I think he can definitely be the guy, and I think he'd have the support of the locker room.''
The Browns (1-14) will use a portion of the offseason evaluating Griffin, who remains in concussion protocol and could miss Sunday's season finale at Pittsburgh. Coach Hue Jackson expects to know more about his QB's status on Thursday and remains hopeful RG3 can make his fourth straight start.
''There is an opportunity,'' Jackson said, ''but we will know more about it tomorrow, so we will leave it there until we find out more.''
Griffin got hurt in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win over San Diego, knocked from the game when he was sacked for the seventh time. Rookie Cody Kessler, who replaced him and finished off Cleveland's 20-17 win, will start against the Steelers if Griffin can't play.
Jackson, though, seemed hopeful Griffin would start, giving the Browns more information before they have to make some tough decisions in the months ahead.
Cleveland could have the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, and after passing on a chance to take one of the top college quarterbacks this year, it could get another chance to find its future starter.
''Whether they go that way or not it's tough to say,'' said Thomas, who was selected to his 10th straight Pro Bowl last week. ''But I know since '99 the team's been looking for that franchise quarterback, and no matter who you are in the NFL, that's always your No. 1 job, whether you have one or you're looking for one. I'm not a QB evaluator, but I'm sure it's going to be the No. 1 priority is figuring out if we have one on our roster or if we need to go get one.''
Thomas has a close relationship with Jackson, so his comments about Griffin could indicate that's the direction the Browns are leaning.
One of Cleveland's biggest concerns about Griffin is his durability, which is also one of the reasons Washington released him in March after four seasons.
Griffin broke a bone in his left shoulder in the Sept. 11 opener against Philadelphia and missed 11 weeks. He'd made three straight starts - showing improvement in each one - before sustaining the concussion Saturday while picking up his first win with the Browns.
Jackson conceded Griffin has to show he can stay healthy.
''It is hard to play in this league when you are not out there playing,'' Jackson said. ''He did everything to help us have a chance to win the game. He played better in some areas, but you have to find a way to stay out there. In respect to how it was, the guy took a lot of different hits - some that he can get better at, but a lot that where we have to continue to get better at. I think it goes both ways.''
The Browns have already switched quarterbacks six times this season because of injuries.
NOTES: C Cam Erving lined up at right tackle during practice and could be there Sunday. The 2015 first-round pick has never played the position, but is confident he can handle it. ''Given the opportunity to put all my efforts into one position, I can play any position on the offensive line,'' said Erving, who played guard as a rookie last season. ... Thomas was voted the team's MVP and LB Christian Kirksey was honored for his work with the media by local writers. ... Thomas said he received some teasing after the video surfaced of him crying in the locker room following the team's first win.
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