Quarterback Kyle Lauletta has had a strong preseason showing for the Browns to this point, which has lead to questions about Case Keenum's future with the team. Some fans think it is time to cut bait with the veteran and go into the season with Lauletta as the backup quarterback.
While Lauletta has looked good in spots during the first two preseason games, Keenum should be the backup in 2021. The Browns likely view Lauletta as the long-term answer at the backup spot, but Keenum is very valuable to the Browns at the moment.
For one, he is an excellent sounding board for starting quarterback Baker Mayfield. Keenum has been around the NFL and seen virtually every coverage there is. Furthermore, he has spent multiple years in head coach Kevin Stefanski's offensive system, meaning that he can offer his own experiences to Mayfield as advice.
Lauletta has never seen meaningful time in a regular-season game. While he has a functioning understanding of the offense, Mayfield has much more experience and success in the system, meaning that Mayfield is essentially left on his own when trying to decipher a defense on the sideline.
On the other hand, Keenum started an entire season with Stefanski as his offensive coordinator in Minnesota. Keenum led the Vikings to a 13-3 record and an NFC Championship game appearance in 2017 while throwing for 22 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.
Keenum brings more to the table than just sage-like advice. Keenum has proven that he can be an NFL starting quarterback that makes good decisions with the football.
During his time in the preseason, Keenum has continued to show good decision-making. He gets the offense up and down the field, gets through his progressions quickly, and occasionally puts the ball into tight windows.
If Mayfield gets injured for an extended period, then the Browns playoff hopes are shattered. However, if Mayfield has to miss time in mid-November, then Keenum can spot-start a few games.
You shouldn't want anyone aside from No. 6 under center this fall, but if push came to shove, Keenum is a much better stopgap than Kyle Lauletta.
This isn't a cheap shot at Lauletta. He will likely be the backup in 2022, but he would benefit from another year on the practice squad learning the system.
If Lauletta doesn't make it past waivers, then so be it. Management shouldn't let the fear of losing a third quarterback influence them into trading a quality backup for a conditional late-round selection.
The team’s final preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons will be telling. The competition is still open, and with Mayfield likely on the sideline both quarterbacks will get ample opportunity to make their case.
The Browns will eventually stand to benefit from moving off Keenum. His salary cap number is too high for a backup, but the team could afford it considering Mayfield is still playing on his rookie deal.
Mayfield’s cap number will remain low this season, but next season his salary spikes up. From here on out Baker will be making legitimate starter money, so the Browns should capitalize on their last opportunity to have a legitimate starter on roster as a backup.