FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2014, file photo, Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron (84) catches a 51-yard touchdown pass against Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen (28) in the second quarter of an NFL football game in Cleveland. NFL free agency begins Tuesday, March 10, 2015. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 28, 2014, file photo, Houston Texans quarterback Thad Lewis (6) warms up before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Houston. The Cleveland Browns have signed free agent quarterback Thad Lewis, one of 22 QBs to start a game for the franchise since 1999. (AP Photo/Patric Schneider, File)
CLEVELAND — The Browns were having quarterback issues the last time Thad Lewis played for them. Nothing's changed.
Lewis, one of 22 quarterbacks to start for Cleveland's franchise since 1999, signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday. A career backup, Lewis started the 2012 season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's been to Buffalo and Houston in the interim, and now comes back to a place where quarterbacks come and go on a regular basis.
But while the Browns brought back one former player, another of their unrestricted free agents left.
The Browns were interested in re-signing Cameron, but only at the right price. They were in discussions most of Thursday and for a time it appeared Cameron might be returning to Cleveland. Cameron had 80 catches for 917 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013. Last year, he sustained a concussion on Oct. 26 and missed five games with the head injury — his third in two seasons.
In the end, the Browns felt Cameron wasn't worth a large investment.
Cameron follows cornerback Buster Skrine (Jets), linebacker Jabaal Sheard (Patriots) and quarterback Brian Hoyer (Texans) in leaving the Browns. Last month, owner Jimmy Haslam said the team would not spend as freely in free agency the way they did last season despite being nearly $45 million under the salary cap.
As for the problematic quarterback situation, Lewis brings depth to the position, and it's not out of the question that he could find himself going from backup to behind center. The Browns recently signed veteran Josh McCown, their probable starter who went 1-10 last season with Tampa Bay, to a three-year contract. The club isn't sure what the future holds for Johnny Manziel, a first-round draft pick in 2014 who checked into a rehab facility on Jan. 28 for treatment for an undisclosed problem and remains under care.
The 30-year-old Lewis has also been reunited with Browns coach Mike Pettine. The pair worked together in Buffalo in 2013, when Lewis started five games after replacing EJ Manuel.
In his lone start for the Browns, Lewis completed 22 of 32 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. He became expandable by the Texans after the club signed Ryan Mallett and Hoyer, who signed a two-year, $10. 5 million contract.
Lewis' signing doesn't mean the Browns, who have been one of the NFL's least active teams in free agency, have completed their quest for a quarterback.
With two first-round picks — Nos. 12 and 19— in next month's draft, the club could be positioned to make a run at one of the top QB prospects, including Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. On Thursday, new Browns quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell attended Mariota's pro day in Carlsbad, California. O'Connell probably didn't see anything he didn't already know about Mariota since he trained the Heisman Trophy winner before accepting his job with Cleveland.
Coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer did not attend Mariota's workout, which drew some of the league's top decision makers. It's likely the Browns will conduct their own session with Mariota, rated as the second-best QB in this year's class behind Florida State's Jameis Winston.