CLEVELAND (AP) — Joe Flacco's arrival hasn't altered the Cleveland Browns' plans at starting quarterback.
At least not for another week.
Flacco, a former Super Bowl MVP and 15-year NFL veteran, signed with the Browns on Monday, giving them depth, experience and an insurance plan as a starter following Deshaun Watson's season-ending shoulder surgery.
The 38-year-old Flacco, who went 18-3 in his career against the Browns while playing mostly with the Ravens, initially will be on the team's practice squad, with the expectation he'll soon be added to the active roster.
For now, though, the Browns (7-3) are staying with rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who came through in the clutch on Sunday in a 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On Monday, coach Kevin Stefanski said Thompson-Robinson will start again this week at Denver while plans for Flacco are still being determined.
“Joe’s role is to support this team coming in here,” Stefanski said on a Zoom call with reporters. "We were able to add a guy with a ton of experience. He’ll be great for that room. He’ll be great for this team.”
Flacco worked out for the Browns on Friday, but the team waited until Sunday night to finalize an agreement with him, perhaps to not put any more pressure on Thompson-Robinson.
Flacco was MVP of the Super Bowl following the 2012 season while with Baltimore and has passed for more than 42,000 yards and 232 TDs. He played the past three seasons with the New York Jets, leading them to an improbable win last season in Cleveland.
Flacco's extensive experience is expected to help the Browns on both sides of the ball.
“It’s amazing," said cornerback Greg Newsome II. "It’s only going to help us get closer to our goals. A guy that has been to Super Bowls, won the Super Bowl, it’s always great to have those guys in the building, especially where our aspirations are for the end of the season.
"Good to just get his feedback on certain things. It’s perfect that he’s coming. He’s coming at the right time, especially in this stretch that we’re about to go into. So, we’re definitely going to use him for sure to help us get there.”
At some point, Flacco could take over for Thompson-Robinson, who looked more confident and poised in his second NFL start.
The fifth-round draft pick out of UCLA shook off an interception in the second half and completed four straight passes on Cleveland's final drive to set up a game-winning field goal by Dustin Hopkins in the final seconds.
With a week of practice, Thompson promised a “night and day” difference from his pro debut on Oct. 1, when he made an emergency start for an injured Watson in a 28-3 loss to Baltimore. Thompson-Robinson threw three interceptions and looked overwhelmed.
He went just 24 of 43 for 165 yards against the Steelers, but a stronger performance gave the Browns confidence he'll continue to improve.
“He played on time,” Stefanski said. “He did his job. I thought he had a really good week of practice. We talked about that. I thought he prepared really well, but that’s just part of this thing. Got to continue to do that week in and week out.”
In case he can't, Flacco is waiting in the wings.
The Browns already have used three starting quarterbacks: Watson, Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker, who made two starts and came off the bench in a third game. It appears Stefanski and Cleveland's front office want to give Thompson-Robinson every opportunity to succeed before making another move.
Cleveland's top-ranked defense makes them a possible title contender, but the Browns may need to get more out of their offense, and that could mean elevating Flacco, who still has a big arm.
If Thompson-Robinson shows he can hang onto the job, Flacco could be another resource to guide the young QB.
“I just think that’s all of our guys when it comes to being a great teammate, sharing wisdom with your teammates, pushing your teammates, helping your teammates, that’s kind of what we do,” Stefanski said. “Obviously Joe has a wealth of experience and I know our quarterbacks, myself, everybody will draw on that.”
NOTES: Browns safety Rodney McLeod will miss the rest of the season after suffering a biceps injury in Sunday's win. Stefanski said McLeod, who signed with Cleveland as a free agent in the offseason, will have surgery. “An unbelievable leader for this football team and has played really well,” Stefanski said. The loss of McLeod's impacts Cleveland's depth at safety with Juan Thornhill still nursing a calf injury.
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Tom Withers, The Associated Press