Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel was released from rehab last week after spending two months in a drug and alcohol treatment facility. While Manziel's health and personal life are obviously the biggest concerns right now, the Browns have to be considering their next move with the 22-year-old quarterback. Cleveland's options are limited but they have to make a decision on Manziel soon.
The Browns selected Manziel with the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The Texas A&M product had a long history of questionable off-field decision-making at the time, and many also believed his style wasn't a fit for the NFL. Various problems with Manziel popped up during his rookie season that showed a lack of commitment to football. His partying continued at the pace of his college days and he didn't show the dedication of a true franchise quarterback.
Despite all of that, he finally saw meaningful snaps in Week 13 against the Buffalo Bills. He wound up starting two games (Week 15 and Week 16) before an injured hamstring took him out of Cleveland's final contest. As a rookie, Manziel's numbers were ugly. He completed just 18-of-35 passes for 175 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
The diminutive signal-caller also ran for 29 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. He looked completely overmatched by NFL competition and every hole in his game was exposed.
So what exactly should the Cleveland Browns do with Johnny Manziel?
Browns should release Johnny Manziel
Given the media storm that will continue to surround Manziel, the Browns might be best served by severing ties with him completely. The cap hit for the soon-to-be second-year quarterback isn't cheap. It would cost Cleveland $5.5 million just to send him away. But given that his presence on the roster could be a cumulative negative, that might actually be worth it.
After what teammates have said about Manziel and the way he carried himself as a rookie, it really might be the team's best option to just end the marriage and move on. The Browns have already made it known that the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner isn't really in their plans moving forward, so why even continue the charade?
Releasing a first-round pick after just one season would certainly be a tough pill for Browns general manager Ray Farmer to swallow, but he has to act in the best interests of his franchise. Unless he is convinced Manziel can provide some value to the roster, there is no reason to keep him around.
Browns should trade Johnny Manziel
This would be an ideal scenario for Farmer and the Browns, but the truth is, Manziel's trade value could not be lower at this point. His limited quarterbacking skills, poor footwork, mechanics and football IQ were on display for the world to see in 2014. No one is going to knock down Cleveland's door to take Manziel off its hands.
Manziel's college tape from his rookie year shows an athletically talented guy who got away with being just that in college. His ability to escape pressure and make plays at Texas A&M led to some being enamored with him during the draft process. But he's a mess mechanically, hasn't developed his actual skills as a quarterback and – like his college days – makes one read before bailing out on plays. That's not a recipe for success in the NFL.
In college, Manziel could get away with doing things like throwing the ball across his body. When you do that in the NFL, this happens. Plays like that are not an aberration, they are part of who he is. He's a wildly undersized gambler who makes bad decisions that worked in college. Now everyone has seen his many faults laid bare and it has killed his value.
At best the Browns may find a team who is willing to part with a late-round pick to take Manziel as a developmental project. If that happens, Farmer should jump on the deal and not look back.
Browns should keep Johnny Manziel
The final option for the Browns is probably the most likely scenario, they could keep Manziel and try to develop him. It will be a huge uphill climb for Manziel to just rebuild relationships within the organization. But new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and new quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell will have the Sisyphean task of transforming Manziel into a competent NFL quarterback.
It will take some miracles to even get him up to the level of a competent backup. The Browns are planning to start journeyman Josh McCown, and are reportedly interested in trying to trade up in order to select Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in this year's draft.
Manziel is an afterthought in the team's plans at the moment and it's going to take a lot from him to change that. Maybe Manziel can fix himself on and off the field. It's a real possibility, but it's also a long-shot. He has miles to go on the field, and off of it he'll be proving himself to people for the rest of his career.
The Browns are in a terrible spot as far as Manziel is concerned. And yet again, the team has put itself in that position thanks to a lack of due diligence and scouting incompetence when it comes to the quarterback position. Something has to change in Cleveland in that respect.
As for Johnny Football, whether he stays or goes, it's clear the Browns have mostly moved on. It might be best for him to get another chance somewhere else.
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