Sunday, April 5, 2015

What Should the Browns Do With Johnny Manziel?

   This is actually not so complicated. The Browns should keep Johnny Manziel on the roster as long as he is good enough to be at least the third string quarterback.  You don't cut him unless there really are three guys that are clearly better.  I doubt whether that will be the case in 2015.

    Many enraged Browns fans, some with questionable sanity, want to cut Manziel immediately, feeling that he has betrayed them by not being an immediate superstar and for having a problem with substance abuse.   

      Let's deal with that right away:   If the Browns cut Johnny Manziel, they will be penalized because of the rules about guaranteed contracts.  The Browns would not save money by cutting Manziel. Their salary cap would be reduced in 2015 and they might have to cut payroll to make their cap limit. That would be stupid.   

       Sportrac lists that Manziel's 2015 "dead money" at  $6.5 M.  This is the amount of guaranteed money over the life of his contract, that has to be accounted for immediately when he is cut or traded.  That money has to come out of the Browns 2015 payroll.  Conversely if they keep him on the roster, they will have $4.6 Million dollars more to work with in 2015.   

     What about the risk of Manziel failing a drug test?   Well, what risk is that?    Nothing really bad happens to the Browns if he fails a test, other than he is not allowed to play.  They do not have to pay him if he is suspended!

What if Manziel has a positive drug test?  In that case the Browns are not penalized.   You can argue about the logic of the rule, but it clearly favors the Browns in this situation. 

If Manziel is as good as Seneca Wallace (a short third string qb who made some contributions to the Browns), he is worth keeping on the roster for another year.  How good do you really have to be to be a third string quarterback?  

       Suppose Manziel is not a superstar, but is good enough to be third on the depth chart for the Browns; say, as good as Seneca Wallace.   Yeah, he would be overpaid, but again that should be noted on Mr. Farmer's report card.  It's not the player's fault if the team gave him too much money.  But to reiterate, nothing bad happens to the Browns if he is second or third on the depth chart.   There is no reason why the Browns have to give him away if he doesn't establish himself as the starter in 2015.  

       Many Browns fans love to hate the second and third string qbs of the Browns.  But I'm calling into account the "Superstar or Bust" mentality of many Browns fans.  Who says every quarterback has to be a superstar?   This is not Fantasy Football where you have three quarterbacks and they are all Pro Bowl candidates.  Every team in the NFL has a backup quarterback who they think is good enough to win a couple games, and about half the teams have a third string quarterback at close to the league minimum.   You cut a guy if he is fourth string and you only have room for three guys. You don't cut a guy just because you're disappointed after two games or because you thought he would make the Hall of Fame his first year.   Right now the Browns have Josh McCown, Thad Lewis and Connor Shaw, and remember Shaw is eligible for the Practice Squad if he can clear waivers, and my guess is he can.  

Is two games really enough to conclude that Manziel can not play in the NFL?  No.  We don't know what we've got yet.  

     It might be that the Browns drafted Manziel too early. They definitely expected way to much out of a kid entering the NFL after his sophomore year of college.  So blame that on the Browns brass, probably Jimmy Haslam who wanted him the most.  But that is not Manziel's fault. 

     The fact is that we don't know what he can do.  We know that he is one of the shortest qbs in the NFL (along with Russell Wilson of the Seahawks) and that he has a substance abuse problem.  We also know he failed to pick up the Browns' offense last year.   But he also has a first round caliber arm, and he has better than average speed and very good improvisational skills.    Let's see what he can do. Maybe he be a flop.  Maybe he'll be a star.  More likely he will be somewhere in between.  But we will never know if we don't keep him for another two years.  

    At the same time, we are not giving him the keys to the car automatically.  He is going to have to earn that by first proving that he can practice better than Josh McCown and the other challengers.   

    In previous years the Browns would create a number one quarterback by trading away the other candidates.  I think Farmer is going to bring some additional talent via the draft or trade. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota may be out of reach, but if either slips to about nine or ten, I could see the Browns moving up.   Alternatively Bryce Petty, Sean Mannion or Brett Hundley are  also candidates.  I would be surprised if we don't select at least one of them in the draft.   

     I think the Browns will ultimately form their depth chart with McCown at the top (for now), with Manziel, and a draftee competing for two additonal spots.  Thad Lewis has a a small chance of dislodging Manziel if Manziel does something completely awful, but my guess is that Manziel will survive that challenge.   Connor Shaw is eligible for the Practice Squad one more year, and I think the Browns will be willing to expose him to waivers.   

     From here on out, Manziel will be treated like everyone else with a uniform number.  Hustle like hell if you want to earn a roster spot, my man.  I think it's very likely he will do so.  

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