I remember where I was on May 8th, 2014 for the start of the NFL draft. Having completed finals the week before, I, along with thousands of my closest friends at the University of Dayton took off for Daytona Beach, Florida. After a long day of “beachin’ it,” I headed to my hotel room for the start of the draft. I was as eager to see what the Browns would do with the 4th pick. I was almost certain it would be Sammy Watkins. If, for some reason it wasn’t, I was sure that plan B was Johnny Manziel. When the Browns traded back to 9th in the draft, it seemed obvious to me that they were forgoing an opportunity at Watkins in favor of Manziel. I waited for the 9th pick: Justin Gilbert. I scratched my head. Seemed like a decent pick, but it wasn’t what I was expected. “Oh well,” I told myself.
I left the hotel room to go to a bar I don’t remember the name of. At the bar, I ordered a couple drinks and mingled with friends. In the corner of the bar, the draft was being televised. As I leaned on the bar waiting for my drink, I looked up and to my right to see that the Browns had traded into the 22nd draft slot. My eyes widened. The TV was muted, so I couldn’t hear what Roger Goodell said when he announced the pick, but when Johnny Manziel’s name appeared on the screen, I, like many of my fellow comrades in the bar went nuts. I immediately went to the dance floor, asked someone to hold my drink, and did the familiar “Money Manziel” gesture, rubbing my pointer and middle finger against my thumb with my hands in the air. It was moments after a draft pick and already I was excited for the upcoming season.
Fast forward roughly five months.
It’s October 13th, and the Browns are sitting at 3-2, having just put a drumming on the Pittsburgh Steelers. All is good in Browns Town, and Johnny Football has barely seen the playing field for the Browns this season. Brian Hoyer has emerged as “the guy” at quarterback. Through 5 games, Hoyer has been efficient, throwing for over 1200 yards and 7 scores against only one interception (which came on a 3rd and long and worked as an effective punt, I might add). The Browns easily could be 5-0 if a couple more balls bounced their way.
There is a lot of talk about what is to become of Manziel if Hoyer emerges as a long-term option. My personal opinion is to keep Manziel through the season and trade him next offseason. Should Hoyer go down, Manziel will be an adequate backup, but that’s the only way he should see the field this year.
Brian Hoyer’s contract is up at the end of the season. Presumably, the Browns will want to keep Hoyer past this season, but it won’t be as easy as just signing on the dotted line. Especially if he continues to win, Hoyer will be due somewhere in the ballpark of $10-12 million next season, but Hoyer may be reluctant to sign such a deal if he constantly has to look over his shoulder at the rock star behind him. Would you want that for your career? Certainly the Browns could place the franchise tag on Hoyer, which would keep him around for another season at a price tag of roughly $16-17 million, but that complicates the negotiations for a long-term extension even more: Hoyer would not want to take a pay cut to be the long-term answer for a team that dubbed him its “franchise” player, especially if, once again, he has to look over his shoulder at Johnny Manziel.
There are teams who need a quarterback and will almost certainly be looking to land one next offseason in the draft or free agency. Teams rarely let their top-notch quarterbacks get away, so the draft is where most teams will look for their next franchise quarterback. Jameis Winston is completely free-falling down draft boards because of off-the-field issues and there is only one Marcus Mariota. A team that misses out on Mariota could view Johnny as a huge asset and be willing to make a deal for a young quarterback with Manziel’s skillset that has the seasoning of being an NFL backup for a full year.
As a friend told me yesterday, the Browns are pretty good. They’re only a piece or two away from being really good for a sustained amount of time. Could you imagine if we traded Johnny for another first round pick to add to our two picks we already have next season? It sure would open a lot of possibilities.
Can Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel co-exist on the same football team? I think they could. However, it may be best if they didn’t. It may turn out that Johnny most helps the Browns as a trade piece. I guess we’ll find out.
-Ben Belden (@CST_BenB)