In the face of an apparent non-stop party lifestyle, most recently making headlines for his exploits with NBA and NHL stars, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel does have some sort of future in the NFL, but the question remains with which team.
The Browns fined Manziel on Thursday for missing treatment under the NFL’s concussion protocol on the final day of the regular season, and the team’s newly appointed vice president of football operations Sashi Brown admitted the team had no idea where the 23-year-old former Heisman Trophy-winner was or why he didn’t show up.
Reports indicated Manziel was in Las Vegas and in disguise so as to go undetected by casino patrons during the final weekend of the regular season, a sign that he has yet to fully mature since Cleveland drafted him in the first round two years ago.
However, Brown told reporters Cleveland isn’t immediately ditching Manziel, who is signed through the 2017 season and scheduled to make nearly $5 million over two years.
"I know a lot's been written about him,” Brown said of Manziel.
“What we expect is Johnny to have a good offseason and be ready to go. We're not in any panic to make any decision one way or another on him," Brown said. "He understands what's ahead of him and what he needs to do to have a career in this league and with the Browns."
The Browns have yet to sit down with Manziel but will do so, and Brown stressed there’s only so much the team can do to focus Manziel away from the field.
"How much can we do?" Brown said. "Johnny, he's an individual, he's a man, and he's going to have to own a lot of this, in terms of his future career.
"I'm not going to comment on the off-field stuff. I think it's important that he understands perfectly the circumstance that he's in and where he is in his career. Our expectation is he comes back ready to go and he's focused on being a great teammate."
Many reports have suggested the Browns are ready to move on from Manziel, especially amid speculation that new head coach Hue Jackson only signed up because he had assurances Cleveland would give up on the "Johnny Football" experiment.
Couple Jackson’s apparent opinion of Manziel with the Browns owning the No. 2 overall pick in April’s draft, and it appears Manziel may in fact never step foot in Ohio again as an NFL player.
But at various times throughout the season, during which Manziel played in 10 games and started six, there were moments of promise and growth as a player. Manziel went 2-4 as a starter and completed 57.8 percent of his pases for 1,500 yards and seven touchdowns to five interceptions while gaining 270 yards on the ground. Manziel was especially sharp in victories over Tennessee and San Francisco, though both teams wound up with losing records and don’t necessarily constitute a quality win under Manziel’s belt.
Still, given his age, considerable abilities, the bare market for both back-up quarterbacks and viable young playmakers at the position, Manziel will likely have other opportunities should Cleveland decide to severe ties.
Any list of potential landing spots for Manziel ultimately begins with the Dallas Cowboys, who hail from Manziel’s home state of Texas, and also includes rebuilding clubs with head coaches who like to use a quarterback’s wide-range of talents like the San Francisco 49ers' Chip Kelly, or quarterback-starved squads like the Los Angeles Rams or Houston Texans.
The Cowboys seem like a good fit because of owner Jerry Jones, who nearly selected Manziel ahead of Cleveland back in 2014 but was talked out of the decision. But while Dallas will need to find a replacement for Tony Romo in the next few years, and Jones has taken on troubled players before, the Cowboys seem unlikely to make a move unless the Browns cut Manziel and he hits the open market as a free agent.
The same could be said for San Francisco, a club in need of more talent and most every position and likely skittish to part with valuable assets like draft picks or salary cap space for a quarterback lacking any sort of discipline. The 49ers recently changed course by hiring Kelly, and the former Oregon Ducks head coach may consider Manziel a solid option to run his uptempo offense.
The Rams and Texans could both be excellent landing spots, and may serve as places for Manziel to finally live up to his potential. Los Angeles may be seeking to make headlines by acquiring a well-known quarterback, who brings excitement to the game. In the city's first NFL season since 1994, the Rams might use Manziel to promote ticket sales at the Coliseum.
The Rams also got little out of starter Nick Foles and Case Keenum is not expected to be a legitimate solution. The risk of Manziel may outweigh the risk of yet another sub-.500 season, to say nothing of pairing breakout star running back Todd Gurley with a quarterback who could further stretch defenses.
The Texans also make sense given the four quarterbacks they went through in 2015, and that they still made the playoffs thanks to a stout defense and the work of defensive end J.J. Watt.