The Browns have issued a statement on quarterback Johnny Manziel, who is currently being investigated by the NFL for his latest off-field incident. The team’s announcement, which was made by executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown, strongly hints that Manziel won’t be with the club much longer.
“We’ve been clear about expectations for our players on and off the field,” Brown said. “Johnny’s continual involvement in incidents that run counter to those expectations undermines the hard work of his teammates and the reputation of our organization. His status with our team will be addressed when permitted by league rules. We will have no further comment at this time.”
Brown’s reference to Manziel’s status with the team being addressed “when permitted by league rules” makes it sound as if Cleveland ultimately plans to waive the quarterback. The offseason waiver process doesn’t get underway until next Monday, after the Super Bowl is over, and the new league year doesn’t begin until March 9. The Browns may hang on to Manziel until then, for cap purposes, but it doesn’t appear he’s in the club’s future plans anymore.
Pat McManamon of ESPN.com confirms as much, writing that the Browns plan on cutting Manziel when the 2016 league year begins in March. By waiting until then to make the move official, Cleveland avoids having Manziel’s dead money accelerate onto the 2015 cap — the team needs to absorb that hit in 2016 instead, having already rolled its ’15 cap room over to next year, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).
Assuming they don’t designate him as a post-June 1 cut, the Browns will take on a ’16 cap hit of about $4.33MM if they release Manziel on or after March 9. Of course, the team could remove that entire figure from its cap if the 23-year-old is claimed on waivers, but that seems extremely unlikely.
While today’s news all but confirms it, there was already a strong sense that Manziel was no longer a part of the Browns’ outlook for 2016 and beyond. On the day the club hired Hue Jackson as its new head coach, a report surfaced suggesting that the former Bengals offensive coordinator had made it clear during the interview process that he intended to move on from Manziel.
A first-round pick in 2014, Manziel started eight games during his two years in Cleveland, completing 57% of his passes and throwing seven touchdowns to seven interceptions, for a QB rating of 74.4. While his on-field performance was unspectacular, it was off-field behavior that will cost him his roster spot. In addition to not being pleased by his multiple run-ins with the law, the Browns were also concerned about Manziel’s fondness for partying, which seems to have persisted since he checked himself into rehab last year.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.