On Friday, the Browns signed veteran quarterback Josh McCown to a three-year contract.
McCown played last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his performance was very depressing. He finished last season just 1-10 as a starter and his struggles prompted the Bucs to release him earlier this offseason.
Despite his struggles, the signing makes complete sense for the Browns.
Incumbent starting quarterback Brian Hoyer is set to become a free agent and Cleveland needed a veteran presence at quarterback to replace him. In addition, they needed a true professional to help provide leadership in their young locker room. McCown provides both of those things.
But what happens now to Johnny Manziel?
As we all know by now, the Manziel experiment in Cleveland has been anything but smooth. He struggled mightily on the field last year and his off-the-field antics left much to be desired. By season’s end, Manziel had clearly lost the confidence of Browns’ upper management and was entering rehab for his off-the-field issues.
Manziel was a first-round pick last offseason and it is very rare to see a team cut ties with a former first-round pick after just one season. That is why, despite his immense struggles last year, most thought the Browns would use Manziel as their starting quarterback next season. It was assumed they would need to let him play a full season before they could give up on the first-rounder.
Clearly, the Browns have a different plan in mind.
The signing of McCown is not insignificant. Cleveland did not sign him for three years to simply be a backup. In an offseason in which McCown is arguably the best free agent quarterback on the market, he certainly isn’t coming to Cleveland to be Manziel’s personal mentor. He is coming to be the starting quarterback.
Of course, immediately after the signing, all parties said the right lines. McCown said he looks forward to helping Manziel grow as a player/person and the Browns said they think the trade will help Manziel.
The truth is, the Browns have accepted their failure in the Manziel experiment and are beginning to move on. That is why they bargained so hard to bring McCown into Cleveland when it looked certain he would sign with the Bills.
Despite signing him for mulitple years, at age 35, McCown is definitely not the long-term solution for Cleveland’s quarterback troubles. The Browns knew that before they signed the veteran, though. They also knew he could be an excellent teacher to a young quarterback willing to learn and could help groom the Browns’ future quarterback.
Will that quarterback be Manziel?
The Browns are not done at the quarterback position this offseason. The draft is riddled with quarterback potential and Cleveland will certainly be an interested party.
Even if they can’t get one of the two prize quarterbacks at the top of everyone’s board (Marcus Mariota from Oregon and Jameis Winston from Florida State), there are still many viable options on the second day of the draft. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a player like Brett Hundley from UCLA or Bryce Petty from Baylor end up in a Browns uniform next season.
So does signing McCown ensure the end of the Manziel era in Cleveland? Not necessarily, but it definitely starts the process. “Johnny Football” better be ready to perform in training camp this season.
One thing is certain, there will be some quarterback competition in Browns camp this year.
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