The Cleveland Browns are rumored to be going after Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota in the draft, making a bold move that could signal the end of the brief Johnny Manziel Era.
There had been reports circulating for the last few weeks that the Browns were interested in Mariota, who is considered the top quarterback in the draft this year. The team appeared to validate those rumors when it made an arrangement to hire Kevin O’Connell as its future quarterbacks coach. O’Connell is currently working with Mariota, giving the Browns an inside track at a time when other team’s can’t even talk to Mariota.
The Cleveland Browns haven’t officially hired O’Connell yet, meaning he isn’t bound by the rules other teams have keeping them away from Mariota. The exploited loophole isn’t going over too well with executives around the league.
“So let me get this straight,” a high-level executive with another team told Pro Football Talk on Wednesday morning. “The Browns can have their quarterbacks coach in waiting work with a player, teach him the entire offense, etc., but we can’t even talk to any potential draft pick until the Combine per league rules? Something is wrong here.”
If the rumors are true, it would likely signal that the Cleveland Browns aren’t too high on last year’s first round pick Johnny Manziel. He was ineffective in two starts this season, and has struggled with maturity issues. Sources say Manziel was more concerned with partying than playing, and had to cram the playbook when his time came to start late in the season.
Manziel has now entered rehab for unspecified issues, but goes into his second season on shaky ground with the team.
The Cleveland Browns have used first-round picks on quarterbacks in two of the last three drafts, with Brandon Weeden already gone to serve as a backup in Dallas.
Though it would be costly for them to move into the top two in this year’s draft to acquire Marcus Mariota, the Cleveland Browns have the 12th and 19th picks in the draft this year and could use both as ammunition to move up.