By Michael McCarthy
So much for that wild-ass rumor from the other day that the Eagles were hot for the quarterback-turned-late-night-punch-line Johnny Manziel.
The Browns had discussed shipping Manziel and draft picks to the Eagles as part of a potential trade for quarterback Sam Bradford, but the Eagles aren’t really interested in dealing for Manziel, BleacherReport.com’s Jason Cole reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed source in the Browns’ organization.
Cole also wrote on Twitter that the idea of throwing Manziel into a possible deal came from the Browns.
The Browns’ interest in Bradford is old news. But the inclusion of Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, in trade talks would be a interesting bizarre development.
The Eagles are angling to trade up from the 20th overall pick in the April 30-May 2 NFL Draft in pursuit of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner who played for Eagles coach Chip Kelly in college.
The Browns own two first-round selections (Nos. 12 and 19 overall) and, according to ESPN, had previously offered the 19th choice to the St. Louis Rams for Bradford before the Rams instead traded him to the Eagles in exchange for quarterback Nick Foles.
“There has been a discussion of a trade between Cleveland and Philadelphia,” Cole said in the video. “This is basically a resuscitation of trade talks from before when the Cleveland Browns had expressed interest in Sam Bradford previously.
“In talking to a source within the Browns’ organization, yes, there has been some discussion of Manziel possibly being traded. But that’s not really what the Eagles are looking for.
“Because if the Eagles are going to make this trade and send Bradford off to get draft picks back, the whole point is to put together a package of draft picks that will eventually get them to Marcus Mariota. That’s the plan, as of now, for the Eagles. Johnny Manziel is not in the front of their thinking.”
As of Wednesday, Manziel remained in inpatient rehabilitation for possible substance abuse. A photograph of him visiting a girl in a Hershey, Pa., hospital surfaced Wednesday on Twitter. He has made other hospital visits since he entered rehab Jan. 28 because it’s part of his treatment plan.
Last month at the NFL owners meetings, Browns coach Mike Pettine said he expects Manziel to be discharged from rehab in time to report to team headquarters for the start of the offseason conditioning program April 20. General manager Ray Farmer said he expects Manziel to be available to play this year.
The Browns know they can’t count on Manziel at this point — they signed veteran Josh McCown in February, and he’s their projected starting quarterback right now — but they hope Manziel can become healthy and piece his life and career together. Pettine, Farmer and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam have said they’re not giving up on Manziel and still have reasons to believe he can succeed in the NFL despite his stint in rehab and poor performance as a rookie (the offense scored just three points in his six quarters as a starter last season).
In 2010, Manziel verbally committed to play for Kelly at Oregon before ultimately switching his commitment to Texas A&M.
“He broke my heart,” Kelly told reporters last year.
Still, trading for a player in rehab would be an enormous risk, one that seems unrealistic for Kelly to take.
As for Bradford, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said at the owners meetings that the Browns first engaged in trade discussions for him the weekend of March 7. But the Rams dealt him to the Eagles on March 10 because they wanted a veteran quarterback in return, and Foles fit the description.
Fisher said “there were numerous things that were discussed,” but the Browns never offered a player or the 12th overall pick for Bradford, the No. 1 overall choice in 2010 who has suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in each of the past two years.
After the trade went through, Kelly held a news conference March 11 and said an unnamed team offered him a first-round pick for Bradford that morning. At the owners meetings, Kelly declined to reveal whether it was the Browns.
Kelly has insisted he didn’t acquire Bradford as trade bait.
Perhaps Kelly is bluffing, but even if he were able to move up to No. 12 in a deal with the Browns, he would still need to make another trade to secure Mariota, who’s widely considered a surefire top-10 pick.
From the Browns’ perspective, there could be another significant obstacle standing in the way of a deal.
Last month, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reported Bradford would not have been willing to sign a new deal this offseason if he were traded to the Browns, but he is willing to consider a contract extension with the Eagles. Bradford is scheduled to make $12.9 million in the final year of his rookie deal this upcoming season.
A rumor about Manziel-Bradford trade discussions first circulated online Monday after ChatSports.com published a story citing “a source very close to an agent involved in the trade talks.”