<
>

Could the Rams be a landing spot for Johnny Manziel?

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The Cleveland Browns made it abundantly clear Tuesday that their time employing quarterback Johnny Manziel will be over sooner rather than later.

ESPN Browns reporter Pat McManamon offered confirmation from a league source that Cleveland will part ways with Manziel in March. The Browns could theoretically make the move as soon as Monday but will wait for salary-cap purposes.

Sashi Brown, Cleveland's executive vice president of football operations, released a statement that strongly indicated the Browns will not be retaining Manziel.

"We've been clear about expectations for our players on and off the field," the statement reads. "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."

Manziel's latest run-in with the law -- police were called for an alleged assault in Fort Worth, Texas, last weekend and Dallas and Fort Worth police are investigating along with the NFL -- will have to play out before any team can legitimately look at whether to add Manziel.

Still, the Los Angeles Rams have been connected to Manziel in the past and probably will be again moving forward.

In fact, ESPN's Ed Werder reported Tuesday that Manziel has told people close to him that the Rams are one of three teams, along with the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs, that have expressed interest in him.

That alleged connection doesn't lack validity though it's far from certain. The Rams did extensive homework on Manziel leading up to the draft in 2014. That interest included private workouts and interviews.

"He can throw the football, he’s got very good pocket awareness, he’s got eyes that remain very disciplined down field and when it’s time to go, he goes and he makes people miss," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said at the 2014 scouting combine. "He didn’t win the Heisman because he wasn’t a good football player. He’s fun to watch."

The Rams ultimately opted to use their two first-round picks on offensive tackle Greg Robinson and defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

At the time, Fisher attempted to downplay the interest in Manziel, perhaps as a way to instill confidence in Sam Bradford, who has since been traded. But there were reports that the Rams at least briefly pondered trading back up for Manziel after taking Robinson and Donald.

Of course, it's now easy to dismiss potential interest given all that's happened to Manziel in the time since. But as recently as Dec. 18, 2015, Fisher was singing Manziel's praises before the Browns played Seattle in a game that could have mathematically kept the Rams in playoff contention.

“I’ve always been a Johnny Manziel fan," Fisher said then. "We had a private workout and had visits. I think he’s an NFL talent and he can win games."

But whether Fisher and the Rams view Manziel as a quarterback who can win games for them still seems like a bit of a reach. Any evaluation of Manziel's fit now would have to begin with his off-field troubles. His inability to take responsibility and be reliable in Cleveland raises plenty of questions about whether he could do that anywhere, let alone in a larger market like Los Angeles where there would be a lot of eyes on his every move and plenty of temptation.

Past that, the Rams would have to ask themselves whether Manziel would actually be an upgrade to their quarterback position. While the Rams duo of Nick Foles and Case Keenum combined to finish last in the league in most major passing categories, Keenum had some success at the end of the season and doesn't come with any of the baggage Manziel does.

Manziel isn't exactly a proven commodity, either. In his time in Cleveland, he was 2-6 as the starter with his completion percentage, yards per attempt and touchdown-to-interception ratio all ranking in the bottom five of the league among 43 quarterbacks with at least 350 action plays over the past two years.

The reality is Manziel has a lot to figure out on his own before teams, the Rams included, can really even consider bringing him on board.