Are the Cleveland Browns Showing Their Hand Regarding Johnny Manziel?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | May 8 is a little under four months away, but the Cleveland Browns may already be showing their cards regarding what they're going to do with the fourth overall selection.

What was first reported by Peter King back in September continues to grow steam seemingly with every week. The Browns are reportedly high on Texas A&M phenom quarterback Johnny Manziel. Cleveland is, for the second straight January, in search of a new head coach, and one rumor swirling about is that the team's front office is searching for a coach who would work with and ultimately start the young man commonly known as Johnny Football.

Whether or not either of those notions are actually accurate at this early stage of the game is unknown. It does the Browns zero good to publicly discuss the matter. There's also the fact that Manziel has not worked out for or even met with any NFL team.

There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to these reports. The first, the obvious one, is that somebody from within the organization is, in fact, talking out of school, and that the Browns want to turn Manziel into Johnny Cleveland.

That could prove to be a problem. The Browns are not the only team in possession of a top-four draft pick in need of a quarterback. Sitting on the first pick are the Houston Texans, who have been linked with quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles.

Then there are the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville, also linked with Bortles and Bridgewater, have the third selection. The Jags could prove to be a massive hurdle in the heart of Cleveland's path toward landing Manziel. Those running Jacksonville could, over the next several months, become enamored with Johnny Football.

They could also mimic the move made by the San Diego Chargers back in 2004. The Chargers, who had a quarterback in mind, chose Eli Manning with the first overall pick. Manning, who had made it clear that he did not want to play in San Diego, was then traded to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers and several draft picks.

Jacksonville can essentially hold the Browns for ransom by taking Manziel and then waiting to see if the right deal comes. At best, the Jags would take over the fourth overall selection and also future draft picks. At worst, they would have the rights to the young man being advertised by some as one of the greatest college quarterbacks in history.

There's another possibility as it pertains to the Browns reportedly being interested in Manziel. Perhaps the Cleveland brass is purposely leaking false information and bluffing in order to raise interest in Manziel from other clubs. Cleveland could, if quarterbacks do go one-two-three in the first round of the draft, have play-makers such as defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and wide receiver Sammy Watkins fall down to fourth.

The team desperately needs a quarterback, but I don't think there's a fan of the Browns out there who wouldn't love to see either Clowney or Watkins in brown and orange.

Odds are that every team ahead of the Browns in the draft will, in some way, be linked with Johnny Football between now and May. All that's known today is that Cleveland will, if the front office likes Manziel, need some help from at least three other clubs in order to land Manziel.

Not for nothing, Browns, but the Giants ended up not missing those draft picks they traded to San Diego back in '04.

For more: Manziel another Drew Brees, Browns snub Tressel, Manziel declares, Trade up for Manziel, Terrible 2013 Cleveland draft class

Zac has been following Cleveland sports since a little before his birth, and thus his heart breaks a little more with every year. He has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the NFL for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.

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