Johnny Manziel’s future unclear as new NFL year begins

Posted at 8:03 AM, Mar 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-09 08:03:28-05

Has quarterback Johnny Manziel worn out his welcome in Cleveland? The answer could be revealed Wednesday.

The 2016 NFL calendar year and free agency period begins at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, which means that all 2015 player contracts expire at that same time. The Cleveland Browns could announce then whether they’re cutting the troubled Manziel.

Manziel’s two years in the NFL have been nothing short of turbulent, and his latest legal situation may be the final straw. In the most recent accusation, Manziel’s former girlfriend Colleen Crowley said in an affidavit that the NFL quarterback restrained, hit and threatened her on January 30. She accused Manziel of grabbing her by the hair and hitting her ear, causing her to lose her hearing.

Manziel has denied hitting Crowley. Dallas police have referred Manziel’s case to the district attorney as a misdemeanor assault/domestic violence allegation. In a February 25 statement on its blog, police said its investigation is complete and it won’t comment while District Attorney Susan Hawk prepares the case for a grand jury.

“I think his future on our team will be addressed here pretty soon,” Browns head coach Hue Jackson said February 24 at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. “But let me say this. I think it’s really important that obviously there (were) some people involved in this situation that happened, and I feel very bad about those things, as they do happen.

“But I want to make sure we all understand that that behavior will not be tolerated as we move forward. And that’s all I want to say about it. I want to leave it at that. Our organization is going to take a stand, and we’re going to move on from those kind of situations as we move forward.”

The Browns have cleaned house in their front office. Paul DePodesta is now the team’s chief strategy officer. For those familiar with the book and movie “Moneyball,” he was a big name in the baseball world for his work with the Oakland A’s, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and New York Mets. Meanwhile, Jackson replaced the fired Mike Pettine as head coach.

But the name to watch for is Sashi Brown, who was promoted to executive vice president of football operations after general manager Ray Farmer’s firing. The final roster decisions are in Brown’s hands.

“We’ve been clear about expectations for our players on and off the field,” Brown said in a statement February 2. “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.”

Crowley’s allegation in Dallas is the latest in a string of unfavorable situations involving Manziel.

In February 2015, Brad Beckworth, a friend and adviser to Manziel and his family, said in a statement that the quarterback had entered a treatment facility the previous month. Manziel was at Caron, an alcohol and drug treatment facility in Pennsylvania.

“I owe private apologies to a lot of people that I disappointed but a very public one to the Browns organization and the fans that I let down,” Manziel said in a statement April 17 after leaving rehab. “I take full responsibility for my actions and it’s my intention to work very hard to regain everyone’s trust and respect.”

On October 12, dashcam video showed a police officer pulling up to Manziel and Crowley, who were parked on the side of the road, telling them of “numerous calls” about their speeding BMW. Crowley told police that Manziel hit her several times to prevent her from leaving the car. However, she downplayed the incident. “I don’t want to make a big deal,” she said in the video. No charges were filed.

On January 2, according to CNN affiliate WOIO-TV, North Olmsted, Ohio, police cited Manziel over driving with expired license plates. They had expired September 20. Manziel was driving the same car when police questioned him on the side of the road in October, the TV station said.

Manziel missed the Browns game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 3. According to an ESPN Las Vegas report, he was in Las Vegas that weekend in disguise and identified himself as “Billy.”

Manziel entered the national spotlight as a redshirt freshman at Texas A&M, leading the Aggies to a 29-24 upset win against No. 1 Alabama in November 2012. The next month he made history as the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, college football’s most prestigious award.

Last season, Manziel appeared in nine games for the Browns, starting six. He threw for 1,500 yards and seven touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 230 yards.