Would it be an offseason without national media members weighing in on the Browns' futility?
ESPN's Chris Mortensen became the latest expert to express his views on Johnny Manziel, Ray Farmer, and Textgate in a guest appearance on ESPN's Mike & Mike radio show on Tuesday.
Mortensen took a fairly pessimistic stance on the current state of affairs in Berea. According to the ESPN reporter, the Browns have largely moved on from Manziel, Farmer's reputation is damaged, and the first four weeks of the season could be treacherous without a general manager at the helm.
Several other prominent members of the media (looking at you, JLC) have dished out criticism of the Browns in the past year, but Mortensen's words carry considerable weight.
Mortensen began the Browns segment by talking about the club's commitment to Manziel:
"I think about 90 percent that they have moved on [from Manziel] in their own minds except that they really don't know who they're going to get when Johnny leaves rehab, which has been an extended stay — a two-month stay. He should be getting out sometime in the first week of April if they're satisfied that he's ready to go out and get into society and that whatever deep-rooted problems that he had has been addressed. OK, now he's part of your depth chart. You have Josh McCown."
The ESPN NFL Insider then delved into the Browns' fascination with Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford.
"Yes, the Browns were the team, with the second first round pick, 19th pick, that talked to the Rams about that pick in trying to acquire Sam Bradford. But there was no quarterback they could send to St. Louis in return. Nick Foles was the obvious one and Bradford is somebody that the Eagles and [head coach] Chip Kelly have Mark Sanchez as a placeholder until Sam Bradford is healthy, and so I don't think Bradford is going to be available. They would like him to sign an extension, something he wouldn't have done had he gone to Cleveland. So I don't see why Cleveland could sit there and give up a first-round draft pick for somebody who's not inclined to sign an extension. All of these things are in discussion. If we were sitting around the living room, we'd be kicking all this stuff around."
Mortensen ended his view on the Browns' quarterback situation with this interesting nugget of information:
"The bottom line is that Johnny Manziel's future with the Browns has been in question. When they were putting together half of a new offensive staff, Manziel's name barely even came up in conversation."
If Mortensen's reporting is correct, this is a telling piece of intel. If the Browns have written off Manziel as a quarterback, how far will they go to acquire one in the upcoming NFL Draft?
Speaking of the draft, Mortensen explained the NFL's decision not to take away picks from the Browns for Textgate.
Some NFL teams are reportedly frustrated that the Browns didn't receive a stiffer punishment. However, in Mortensen's eyes, the punishment was just right.
"I don't think it was lighter. [With] Ray Farmer's reputation, forever, when people look up Ray Farmer, they're going to see that he was suspended for four games ... People will say 'It's during the time when they don't do much.' In September, well, we don't know who their starting quarterback will be, what if they lose their staring quarterback? What if they lose their left tackle, Joe Thomas? What if you lose a couple of other players? You always have something that comes up that involves the general manager. Now, they're fortunate that Bill Kuharich and Ron Hill both have been in that seat before, that they can work through that. But, to me, Ray Farmer loses a month's pay, he has his reputation stained, probably forever. His text messages that went to a coach or two in the booth were deemed not to be a competitive matter, kind of like you would say, 'Why aren't we throwing deep?' Shouldn't we be playing #2?' ... I don't think it merited anything greater than this."
Mortensen brings up a valid point. An NFL general manager is less active in September, but Farmer might miss out on critical decisions during his suspensions. Also, Farmer's reputation is forever damaged. However, Farmer's image can certainly be repaired if the Browns win under his watch.
As a whole, Mortensen's words are a bit sobering. Manziel's opportunity might have already passed him by, and Farmer's transgressions might cost the team more than just $250,000.
What will the future bring for these troubled men? Only time will tell, but the upcoming NFL Draft will certainly lend some clues.