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Browns release Johnny Manziel after 2 tumultuous seasons

Cleveland used a first-round pick on the Heisman-winning quarterback in 2014, but has decided to part ways with Manziel.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cleveland Browns selected Johnny Manziel with the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, there were questions about whether he would be able to curtail his off-field behavior in order to be a successful quarterback at the professional level. Less than two years later, Manziel's turbulent time in Cleveland is over, the team announced.

The Browns released Manziel on Friday, just a couple days after the start of the new league year, largely due to his antics away from the football field. Manziel cleared waivers on Saturday, officially making him a free agent. His two seasons in Cleveland were littered with headlines about legal troubles and his proclivity for excessive partying, even after a voluntary rehab stint last year.

Trouble started immediately

Manziel's rookie year was a train wreck, with one anonymous teammate going as far as to call it a "100 percent joke." The drama came to an apex during the final week of the season, when Manziel missed treatment for a hamstring injury. Manziel reportedly threw a party the night before and didn't respond to any phone calls from anyone affiliated with the Browns organization. The Browns eventually had to send security personnel over to Manziel's house to look for him.

On the field, Manziel's performance was dreadful, as well. He only appeared in five games -- including two starts -- and completed 51.8 percent of his passes while throwing two picks without a touchdown. His QB rating was a dismal 42.

A rehab stint followed by more instability

Manziel checked himself into a rehab facility shortly after the end of last season for undisclosed reasons. But that wasn't the end of the warning signs. In many respects, it was only the beginning.

In October, police pulled Manziel over after several motorists said they saw him arguing with his girlfriend, Colleen Elizabeth Crowley, on the side of the road. Witnesses told law enforcement Crowley attempted to leave the vehicle while it was still in motion. No arrests were made during the incident, though Manziel told the cops he had a couple of drinks earlier in the day.

Despite that, the Browns announced on Nov. 17 that Manziel would be the starter for the duration of the season. But that lasted all of nine days, because the Browns demoted Manziel to third-string for lying to the coaching staff about a video that surfaced of him partying and drinking. Manziel said the video, which showed him holding a bottle of champagne, was much older than it actually was.

But that may not have even been the most bizarre story involving Manziel this season. The night before the Browns' last game of the year, he was spotted playing blackjack at a casino in Las Vegas. He also missed a mandatory meeting with team doctors while he was in concussion protocol, which prompted MMQB's Peter King to report the Browns were "so done" with him. New head coach Hue Jackson supposedly shared those feelings, as he reportedly told owner Jimmy Haslam he doesn't want to stake his reputation on Manziel's unreliability.

Perhaps the final straw for Manziel in Cleveland occurred on Jan. 30, when police were called to his residence due to a domestic disturbance involving Crowley. The Fort Worth Police Department issued a press release following the incident, where they confirmed they were called to the scene of a "possible assault that occurred in that jurisdiction or multiple jurisdictions."

The Dallas Police Department referred this case to a prosecutor for presentation to a grand jury, and the grand jury will determine whether to formally charge Manziel with a crime. An affidavit provided by Crowley stated that Manziel had said he would "kill us both." Following the incident, Manziel was dropped by his agent. Manziel's father said that week that he fears his son won't live to see his next birthday if he doesn't get professional help.

What's next for Manziel?

Any team that considers picking up Manziel this offseason will have to be cognizant of any legal trouble that might follow his possible domestic assault. But the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner's talent may grant him another shot. Manziel's performance on the field actually improved in 2015, as he posted a 79.4 QB rating in 10 games -- a 37.4 point increase over his rookie campaign. Manziel's best performance came in Week 10 against the Steelers, when he threw for 372 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort.

One potential landing spot is the Dallas Cowboys, whose owner, Jerry Jones, reportedly wanted to pick Manziel in the draft two years ago. Former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said in late January he expects either Manziel or Robert Griffin III to join the team as a backup quarterback next season.

Even if Manziel finds a team willing to give him a second chance, he's still under investigation from the NFL and could face a suspension for violating the personal conduct policy.

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