Media reports surfaced on Thursday that Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak has spoken with quarterback Johnny Manziel about a potential fit on the roster.
Sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter that the team has considered the free agent quarterback as an option for next season, though cautioned that they wouldn't make a move before seeing how his legal issues play out and knowing the extent of any NFL-mandated discipline. If Denver signed Manziel, the former Browns signal caller would have to undergo mandatory counseling sessions and possibly spend additional time at a rehab clinic, according to the report.
Kubiak and Manziel are both Texas A&M alums and have a relationship through that connection. The Broncos coach reached out to Manziel after his release from Cleveland a month ago, yet there is no indication that the two have spoken since then, per Mike Klis of 9News.
In fact, Klis, along with other league insiders, has reported that the Broncos have no plans to sign Manziel to a contract and have not even discussed adding him. The extent of the rumors is that Kubiak did talk to Manziel in early March but haven't had any further conversations with either team officials or the quarterback's camp.
Speaking Thursday at a Boy Scouts of America conference in Denver, Kubiak said that the Broncos are focused on the two quarterbacks on their roster, Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian. However, he did indicate that he'd like a couple more bodies in camp to foster competition at the position.
The Broncos have hosted several quarterback prospects ahead of this month's draft, and also have had trade discussions with the 49ers about Colin Kaepernick. While Kaepernick is open to a trade and the Broncos have shown interest, the two sides haven't been able to agree on the structure of a long-term contract.
Kaepernick is guaranteed $11.9 million in base salary this season (and an additional $2.4 million in incentives), but the Broncos reportedly want to reduce his salary to $7 million in 2016 and 2017. So far, he hasn't been willing to take that drastic of a pay cut in order to join the Broncos.
Manziel was released by the Browns after a long history of excessive partying and off-field incidents, the latest being a grand jury investigation into potential domestic assault allegations by his ex-girlfriend. He has since been living in Los Angeles and seems to be really enjoying the West Coast nightlife.
In March he signed with high-profile agent Drew Rosenhaus, who has been trying to drum up interest in his new client. Manziel's legal situation, however, remains a huge obstacle. Even if he isn't charged, the league is expected to punish him for violation the personal conduct policy and a suspension is likely.
Why it makes sense for the Broncos to sign Manziel
Based on their interest in Kaepernick and the fact that they are expected to take a long look at quarterbacks during the draft, it is clear that the Broncos want to add depth at the position. Sanchez has a career completion percentage of 56.7, and since his debut in 2009, his passer rating of 74.3 ranks last among the 28 quarterbacks with at least 1,500 attempts in that span. Siemian has played one offensive snap in the regular season.
If Manziel can get his life back in order, he would seem to be a viable option to compete for a job. The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner showed substantial improvement in his second pro season. His passer rating jumped nearly 40 points (42.0 to 79.4), while he also increased his yards per attempt (5.0 to 6.7) and completion rate (51.4 to 57.8 percent). He is certainly not a finished product on the field, but likely has the potential to be a capable NFL starter.
Manziel would also have the support of at least one teammate. Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, a fellow Aggie, has publicly advocated for the Broncos to sign Manziel. In an interview with GQ Magazine, he said that Manziel still has the desire to be great and that they're going to work out together soon. So perhaps Miller could keep Manziel on the straight-and-narrow path and be a positive mentor for him in Denver.
Why it doesn't make sense for the Broncos to sign Manziel
With a suspension likely and a ton of work to do to show teams that he's a reformed citizen, Manziel would appear to be a longshot to join an NFL roster anytime soon. Despite his talent and upside, he would probably cause more distractions in camp than whatever positive football skills he can bring to the team.
Manziel would also obviously bring significant off-field baggage, and even if he can somewhat clean up his image, there are still going be lingering concerns about him reverting to his old bad habits. And that doesn't even considered the potential backlash the team could receive from fans and the community in response to them signing a player with such a long history of troubling behavior and legal problems.
The Broncos might be desperate for an upgrade at quarterback, but the defending champs aren't that desperate right now that they would sign such a high-risk guy like Manziel.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio have also declared that the Broncos have no intention of signing the free agent quarterback. That's enough inside information to convince us that this is small rumor that has been blown way out of proportion.