When Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer was first asked about the report that Hoyer won’t re-sign in Cleveland while Johnny Manziel remains on the roster, Hoyer’s response reasonably could have been interpreted as a non-denial.
“Well, I don’t know who got that report, but that’s something that I have an agent to handle,” Hoyer told reporters. “Right now, I’m focused on Jacksonville.”
Asked at the time whether he’ll sign for the long haul if Manziel remains in Cleveland, Hoyer again didn’t say enough to make it clear that the report should get no credence.
“This is where I want to be, but I also am a competitor,” Hoyer said. “I want to be somewhere where I’m playing.”
In other words (possibly), “Yes, if there’s any chance I won’t be playing because there’s a first-round pick behind me, I’d rather go to a place where I know I’ll be playing.”
On Wednesday, Hoyer addressed the report again as an opening statement to his midweek press conference. Possibly/probably/likely because someone realized that Hoyer wasn’t sufficiently unequivocal the first time around.
“First of all I want to address what we talked about the other day, but after Jeff [Schudel] mentioned the report, I wanted to see it for myself,” Hoyer said. “It couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s no accurate information. I’ve never talked to that guy in my life. From here on out, my main focus is Jacksonville. If you guys want to talk about that, you can talk to the guys upstairs or my agent Joe Linta, who I think some of you know. From here on out I’m on to Jacksonville.”
It’s possible that Jason Cole’s report isn’t accurate because that really wasn’t his report; the headline applied to the report overstates its substance. Cole’s comments on the Hoyer-or-Manziel issue arises from the observations made in many other places (including here) regarding whether Hoyer will re-sign with the Browns. Due to be a free agent after the season, Hoyer has told PFT Live that, despite his desire to stay in Cleveland, he’d rather be a starter somewhere else than a backup with the Browns.
Here’s the crux of Cole’s report: “They may even be forced to have to franchise [Hoyer] for the 2015 season as they try and work this out and then, if Hoyer really is the guy, they’re gonna have to get rid of Johnny Manziel somehow, some way and make it clear to everybody that Hoyer is the quarterback that they’re gonna go with for the foreseeable future. Now there’s a lot to play out between now and then. But one way or the other, if Hoyer’s gonna stay, Manziel has to eventually go. When that is is an interesting question.”
Cole isn’t reporting that Hoyer will be making a me-or-Manziel ultimatum. Instead, Cole is speculating on how the dominoes may fall. In the unlikely event that the Browns apply the north-of-$17-million franchise tag to Hoyer, it’ll be clear that he’s the guy for 2015. And if Hoyer and agent Joe Linta in turn use the 2015 guaranteed salary under the franchise tag as the starting point for a long-term deal, the magnitude of any eventual long-term deal necessarily would make Hoyer the guy, at least for the next two or three years.
At one point in his report, Cole says that Hoyer will want to play for a team that both pays him and makes it clear he’s the guy. But there’s a natural overlap between those two conditions. If the Browns pay Hoyer enough, it’ll be clear that he’s the guy. Which will mean Hoyer won’t need the added assurance of Manziel being traded in order to know that Hoyer will be the quarterback of the Browns.
To summarize: Yes, the Browns eventually have to decide whether they want Hoyer to be the starter for 2015 and beyond. Yes, if the choice is Hoyer, the Browns eventually will have to give Hoyer the kind of contract that by its very terms will make it clear that he’s the guy.
The sooner the Browns decide to make Hoyer the starter beyond 2015, the cheaper it will be to lock him up. As a guy who’s never gotten a huge payday, he’ll be far more likely than most veteran quarterbacks to pounce on an opportunity to shift the injury risk back to the team — especially since Hoyer is barely one year removed from a torn ACL.
Of course, the less money that goes to Hoyer, the easier it will be to keep Manziel. For Hoyer to force the Browns to trade Manziel, Hoyer will need to decline any offers the Browns may make and to remain healthy and effective for the next 11 regular-season games plus any playoff games for which the Browns qualify.
At that point, Hoyer will have the leverage to force the Browns to pay so much to keep him that they’ll have no choice but to call Cowboys owner Jerry Jones or Bills owner Terry Pegula or Dolphins owner Stephen Ross or Titans owner Tommy Smith or Texans owner Bob McNair or Raiders owner Mark Davis or Washington owner Daniel Snyder or Rams owner Stan Kroenke in an effort to move Manziel.