By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
The Morning Kickoff …
Big stakes: There’s so much at stake in the Browns’ quarterback competition this summer.
The 2014 Browns’ season, of course. The beginning of the Mike Pettine era, is another. How about the early development of Johnny Manziel? Does his career begin on the bench or on the field?
And then there’s the future of Brian Hoyer.
Hoyer is fighting two battles this summer. One is his own recovery from ACL surgery in October. The other is the competition against Manziel.
If Manziel starts the 2014 season on the bench, so what? Most rookie quarterbacks do. His time will come.
If Hoyer starts the 2014 season on the bench, it further complicates his future. He is 28 and has never had this opportunity in his four previous NFL seasons. It’s his job to lose. And his contract is up after this year.
Is Hoyer a backup? Is he a starter? Is he the Browns’ starter for one game, for three games or eight? Or for 16? And then what about after that?
How long would the Browns be willing to wait to play Manziel?
“If Brian starts the first game, is the leash going to be shorter than with somebody else? Yeah, it probably will be. He understands that,” said Hoyer’s agent, Joe Linta.
“The truth of the matter is Brian isn’t worried about it. It will sort itself out. If Manziel is better, he’ll relinquish the position. Brian is very respectful of the coaches. He knows they want to win and whoever gives them the best chance to win will play.
“I think the way it’s going to go, Brian’s going to have the first at bat and the leash will be short.”
The waiting game: Hoyer is entering the final year of a two-year contract. He earned a $250,000 roster bonus on March 15. His 2014 base salary is a relatively modest $1 million. That’s pocket change for a starting quarterback. He can earn another $1.15 million in incentives.
Linta said Hoyer wants to be with the Browns, his hometown team, a long time. If you’re the Browns, you want the same thing. But how does anyone calculate Hoyer’s contract value at this time?
The Browns and Linta have not talked about a new contract.
“Nothing of substance,” Linta said.
“It’s too hard of a deal to do. I think (Browns GM) Ray Farmer realizes it’s too hard of a deal to do, too. The best thing for both sides is let the water seeks its own level.
“I can do a deal much better in September than I can do now. I can do a better deal in January.”
Linta is also the agent for Joe Flacco, who walked away from an $80 million contract offer from the Baltimore Ravens in 2011 and gambled on having a big season in 2012. He did, steering the Ravens to the Super Bowl championship and winning the game’s MVP Award. The Ravens then forked over $120.6 million over six years in a new deal.
Linta and Hoyer are taking the same wait-and-see approach to his next contract.
“Brian’s value will be much more easily determined in January,” Linta said.
This or that: Hoyer got his career break in the third game last year after Brandon Weeden suffered a sprained thumb. Taking over an 0-2 team further deflated by the stunning trade of running back Trent Richardson, Hoyer won his first start in Minnesota, and his second start against Cincinnati. Then he suffered an ACL tear in his third start against Buffalo in the first quarter of another win.
“Brian’s knee injury caused many people to lose their jobs,” Linta said. “I think he would have won half their games of what they had left. And that would have made them, what, 8-8. I sensed the thing was coming together.
“The problem (of a new contract) is three games gives you one value, but three good games and an ACL changes it. I think he’s a quality starter, but he’s got to do it (over time).”
There is so much that can happen to affect Hoyer’s future.
He can start the season with the job, keep it and run with it, perhaps take the Browns to nine or 10 wins, or more. What do the Browns do then?
Hoyer can start the season with the job, and then lose it because of performance or injury. What do the Browns do then?
What if Hoyer puts a few more good games on tape before the Browns hand the job to Manziel? Will they be enough for Hoyer to command starting offers from other teams in free agency? Of would Hoyer seek other opportunities merely to escape the shadow of Manziel?
“Brian definitely wants to stay in Cleveland,” Linta said.
“I think if it’s backup to backup, I think he would (want to stay). If you’re comparing apples to apples, it’s always Cleveland. If it’s backup in Cleveland vs. starter somewhere else, I’m sure he’d like to start.”
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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