Fresh off his appearance at Saturday's Final Four, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel is flying to Oakland to spend tonight and Monday with Raiders— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 6, 2014
The black jersey Manziel wore during his touted pro day won't foreshadow what's to come, though, because Oakland's aggressive offseason has been geared toward immediate winning in 2014.
That's not to say Manziel won't be an instant success in the pros, but the deck would be stacked against him with the Raiders, who will likely clean house if they don't make the playoffs this coming season.
Manziel has the potential to be a franchise-changing signal-caller, but the Raiders are no longer a fit. Actions speak louder than words, so ignore any smokescreen tactics exacted by the front office leading up to May 8.
Sure, Oakland has the No. 5 overall pick in the draft and should land an excellent player. It just won't be Johnny Football.
Trading for Matt Schaub should extinguish the possibility that the Raiders select a quarterback at the top of the draft. There's a chance that Manziel won't even last until the fifth slot in the order as it is. That is what CBSSports.com draft expert Dane Brugler believes:
Barring any trades, I still think Bortles goes No. 1 to Houston and then Manziel is off the board at 3 (JAX) or 4 (CLE) FWIW— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) April 1, 2014
Sacrificing assets to trade up for Manziel with so many good players on the board could spell the end for general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen.
Schaub had a down season in 2013 but he's led the NFL in passing rating for a season. All of his preceding years as a starter were rather successful; his career passer rating is 89.8.
McKenzie has expressed confidence that Schaub wouldn't be a stopgap solution at the most important position, per Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle:
The guy can play...He had some really good years in Houston, took them to the playoffs. The guy can throw the ball. You just look at the tape and you see the talent...He had some good plays last year. Take away some of the bad throws, and he looked all right. Things just didn't go right with that whole team...We're not looking for stopgaps.
A veteran presence is needed under center as Oakland seeks to compete in a tough AFC West division. All three other teams played in the most recent postseason, while the Raiders weren't even close.
The Raiders have landed a ton of seasoned pros in free agency to rebuild a tattered offensive line, added playmakers for Schaub in Maurice Jones-Drew and James Jones and bolstered the defense with the likes of Lamarr Woodley, Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown (h/t Raiders.com).
There's a chance that Manziel would shine as a Raider and eventually be the long-term answer. But given how deep this draft is purported to be, it would make little sense for the franchise's immediate future—which is most important to ensure the current regime stays in power—to take a flier on Manziel so early.
Manziel comes with risk between his often reckless playing style and being a fixture in the spotlight away from the gridiron. He also may become the biggest star the NFL has ever seen.
So then what would be the purpose of this pre-draft visit, if Oakland is indeed not going to try in earnest to acquire him? Look no further than the previous stop on what promises to be an extensive list of trips for Manziel before the first round begins.
The New England Patriots brought in both Manziel and Louisville product Teddy Bridgewater for visits. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport provided his quick take on the situation:
Fascinating day in New England. Both Johnny Manziel AND Teddy Bridgewater taking pre-draft visits to #Patriots. Never boring with Belichick— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 2, 2014
Head coach Bill Belichick is known for doing things a bit differently. Hard to argue with the man, because New England is the model organization that the other 31 teams should strive to emulate in at least some fashion.
Imagine if the Raiders and McKenzie took note of this, then moved fast to bring Manziel in for a talk. Accusing them of catering to the "copycat league" hypothesis would be silly—also kind of funny, what with that whole Spygate saga in Foxboro.
Whether it was to scout him as a future opponent or to really see if they'd be blown away enough to draft him at No. 5, Manziel is a prospect that Oakland, anyone really, would look silly not to bring in—if only just for a look.
Which team at the top of the draft is the best fit for Johnny Manziel?
And that's all it should be with the Raiders and Manziel: A mere preview of what to expect as Johnny Football makes the leap to the league. Perhaps they can convince the general public that they're considering him, prompting a QB-needy team to trade up.
This two-day visit should just be a thorough gauge in which the Raiders brass gets a firm grasp on who Manziel is. If the Raiders miss Manziel, he succeeds elsewhere and Schaub flops, at least they will have done their homework and not strayed from their win-now philosophy.
Here's the big kicker, and I don't mean Sebastian Janikowski: Maybe Oakland loves Manziel enough to think he can win now. If he blows the front office away, the Raiders could go in a totally different direction, having Schaub mentor Manziel as Johnny Football seeks to be the savior for the Silver and Black.
A serious shakeup is necessary for this storied franchise—in both its critical 2014 campaign and its culture for the long haul. Some would argue Manziel will bust and not be a fit no matter with which team he lands. Others may say he's malleable with a ton of upside and can be coached up to succeed in any offense with his lively arm and swift feet.
The bottom line is that Manziel will be one of the most fascinating character studies in NFL history. Any team that may have a chance to draft him and pass had better study up before the draft, because Manziel could be a once-in-a-generation star on and off the gridiron.