The Cleveland Browns got their man.
For the longest time, many assumed the Browns would select former Texas A&M quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel with the No. 4 pick. Instead, Cleveland moved around through trades with the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings, eventually settling at No. 8 and selecting cornerback Justin Gilbert. It was a shock at the time, but clearly the team had a larger plan in mind.
When the Browns moved up to No. 22 from No. 26 after a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, everybody could see the writing on the wall:
Manziel is now a Cleveland Brown:
Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis rolled out the red carpet:
Johnny Football time in the 216!!!— Jason Kipnis (@TheJK_Kid) May 9, 2014
Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus pointed out that Cleveland essentially parlayed the Trent Richardson trade into Manziel. That trade looks more and more one-sided by the minute:
Johnny Football for Trent Richardson— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) May 9, 2014
ESPN gave fans a preview of what Manziel will look like in a Browns uniform:
After the Browns drafted him, Manziel told NFL Network that he'll do whatever it takes to make Cleveland a winning franchise again, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport:
Rapoport reported that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was very high on the former Aggies star, but the team's front office convinced him it wouldn't be a smart selection at No. 4. Now, the Browns still get Manziel at a much more favorable position.
Owner Jimmy Haslam made no secret of his love for Johnny Manziel. Scouts convinced him it couldn’t be at No. 4. So it’s 22.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 9, 2014
Although Cleveland arguably got a massive steal, Manziel's slip cost him roughly $1.5 million, according to Spotrac:
Johnny Manziel will receive a $8,247,250 contract, $4,318,000 signing bonus, $1,499,500 2014 cap hit w/ the #Browns— Spotrac (@spotrac) May 9, 2014
The No. 22 pick has become a bit of a poisoned chalice for the Browns, though, as their last two quarterbacks drafted there have been disasters, per Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders:
Browns took Brady Quinn 22nd overall, Brandon Weeden 22nd overall, and now can it be Johnny Football at 22nd overall? Cursed Browns. #FOAud— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) May 9, 2014
Browns fans have seen enough false dawns to last two lifetimes. They haven't had a winning season since 2007 and have two winning campaigns since the franchise returned in 1999. But there should be a genuine sense of optimism in Cleveland right now. The team grabbed arguably the best cornerback in the draft in Justin Gilbert and followed it up by drafting Manziel.
For a franchise whose fanbase has always been left saying, "Wait till next year," next year can't come soon enough.