ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday that the Browns were hard at work in attempting to sign Hoyer to a long-term contract extension:
Browns are trying to sign QB Brian Hoyer to a contract extension, per sources. Hoyer is headed into last year of his deal.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 30, 2014
Hoyer, 28, will make a base salary of $1 million next season. He is entering the final season of a two-year contract he signed with Cleveland last May.
A backup in previous stints with the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals, Hoyer acquitted himself well when thrust into the starting lineup last year. He threw for 615 yards and five touchdowns against three interceptions in just three starts, entrenching himself in the lineup before a torn ACL cut his ascent short.
The Browns then traded up to the No. 22 overall pick to select Manziel, the former Texas A&M star who comes with nearly as much fanfare as on-field accomplishments. Manziel is viewed by the organization as the future, but the coaching staff and front office have done their best to pump the brakes on the hype.
Head coach Mike Pettine, in his first year after taking over for Rob Chudzinski, has said Hoyer will enter training camp as the Browns' starting quarterback, though Manziel will be given the opportunity to compete.
"Brian is securely ahead of him right now. But we will compete, and we'll decide," Pettine said earlier this month, per Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today. "The issue for us as a staff will be finding the right time to name a starter. If you wait too late, then no one is ready for the opener. If you do it too soon, was it a true competition?"
From a Browns perspective, locking Hoyer up now is a logical step. Even if Manziel takes over the starting job at some point in 2014, Hoyer is a capable backup who proved last season he can step into the starting lineup in case of injury.
The prospect of Hoyer's representation getting their client guaranteed money—even at a backup quarterback rate—might be appealing given his injury history and relative lack of experience. It is not too often organizations attempt to lock up a player who has only three games of experience with said franchise, and certainly not ones who are coming off reconstructive knee surgery.
Hoyer and his team will also have to weigh cost versus benefit. An incentive-laden deal might be appealing, but every logical scenario leaves him with a below-market contract.
The Browns understandably aren't willing to break the bank here. The internal hope would be Hoyer wildly outplaying his contract price and then becoming an asset that can be flipped for draft picks or help at a need position. Cleveland is looking for a low-cost, high-reward situation.
According to Hoyer's agent, via Marc Sessler citing Ian Rapoport, it won't be an easy deal to make:
Rapoport spoke with Hoyer's agent, Joe Linta, who confirmed that while discussions have taken place, "it will be a very difficult deal to do. We're always open to talking with the Browns, but we're content to wait and see what happens down the road."
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Hoyer has to decide whether such a deal is best for him or if he's willing to take a bet on his talent. Though better than other quarterbacks Cleveland had on the depth chart last season, he still largely graded as replacement level.
Football Outsiders' DVOA metric ranked him 28th among the 45 quarterbacks who attempted a minimum of 100 passes. Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) quarterback ratings system had him below the likes of Matt Flynn and Case Keenum. With the massive external pressure to play Manziel that's assuredly coming, Hoyer cannot be mediocre and still keep his job.
A benching would instantly put him back in the same situation he was in when he arrived in Cleveland—a journeyman backup just looking for any job. If Hoyer thinks there is a good chance he'll be able to win and keep the job, signing a deal evaporates his earning potential. If he sees Manziel in the rearview mirror, locking up guaranteed money while he can may be the way to go.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.