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Johnny Manziel’s decision to travel to Las Vegas during the final weekend of the 2015 season was a “childish, immature decision,” Manziel said on the ThomaHawk Podcast with former Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins and Browns left tackle Joe Thomas.

“This decision that I made, what a complete lack of respect for guys like Joe T,” Manziel said on the podcast released Wednesday. “What a complete lack of respect for an organization that was trying to stick by me. … What just a completely selfish decision.”

The interview continued Manziel’s efforts to revive his football career. He will play in a spring league in Austin, Texas, and has said therapy and treatment for mental health issues have helped him gain sobriety as well as mental focus.

Hawkins said on the podcast that Manziel texted him and a few other then-teammates about a year ago to apologize for his behavior and lack of professionalism in Cleveland.

“I look back at it now and I’m like, damn, I wasted a little bit of Joe T’s career in Cleveland,” Manziel said.

The Las Vegas trip took place the weekend of Jan. 2-3, 2016, as the Browns were playing the season finale against Pittsburgh. Manziel admitted flying to Vegas the day before the game after a walkthrough, and detailed buying the blond wig to hide his identity.

He said he had planned to take a red eye to be back in time for his concussion treatment Sunday morning, but missed the flight and instead stayed out until early in the morning Vegas time.

Manziel called it a “reckless, reckless plan.”

He said he made the trip because he had three or four friends in Cleveland from Texas “who were in party mode,” and he was having problems at home.

“One of those problems led me to Vegas,” he said. “I felt like I couldn’t solidify or try and fix my home life without going out there.”

Manziel did not detail the exact problem.

On Monday before the trip, Manziel said his friends had arrived and the group spent the night drinking and shooting pool at his home in suburban Cleveland. Manziel arrived Tuesday morning at an offensive line meeting and said the concussion from the previous game (a loss to Kansas City) or the drinking the night before led him to leave the meeting after 15 seconds.

The team trainers and doctors diagnosed the concussion, and placed him in the NFL protocol.

On Saturday, he boarded a noon commercial flight for Vegas, wearing a hood, a hat and sunglasses to hide his identity. When he got to Vegas, he said the blackjack and crap tables “were calling me.”

As he gambled, a Vegas employee checked his ID and looked at the TV and saw Manziel’s name on screen, Manziel said. When a baseball reporter recognized him, “I’m in street damage mode,” Manziel said.

That’s when he decided to get what he called was a “blondish brown, like, mullet” wig. He bought it at a “very, very sketchy” shop off the strip.

“I was like, I need something that makes me not look like this,” Manziel said. “Do you have a mustache? A wig? Do you have anything?”

He wore the wig to Hakkasan, where to him and his friends it was “all fun and games.” The group stayed out until the 3 or 4 a.m. Vegas time, which Manziel pointed out was one hour before he was supposed to be in Cleveland for mandatory treatment for his concussion.

“I just turn my phone off and throw it in the drawer, and I’m like, ‘All right, we’ll figure it out when I wake up,'” Manziel said.

When he turned his phone on Sunday afternoon, he was greeted with a slew of texts and emails.

Manziel said word got out when someone who saw him at Hakkasan relayed the story to the media — where he was, what he ate, what and how much they were drinking. ESPN 1100 Las Vegas, an affiliate radio station in the city, reported at the time that Manziel had the wig and was introducing himself as Billy.

Manziel said on the podcast that he didn’t know about the Billy Manziel phenomenon until he got back to Cleveland and a T-shirt company started selling shirts with a drawing of him in a blond wig and the name Billy Manziel on the shirt.

“After that, crazily enough. I still go back to Cleveland,” said Manziel, who said he has a photo of himself with the wig on his phone. “I sit down with [owner] Jimmy [Haslam] and I sit down with [former VP] Sashi [Brown] and I explain it to them. I explain where I’m at mentally. I explained what was going on in my home life. Just really like was open and honest with them about everything.

“And then I think they were still going to stick with me through it. I think it had rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. But at the end of the day, the people who were making the decisions, I feel like looking back at our conversations, they still had faith that if I could get my head right and get where I needed to be mentally that I still had potential and a future there.”

That changed, Manziel said, when Hue Jackson was hired as coach.

Manziel was released in March of 2016, after a tumultuous offseason that Manziel described as “self-sabotage mode.”

“There’s no hard feelings there,” Manziel said of the Browns releasing him.

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New York Giants’ Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 after opting out last season



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 as long as the situation is right, he told ESPN in a phone conversation this week.

Solder, who opted out this past season because of concerns for his family with COVID-19, has yet to have that conversation with the team about his future. He was considered a high-risk opt-out and his contract tolled.

He is scheduled to make $10 million in 2021 while costing $16.5 million against the salary cap this upcoming season.

The Giants haven’t been in a rush to make any moves with the new league year still almost three weeks away. Like everybody else, they’re waiting to see the official salary cap number for the 2021 season. Then they’re expected to meet with the veteran tackle.

Solder, 32, was the Giants’ starting left tackle in 2018 and ’19 after signing a lucrative free-agent contract. He had spent the previous seven years of his career with the New England Patriots, where he won a pair of Super Bowls.

The decision to opt out last season centered around Solder’s family. His oldest son Hudson has battled cancer. So has Nate. Solder and his wife Lexi also had a newborn.

Solder had said late last year on the Sports Spectrum podcast with former NFL quarterback Brock Huard that if he had another opportunity to play, he would probably take it. He also noted that he was still working out, but hadn’t prioritized his conditioning and weight lifting like he would during a normal football season.

The Giants now have a decision to make if they are going to move forward with Solder. They would save $6 million this season against the salary cap if he’s released, and $10 million if they made it a post-June 1 cut.

New York drafted a pair of tackles in last year’s draft, including Andrew Thomas with the No. 4 overall pick out of Georgia. Thomas started at left tackle and, despite early struggles, got better as the season progressed.

Third-round pick Matt Peart is expected to compete for the starting right tackle spot this year. Cameron Fleming, who started last season, is a free agent.

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From Curtis Samuel to draft, Washington has options to add speed at WR – Washington Blog



ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Football Team needs to settle who will throw the ball for it this season. However, while quarterback remains the hottest topic, the group he will throw to is a big priority. To help any quarterback, Washington must improve at wide receiver.

And there’s one quality the team wants most: Speed.

They have Terry McLaurin, who has caught 145 passes for for 2,037 yards in his first two seasons without any consistency at quarterback or from other wide receivers. He has been targeted 223 times, and over the past two seasons no other Washington wide receiver has more than 95 targets or 61 catches. No other player has more than 111 targets.

Washington finished 24th in the NFL with 31 plays of 20 yards or more by wideouts, and McLaurin had 17 of them. In other words, they will add more talent around him.

Who are the best free-agent solutions?

Washington pursued the Dallas CowboysAmari Cooper heavily last offseason, but he was also the only blue chip wide receiver available. Also, knowing they would select Chase Young as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft and without a second-round pick, free agency was the best way to land a premium pass-catching talent.

More options exist this offseason. Signing one would allow them to target an offensive tackle in the first round with the No. 19 pick of the 2021 NFL draft.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II would be considered the best available and would help any quarterback look better. That’s what he did for Blake Bortles in Jacksonville and Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago. He also had 22 gains of 20 yards or more, one behind the league lead.

However, if Washington wants pure speed, there is Curtis Samuel, whom the Carolina Panthers drafted when Ron Rivera was their coach and Marty Hurney the general manager. Both are now in Washington along with offensive coordinator Scott Turner, who was in Carolina as well. Samuel’s speed makes him dangerous. Against Washington this season, for example, he caught a 45-yard pass where a head fake didn’t fool the safety, but his speed made the play work. He creates well after the catch, too, and can help in the backfield.

Nelson Agholor averaged 18.67 yards per catch for the Las Vegas Raiders last season, second in the NFL. His average air yards per target ranked third at 11.1 yards. In other words: He’s a downfield threat. In Philadelphia, he was used mostly in the slot. From 2017 to 2019 with the Eagles, Agholor caught a combined 117 passes from the slot and 37 outside. With the Raiders, he caught 12 passes in the slot and 35 outside. One NFC scout called him explosive with big-play ability, but he has inconsistent hands. His flexibility would pair well with the equally versatile McLaurin.

Will Fuller (Houston Texans) is another fast (and probably expensive) free agent: He averaged an NFL-best 11.4 air yards per target and was fifth at 16.58 yards per catch.

Chris Godwin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pittsburgh Steelers) are other prominent free agents; both are considered playmakers, though Schuster is not considered a burner.

How much does the QB situation impact free agency?

A lot. Not at all. Or, OK, maybe a little. It depends which agent you ask. As it searches for an upgrade, Washington, for now, has quarterbacks Alex Smith, Taylor Heinicke and Steven Montez under contract with Kyle Allen an exclusive rights free agent.

One agent was adamant he wouldn’t send his clients into a situation like Washington’s, feeling it could prevent them from building up statistics and earning another deal. That would especially be true if the player was coming on a one-year, prove-it deal where numbers equal more money the following year.

However, another agent, who also represents some wide receivers, said the quarterback situation wouldn’t matter.

“For any player in free agency, money is always the No. 1 thing,” the agent said. “If it’s equal in pay, you go to your next criteria. For your last deal you might say I’ll play with the best quarterback, but those guys have gotten their money already.”

Another agent said if a guy hasn’t played with a good quarterback, it might fuel his desire to get with one. But it was clear some quarterbacks would be undesirable.

“I don’t think there’s ever a cookie-cutter method,” he said. “It depends on the player and his priorities.”

Could the draft provide help?

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said of Washington’s situation: “Wide receiver is the deepest position in the draft. … They’ve got to find someone.”

Kiper said as many as 40 wide receivers could receive draftable grades. Because of the unusual season, and lack of great scouting opportunities, teams will disagree on which 40 warrant those grades. A wide receiver a team likes in the fourth round could fall to the sixth or seventh.

That draft depth also could prompt Washington to spend elsewhere in free agency, or it could allow the team to trade back from the No. 19 pick and still get a player who can help. Florida’s Kadarius Toney likely will be available when Washington selects in the first round. He is not considered a deep burner, but he does have good speed and makes defenders miss because of elite quickness.

“He’s a playmaker,” Kiper said.

Kiper listed others in the top two rounds who could make an impact, including Elijah Moore (Ole Miss) and TuTu Atwell (Louisville). They are smaller but with excellent speed, particularly Atwell. There’s also Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskridge. He’s another small-but-fast target who can align in the slot, but also move outside.

“He’s super explosive,” said Jim Nagy, the Senior Bowl director as well as an ESPN college draft analyst. “He was playing at a whole different speed than everyone else, but was that just the [Mid-American Conference]? … But the speed was real.”

Nagy also pointed out UCLA’s Demetric Felton, a running back in college who stood out in the slot at the Senior Bowl. His versatility is attractive and he could be a younger version of Samuel.

It’s too early to know who will be available for Washington, but there will be options if it doesn’t land someone in free agency.

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How the Denver Broncos can win their offseason – Denver Broncos Blog



ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When new Denver Broncos general manager George Paton pulls into his parking space each day, it’s for a team that has missed the playoffs in each of the past five seasons.

But the Broncos have enough salary cap room to dive into free agency — currently north of $40 million with room to make more. They also have the No. 9 pick in the 2021 NFL draft and four picks among the first 109 with nine selections overall.

In short, they can get some things done — even in a year when the salary cap has gone down in the wake of the pandemic. The cap is expected to be somewhere between $185 million and $189 million per team.

So, what would a perfect offseason look like?

Many would say Desahaun Watson, but that’s gold at the end of the rainbow down a hidden, gilded path inside a Faberge football. And until it looks like the Houston Texans are actually taking calls about Watson it is little more than something fun to debate.

The Broncos must figure out what do do with linebacker Von Miller, who is the subject of a police investigation. Any decision on Miller will involve some discussion with his representatives about his contract and a clearer understanding between Miller and the Broncos about what any potential charges are or aren’t coming from the 18th Judicial District District Attorney.

Until more is known, let’s put this question off to the side.

As for the rest, here’s how the Broncos could win their offseason:

Re-sign Justin Simmons. The Broncos can let their top safety move on and say it just “didn’t work out” or that they “couldn’t get to a deal.” But every player left in the locker room will wonder: If you do what Simmons has done — five interceptions and 77 tackles in 2020 — and don’t get re-signed, is giving the Broncos a discount the only way to stay in Denver?

The Broncos have already released A.J. Bouye, and if they don’t engage the option year in safety Kareem Jackson‘s contract AND let Simmons go in free agency, they will be overhauling their secondary in the division where Patrick Mahomes plays.

Cornerbacks: The Broncos must address this position early, often and with both cash and draft picks. The No. 9 pick of the draft, or a slight trade down in the first round, will be the sweet spot for one of the top three cornerbacks on the board — Patrick Surtain II, Caleb Farley or Jaycee Horn.

There are cornerbacks with scheme-fit potential to be found on Day 2 and 3 of the draft and the Broncos should come away with at least two by the end of the three-day affair.

In free agency, long looks at the under-30 cornerbacks could include William Jackson III, Desmond King II and Shaquill Griffin. Older players at the position who have shown some recent durability and should get a look include Jason McCourty (16 games with 665 snaps played in ’20) and Patrick Peterson (16 games and over 1,000 snaps in ’20).

Don’t forget the big guys: Even if Ja’Wuan James returns from his opt-out season to be the right tackle — as expected — the Broncos still need to add here. The last time James played more than three games in a season was 2018 and he has never played more than eight in back-to-back seasons. Former starters at right tackle in the market will include Rick Wagner, Taylor Moton and Daryl Williams (Williams missed 2018 with a torn ACL, but started 16 games for the Bills last season). The Broncos should be ready to use multiple draft picks on at least one tackle and one swing interior player at guard/center.

Tender Tim Patrick, Alexander Johnson and Phillip Lindsay like they mean it: Those three players are the Broncos’ top restricted free agents, meaning they can match any offer.

Talk to people around the league and it’s clear Johnson and Patrick will quickly draw some interest if the Broncos don’t tender them at the second round or above — expected to be just above $3.3 million salary for the season for a second-round tender and more than $4.5 million on a first-round tender.

The Broncos were reticent to work through a long-term deal for Lindsay a year ago even when they said they would look at it. It seems clear that Lindsay could simply be tendered at “right of first refusal” given he entered the league as an undrafted rookie. In that scenario the the Broncos wouldn’t receive any compensation if he was signed elsewhere and that would be a clear indication they don’t quite believe in the Colorado native.

Aaaaand at quarterback: Watson ain’t on the market folks and the Broncos likely don’t really have the draft pick juice even if he was (that first first-rounder in any deal has to be better than No. 9) . So, go with Drew Lock for one more extended look and pay up for the best veteran free agent who can both mentor and push Lock without being a problem.

A caveat would be if Dak Prescott is truly allowed to enter the market, then take the longest of looks and get the checkbook ready. But many in the league see the Cowboys eventually ending the odd, somewhat inexplicable, dance they have done with Prescott with a contract.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is 38 years old, but has proven to be a player who can both mentor and play well enough to push the player he’s mentoring. Jameis Winston has two 4,000-yard passing seasons as well as a 5,000-yard passing season on his résumé — to go with the 30 interceptions that season. He’s talented enough and is just 27 coming off a football rehab year in New Orleans.

Lock must clean up his footwork and decision-making and the Broncos must have a backup QB good enough to help win games if Lock can’t. The 2021 season is not one for hurt feelings and the Broncos have proven they’re not too concerned with Lock’s psyche since they dipped into the Matthew Stafford discussions.

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