December 20, 2014

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UPDATED: Browns agree to terms with Johnny Manziel, cut recently signed wide receiver Earl Bennett

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel

CLEVELAND — “Johnny Football” is officially a member of the Browns.

Rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel signed a four-year contract Tuesday worth approximately $8.25 million. The pact includes a fifth-year team option, as mandated under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.

Cleveland drafted Manziel with the No. 22 overall pick on May 8, completing a very public courtship between both parties. The polarizing Heisman Trophy winner was the Browns’ second selection in the first round, following Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert at No. 8.

Gilbert and second-round pick Joel Bitonio — a tackle from Nevada — are Cleveland’s remaining unsigned draft choices with five weeks remaining until training camp.

Linebacker Christian Kirksey (third round), running back Terrance West (third round) and cornerback Pierre Desir (fourth round) previously signed their deals.

Browns coach Mike Pettine has repeatedly listed Manziel as his second-stringer behind incumbent Brian Hoyer, but will hold a quarterback competition during the preseason.

During his two-year career with the Aggies, the Texas native compiled a 20-6 record while amassing 9,989 yards of total offense and 93 touchdowns. Manziel also completed 68.95 percent of his passes in becoming a two-time Heisman finalist.

The 6-foot, 210-pounder has the second-best selling jersey among NFL rookies, making it likely that he will earn more in endorsements and royalties over the life of his contract than in salary.

While Manziel’s signing was expected, another roster move made later in the day was not.

Cleveland released wide receiver Earl Bennett, a seven-year veteran who signed a one-year, $730,000 contract on May 16. Only $75,000 was guaranteed because of his concussion issues while playing for Chicago last year, according to NFL.com.

Bennett’s departure leaves two other recent signees — Miles Austin and Nate Burleson — as the Browns’ projected starters at wideout. Pro Bowl selection Josh Gordon is expected to be suspended for the entire season after violating the league’s illegal substance policy for the third time.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

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