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Roster prediction: Is Johnny Manziel guaranteed a spot?

In looking at the Cleveland Browns potential 53-man roster, it appears 46 or 47 positions are set, with several other spots in the 'strong lean' category.

After all the offseason work, players on the bubble could be competing for five or six spots: No. 3 quarterback, fullback or one extra tight end, five corners or six, and the seventh and eight offensive linemen. Those kinds of decisions matter, of course, but it takes some of the drama away from camp, which to the Browns is probably a very good thing. However, it could make it tough for some of the 12 draft picks to make the team.

Today we start a very preliminary look at how the roster may shake out come September, with a comparison to last year’s numbers after the final cutdown out of preseason.

One caveat: Injuries and circumstances can change the situation in a hurry. Every year at least one player beats long odds to make the team.

Quarterback

Book ‘em: Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel

Left to ponder: Thad Lewis or Connor Shaw

Last year/this year: Three made it after the final cut last year. Expect three this year.

McCown will have a spot. Manziel struggled to the untrained eye during organized team activities (OTAs), but the Browns continue to stand behind him. They give every indication they will ride with McCown and be patient with Manziel. Mike Pettine stressed that it's still early for Manziel, and said once preseason games begin it would no longer be early. If the Browns are patient and Manziel doesn't make strides in preseason, they are in the tough spot of counting on a guy when they really aren't sure what he can do. In the most extreme negative scenario, Manziel plays himself off the roster. It's included in the discussion only because of the "never say never" rule. There is complete expectation that Manziel has a roster spot.

That leaves Lewis and Shaw. In the practices open to the media, the vast majority of reps went to McCown and Manziel. Lewis and Shaw got very few; in some practices perhaps three combined. That makes it tough to guess. The Browns pumped Shaw up in March, with Ray Farmer uttering the immortal “Don’t sleep on Connor Shaw” statement. Coaches do love his approach and attitude. Then they signed Lewis, a very good guy and capable backup. This situation comes down to training camp and preseason performance. At that point in time experience may matter. So does the fact that the Browns seem to make an annual habit of using three quarterbacks in a season. This is close to a toss-up, but Lewis wins a close competition based on his experience.

The key here is that Shaw was active for just one game last season, which means he is again eligible for the practice squad. The Browns can hope to sneak Shaw on the practice squad, and in essence keep four quarterbacks available. There also could be some roster machinations here as well. The Browns could release Lewis and keep Shaw, then wait for other teams to set their rosters and practice squads. At that point the could re-sign Lewis and move Shaw to the practice squad, ensuring they keep both.

On the 53: McCown, Manziel, Lewis.