There’s no denying that Manti Te’o has never lived up to his lofty hype surrounding him coming out of Notre Dame. Te’o was the runner up to Johnny Manziel for the Heisman Trophy and arguably should have won it. Since coming out in the second round and going to the then-San Diego Chargers, Te’o has only ever been healthy for a full season just once.
When he’s healthy, however, he can find the ball carrier with a fair amount of effectiveness. He’s not going to take over a game like Leighton Vander Esch or Von Miller, but if you need someone who can step up and help bridge the gap until next year, he’s someone who can do just that. No one is going to debate he’s a long term answer at the position. No one’s going to debate that he’s a definitive better player than any of the rookies either.
What he is, to be precise, is an option. An option that can come in and be used in a way that can test the younger players. It’s not a surprise that about 60-70% of NFL Draft picks washout of the league three years after they get drafted. The odds the Browns found seven new starters in this draft is a flat out fallacy.
It won’t happen.
The hope is that someone like Jacob Phillips and Sione Taki Taki can be the answers and fill the gaps on defense. The odds aren’t in their favor however. It doesn’t mean they can’t, it just means that players of their ilk rarely turn into impact players. A player like Te’o can help expose or confirm if the younger players have holes that will be a problem or if they can be starters.
He can provide a baseline. If the players aren’t on his level, at this point in Teo’s career, then they’re not worth investing time in. If they’re better than Te’o, then you know the young players are the ones to ride with this year.
Signing Te’o to a cheap, non-guaranteed, one year deal hurts no one. If he’s the guy, great, you found a starter. If he’s not, cut him before week four of the preseason.