How Eli Manning almost ended up on the Browns

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  • By Nick Toney
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Before the 2004 NFL Draft, Eli Manning famously refused to join the San Diego Chargers.

Would he have accepted employment by the Cleveland Browns instead?

We were just two failed draft-day trades away from finding that out, according to Pro Football historical researcher Barry Shuck.

The first: A Giants trade with the Browns that would've kept Big Blue in range for Miami of Ohio QB prospect Ben Roethlisberger.

And the second: A Browns-Chargers swap that would've put Manning in brown and orange while bringing Philip Rivers to San Diego.

"The deal was almost set for completion prior to the Giants being on the clock with their fourth selection approaching," Shuck wrote on SB Nation's Dawgs By Nature. "[Then-Browns coach and GM Butch Davis] knew [Giants general manager Ernie] Accorsi wanted to move down to pick Roethlisberger."

In fact, Big Ben was confident he'd end up as the Giants' pick somehow. Watch this drama-filled video from the 2004 Draft for all the proof you need.

Did the Giants get cold feet on Big Ben? Not quite. Accorsi heard the Browns wanted the top QB on his board. He just cut out the middle man.

"However, as the deal between the Giants and Browns were being hammered out as to which picks the Giants would receive for trading down..." Shuck wrote. "Accorsi received word from a reliable source that Cleveland had eyes on... Eli Manning."

We know how the rest of this draft story played out. Accorsi called the Chargers, ironed out one of the most iconic draft swaps in NFL history, and landed his man in Manning. The Chargers received their bolo-tie wearing star Philip Rivers.

After that deal, Roethlisberger dropped all the way to No. 11. The Browns were left with the sixth-overall pick -- tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. -- and, potentially, some regret about not completing a trade for Peyton’s little brother.

Would Eli have hoisted two Lombardi trophies in Cleveland? We will never know.

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