Johnny Manziel’s last football game was Dec. 27, 2015 with the Cleveland Browns. More than two years later he’s getting another opportunity to suit up, although it’s not coming in the NFL. Manziel tweeted Saturday that he’s decided to sign a contract in the Canadian Football League. He didn’t announce with which team, but it’s pretty certainly the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Made the decision today to sign my contract with the CFL and further my football career after a long break. Very grateful for everyone that’s been supporting me along the way. I believe this is the best opportunity for me moving forward and I’m eager for what the future holds.— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) May 19, 2018
Getting back to the NFL is still going to be an uphill climb for Manziel, but he picked up momentum in March. At the San Diego Pro Day, 13 teams were in attendance for Manziel throwing where he reportedly performed well.
But his return to the league will have to wait with Manziel headed to the CFL. He joins a roster that has a few other former college football stars at quarterback in Everett Golson and Jeremiah Masoli.
Masoli, a former Oregon and Mississippi quarterback, has been on the team’s roster since 2013 and was the team’s leading passer in 2017. That will presumably be Manziel’s toughest competition for playing time in Canada.
The CFL season will begin in five months with the Tiger-Cats’ first game scheduled for June 16 against the Calgary Stampeders.
What happened to Manziel in the NFL? After getting picked in the first round by the Cleveland Browns in 2014, Manziel didn’t make his regular season debut as a starter until Week 15 of his rookie season. He finished the year with no touchdowns and two interceptions in two starts, with a hamstring injury in his second game ending his year prematurely.
He started six games in his second season and found a little more success with seven touchdowns and four interceptions, but off-field issues for Manziel dominated the headlines and ultimately resulted in him getting released by the team in March 2016.
What were his off-field issues? The list of problems for Manziel date back to his partying habits at Texas A&M, but among his issues in the NFL:
- Manziel entered a treatment program in February 2015, a little over a month after the end of his rookie season. He was released in April.
- Police pulled Manziel over in October 2015 after an argument with his then-girlfriend got out of hand. Both had been drinking, but officers determined Manziel wasn’t too impaired to drive and no arrests or charges were made.
- Manziel was benched and put third-string on the Browns depth chart after lying to coaches about a video of him partying.
- He was ruled out of the 2015 regular season finale with a concussion, and was later spotted playing blackjack at a Las Vegas casino the night before the game.
After his release from the Browns, the problems didn’t stop and escalated further when he was indicted on assault charges for a domestic violence incident. In November 2016, the charges were dismissed after Manziel agreed to counseling and other conditions.
Will Manziel have another chance in the NFL? He would likely be subject to a six-game suspension for his domestic violence case if he ever returned to the NFL. The quarterback attempted to win over teams in 2017, even attending the NFL Combine to meet with teams, but didn’t find a taker.
He went quiet on social media in the summer after an active campaign early in the year for a comeback to the league, but returned to Twitter and Instagram in January 2018.
I’ll keep grinding and let @ErikBurkhardt work this thing out. I have all the faith in the world in him during this process. One way or another I am getting back on a football field this year. Believe that— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) January 9, 2018
His performance at the San Diego Pro Day indicated he’s still on NFL teams’ radar, but he’ll likely need to impress in the NFL to finally climb all the way back into the league.
With no teams biting in the NFL, the CFL cleared the way for Manziel to return to professional football when the league’s commissioner, Randy Ambrosie, green-lighted the signing of the former Heisman Trophy winner in December.
The Tiger-Cats own exclusive rights to Manziel and took some time to agree to a deal with the quarterback, but got it done. Now he’ll join a team fronted by former Atlanta Falcons, Hawaii and SMU head coach June Jones.
“I think he’d be the best player to ever play up here,” Jones said in December. “He can throw it and he can run it like nobody ever has been able to do.”
If Manziel is as successful as Jones thinks he could be, and if he’s managed to leave his troubles behind him, a path back to the NFL could present itself. For now, there are still plenty of hurdles for Manziel to clear, and they begin in Hamilton this summer.