While head coach June Jones has said Johnny Manziel has the ability to become the best player in CFL history, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats can take their time signing him to a contract.
They just can’t take more than 10 days to offer him that contract.
After announcing Thursday that the high-profile American quarterback will be allowed to sign with the Tiger-Cats, should they so desire, the CFL explained that the team has 10 days from tomorrow — deadline noon, Jan. 7 — to present him a contract proposal.
If they don’t, they lose the right to keep Manziel on their negotiation list and he’ll become a free agent.
Jones, like Kent Austin and the rest of Ticat management, wasn’t available for comment Thursday, but you can bet that won’t happen. An organization doesn’t go this far, this deep, to suddenly walk away with nothing to show for it.
So we’re likely to hear sometime next week that Manziel has been offered a contract. At the very least, that would keep Manziel on the Tiger-Cats’ neg list for up to a year. If he doesn’t like the proposal, the two sides can negotiate. But according to a league official, in the last 12 years, no player who was offered a contract has remained the full year on that team’s negotiation list. They sign, or get traded.
So, it’s a lock that Manziel gets an offer but not necessarily that he will be in black and gold this spring despite Jones’s heavy endorsement and Austin saying he “has one of the single greatest highlight films of any college football player I’ve ever seen.”
Remember, hyperbole didn’t make the cut for the Seven Deadly Sins.
Like Ambrosie’s decision to thoroughly review Manziel’s off-field problems (domestic violence charge, an NFL substance-abuse suspension, the parade of public partying) before allowing Hamilton to sign him, a contract offer buys the Ticats time to firm up quarterbacking plans.
Former starter Zach Collaros is under a big contract and the Ticats would like to trade him, while Jeremiah Masoli, whom Jones promoted to starter in late August, and No. 3 pivot Everett Golson both become free agents in mid-February.
Masoli may seek more money than the Ticats think he’s proven he’s worth, but that’s a common equation. Jones wants him back and landing spots for free agent quarterbacks are reducing.
Still, he’s not signed.
A lot of cyber chat assumes that if the Cats sign Manziel, in February, Masoli walks to Montreal where a decent arm and the ability to breathe gets you a job. But, maybe it’s Manziel who goes there, via trade. New Montreal head coach Mike Sherman helped lured Manziel to A&M in 2011 after he’d committed to Oregon which, ironically, Masoli had left only a year earlier.
Plus there’s talk the XFL will start up again and Vince McMahon won’t care whose on what negotiation list.
On a broader scale, do the Ticats really want the menagerie of American media who’d storm the barricades if Manziel signs here? They’d follow Manziel to his living quarters, and would hound fans, not to mention Jones and Austin.
There’s also a possible backlash from a portion of their fan base.
The blue sky scenario would have the Ticats signing Manziel and Masoli, committing out loud to Masoli as the 2018 starter, and quietly working Manziel back into playing shape—he hasn’t played since late December 2015 with the Browns—while massaging his head as it tries to absorb the quirks and quirks of CFL football. But there’s no mention of ‘quietly’ on Manziel’s CV.
The Tiger-Cats have been notoriously slow starters and face two opening games in the wastelands of Alberta, but they can hit the ground running if they’re able to concentrate on recapturing what they found in the autumn. Would a Manziel arrival, no matter how much he’s changed, allow for that concentration?
The approval to sign him is just the start of this story.
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