More than five years after placing him on their negotiation list, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are now free to sign Jonny Manziel.
But, so far, they aren’t commenting on the matter.
“We have been notified that Johnny Manziel, on our negotiation list since September 2012, has gone through the formal process established by Commissioner Randy Ambrosie, and that provided he meets the conditions laid out to him by the Commissioner, is now eligible to play in the Canadian Football League in 2018 and beyond,” the Tiger-Cats said in a news release at the noon hour Thursday.
“We appreciate the CFL office and Commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s due diligence in this matter. We also recognize Johnny Manziel for thus far demonstrating the attributes necessary to continue his career in our great league. We will have no further comment at this time.”
Manziel hasn’t played football in two years but was one of the most dynamic college quarterbacks in the last quarter century when he won the 2012 Heisman Trophy (emblematic of the best college player in the U.S. that season) while playing at Texas A&M. He was just the fifth NCAA quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards, a combination of skills that seems tailored for the CFL game.
Manziel, now 25, was taken 22nd overall in the 2014 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns but was released after just two seasons with the team. As happened at Texas A&M, Manziel had off-field issues during his time with the Browns. In January 2016, he had misdemeanour domestic abuse charges (involving his former girlfriend) dismissed, as long as he completed an anger management program, attended a domestic violence impact panel and participated in a substance-abuse program.
The Tiger-Cats worked him out in August and came away impressed with his skills. Vice-president Kent Austin said, Manziel, “has one of the single greatest highlight films of any college football player I’ve ever seen.” And June Jones, who took over from Austin as head coach in late August when the team was 0-8 (they finished 6-12), has also spoken highly of Manziel.
The Tiger-Cats hadn’t made him a contract offer when Manziel forced the issue by activating a 10-day CFL window in which Hamilton had to decide whether to sign, trade or release him. But Ambrosie extended that window until late November so he could evaluate Manziel’s situation, then extended the window again to January, before issuing his ruling with three days remaining in December.
Manziel met with Ambrosie and was told he would have to fulfil certain requirements to be eligible to sign in the CFL.
“As a result of this process, the commissioner has now informed Mr. Manziel and the Tiger-Cats he is prepared to approve a contract for Mr. Manziel should one be negotiated,” the CFL said in a statement released Thursday. “The process that led to this decision, however, will continue.
“Mr. Manziel has been informed he must continue to meet a number of conditions in order to remain eligible. These conditions, while extensive and exacting, remain confidential.”
The Tiger-Cats still have former No. 1 quarterback Zach Collaros under contract, but he is expected to be traded, while Jeremiah Masoli, who delivered an impressive final 10 games of the 2017 season as the starter, is eligible for free agency. Jones, who made Masoli his starter as one of his first acts, has made it clear he wants him back this year.
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