Hamilton, heeeeeeeeere’s Johnny Football.
The CFL announced on Thursday that Johnny Manziel, former Heisman trophy winner and first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, has met the league’s requirements and will register a contract if and when one is sent to them.
That means the Money train could be stopping in Hamilton sometime soon (the team has 10 days to offer him a contract).
But it is not just what Manziel could bring to the team that is of interest, but what it means for the team’s stable of quarterbacks. Just what will the Ticats do now that Johnny Manziel is an option?
I see three possible scenarios that could play out, all of which are based on the assumption that Hamilton keeps Manziel and doesn’t trade his rights elsewhere.
Option 1: Keep Zach Collaros, lose Jeremiah Masoli, sign Johnny Manziel
Option No. 1 is simple: the team stands pat and keeps Collaros for the final year of his contract, to see if maybe the changes June Jones made to the offense can reignite a player that was once considered one of the best the league, and brings in Manziel to compete for a roster spot and possibly the starter’s job. This would lead to Masoli, who was behind centre for the team’s incredible resurgence in the second half of last season, finding a spot elsewhere (Montreal, perhaps?).
I’m not sure this one is very likely. Jones clearly preferred Masoli last year, and Collaros has a hefty salary that, if shed, would allow the team to shore up some deficiencies elsewhere. As much as fans would like to see Collaros back — though I think they more fear that he would re-find his groove and come back to beat on the Ticats for the next 10 years — I just don’t see it happening.
So that leads us to the second option.
Option 2: Sign Jeremiah Masoli and Johnny Manziel, trade/release Zach Collaros
In this scenario, the Ticats re-sign pending free agent Masoli to a team-friendly deal, one with a decent base salary, but also not too onerous that if he was to lose his starting spot to Manziel it would be an albatross hanging from the team’s neck, while also inking Manziel to a similar team-friendly deal and finding a new home for Collaros. With the team owing Collaros a roster bonus on February 1, we will know what his fate will be before free agency opens later that month.
This seems to be the most likely scenario to play out, and probably the one that should. Masoli was June Jones’ guy last year and if the team can bring him back, I think they will. I also think Jones wants a chance to groom Manziel to be, as he said, “the best player to ever play up here.” While I doubt any team would take Collaros on at his current salary, I could see him taking his talents to Montreal or even Saskatchewan next season.
I also think Masoli has earned the right to be a starter in this league, and while I hope Manziel succeeds wherever he lands (especially if it is in Hamilton), I have my doubts. Give Masoli the starter’s job he has earned and allow Manziel to compete and beat him out. If he does, we will know he is the better player. If he doesn’t, Masoli gets another chance to prove he belongs.
Option 3: Sign Johnny Manziel, trade/release Zach Collaros, lose Jeremiah Masoli
The third, and final, option is the doomsday scenario. In this one, the team parts ways with Collaros and loses Masoli to another team in free agency. That leaves the team with Johnny Manziel and not much else.
I don’t think the team will put all its eggs in the Johnny Football basket, but it may not be up to them. That February 1 deadline comes before free agency starts, and if the Ticats are dead set against ponying up the dough to keep Collaros around, they will have to make a decision on him before Masoli may be ready to make his decision. This could leave the team with no Collaros and no Masoli, if the latter decides all this fawning over Johnny Manziel is too much and he looks to find a better spot somewhere else.
This is the absolute worst-case scenario and would make the Ticats brass — Kent Austin, Eric Tillman, June Jones, etc. — look mighty foolish. The team clearly turned a corner with Jones at the helm, and starting from scratch with a rookie QB is not the best way keep the momentum going from last year’s impressive turnaround.
That said, I don’t think it ever gets to this point, I think a decision on the other quarterbacks not named Johnny Manziel comes well before free agency opens, but if things play out in a way that doesn’t allow that, the Ticats may be up the creek without a paddle.
One way or another, the Ticats still have to answer some questions at the quarterback position, and making sure they make the right decisions might be the difference between this team picking up where it left off in the second half last year or continuing the downward trend they have been on ever since Zach Collaros tore up his knee over two years ago.