O’Leary: Manziel signing would be lightning rod of attention for he and ‘Cats
On Monday, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats turn the page on a new year. However, one last opportunity has knocked before the calendar changes over.
The process has played out, the appropriate boxes have been checked and all of the necessary letters have been crossed and dotted. Johnny Manziel has been cleared by commissioner Randy Ambrosie to join the Canadian Football League.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are now free to sign the 25-year-old free-agent should they choose exercise their exclusive negotiation rights. Manziel, a Heisman Trophy-winner at Texas A&M and a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2014, hasn’t set foot on a field competitively since he was released by the Browns in March, 2016.
Should Manziel be signed — and there’s every indication that all he’s been waiting for was the green light from the league to do so — the move will be a lightning rod of attention for both him and the Ticats.
MORE ON MANZIEL:
» CFL announces it would approve a contract for Manziel
» Johnny 3-Down Football?: Tracing the Manziel timeline in 2017
» Jones: Manziel would be the best player to ever play up here
» Jones says he could plug Manziel into Ticats offence easily
Manziel’s past has overshadowed his talent for the majority of his pro career. Having met the requirements laid out to him by Ambrosie in September, both sides head into this confident that he’s ready to play and is at a healthy enough point in his personal life that he can make football his primary focus.
While there’s been some lost time in his career, the future remains incredibly bright for him and it starts with this opportunity.
In Hamilton, he already has the full support of his coach, June Jones, who told James Cybulski on The Waggle podcast in December that he thinks Manziel could be the best player to ever be a part of the CFL.
“I think he’d be the best player to ever play up here,” Jones said. “He can throw it and he can run it like nobody ever has been able to do.”
Manziel only played in 14 games through two years with the Browns. He made 147 of 258 passes for 1,675 yards with seven TDs to go with seven fumbles.
In two seasons at Texas A&M, Manziel tore the NCAA apart. He racked up school records while making 595 of his 863 passes for 7,820 yards. He threw 63 touchdowns to 22 interceptions and rushed for 2,169 yards on 345 carries.
Jones said earlier in December that in two workouts for the Ticats, Manziel’s arm strength impressed him more than he thought it would. The mobility he showed, particularly in his college days, would be a natural fit in the CFL.
“If he makes a commitment to come up here for 3-4 years he’ll write his own ticket to go back to the NFL,” Jones said on Dec. 4.
All eyes will be on Manziel, from both sides of the border as he tries to get his career on track. Should he and the Ticats work out a contract, Manziel would be one of the highest profile player to join the league since Ricky Williams played for the Argos in 2006. Should he put pen to paper with the Ticats, he’ll become one of the biggest stories in sports and the biggest one of this still-young CFL off-season.