Manziel cleared to sign CFL contract; Tiger-Cats own rights

Johnny Manziel has been cleared to play in the CFLJohnny Manziel is one step closer to returning to professional football, albeit a little further north this time. Manziel was cleared to sign a contract with a CFL team on Thursday, and his rights in the league are owned by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who appear interested in his services. The former Heisman Trophy winner and Cleveland Browns quarterback was subject to a lengthy evaluation process by the league due to his criminal history and substance abuse issues.

Manziel last played football for Cleveland in 2015 before a series of highly publicized incidents derailed his faltering pro career. He was indicted on misdemeanour assault charges stemming from a domestic violence investigation in early 2016, and was later suspended by the NFL for violating their substance abuse policy. Despite being released by the Browns in March of 2016, Manziel has repeatedly expressed a desire to play quarterback again and he worked out for the Tiger-Cats in August 2017 following months of court-mandated counselling.

Hamilton did not attempt to sign Manziel at the time and risked losing his rights, but the CFL stepped in to state he required further evaluation before he could be allowed to join the league. Manziel met with CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie in September to discuss what requirements he needed to fulfill in order to be cleared, and his deadline with the Tiger-Cats was extended to Nov. 30 before being extended again to allow time for Manziel’s evaluation to conclude.

Now that Manziel has been cleared by the league, Hamilton has 10 days to either sign him or trade his rights. The history of uncertainty in Manziel’s NFL playing career and personal life makes his CFL potential—and his trade value—a mystery, and the Tiger-Cats could decide to pass on him again like they did in August. But the CFL’s looser style of play seems geared towards Manziel’s strengths, and at least one key member of the Tiger-Cats organization believes in his abilities.

“I think he’d be the best player to ever play up here,” Hamilton head coach June Jones said about Manziel earlier in December. “He can throw it and he can run it like nobody ever has been able to do.”

Manziel appeared in 15 games over two seasons with Cleveland, making eight starts. He completed 57 percent of his passes, throwing seven touchdowns and seven interceptions while also rushing for an average of 5.6 yards on 46 attempts.