Johnny Manziel might have a landing spot in mind already.
“I want to thank Coach Sherman, my teammates, and the CFL fans,” the quarterback tweeted Wednesday afternoon, shortly after getting booted from the Canadian pro league. “My time there reestablished my love for the game of football and the work that goes into it. I look forward to exploring new options within the United States.”
Weeks before the release from the Montreal Alouettes, Manziel, the NFL first-round bust, made it clear on the season finale of Barstool Sports’ “Comeback SZN” podcast that he was keeping a close eye on a pair of US startup leagues in the AAF and XFL.
In an episode posted Feb. 12, the embattled 26-year-old discussed his future with co-hosts Kayce Smith and agent Erik Burkhardt and how those two leagues could factor in.
“That’s the biggest thing I saw,” Manziel said. “I saw a bunch of guys that I’ve seen, come across, crossed paths with over the year that are back playing football again. A bunch of [Texas A&M] Aggies, too … a ton of guys that were playing in the AAF. It’s good to see your friends playing again and guys that love the sport and love playing, going out and getting a chance to keep doing it. That’s all anybody wants to do and all anybody can really ask for, is a chance to do it because the NFL itself is cutthroat as it gets. It’s hard to make those teams for guys that aren’t drafted in high rounds, it’s hard to stick for sure.
“I think its great for football, its great for the guys who need more opportunity and need more film and time to play, so I don’t know exactly what my exact steps will be for the next years coming up, but at least there’s a lot of options. Me and [Burkhardt] are fully committed to playing ball and trying to get into the best situation possible, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Manziel faces long odds to get back to the NFL, years after flaming out as the No. 22 pick in the 2014 draft following a standout NCAA career at Texas A&M. The cocky demeanor he displayed so often on the field during his collegiate career didn’t do him any favors at the pro level, with middling performances and off-the-field troubles quickly ending his NFL tenure.
The CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats brought Manziel to Canada after he had been out of football for a season, though it took until 2018 for the sides to ink a two-year agreement. It was short-lived as Hamilton dealt Manziel to Montreal in a blockbuster deal. The quarterback showed improvement over his time with the Alouettes, though he lasted under a year with the team before his Wednesday release.
He finished his CFL career with eight starts, all for Montreal, throwing for 1,290 yards, five touchdown passes, seven interceptions, and a lot of questions as to what really happened up north.
“We are disappointed by this turn of events. Johnny was provided a great deal of support by our organization, in collaboration with the CFL, but he has been unable to abide by the terms of his agreement,” Alouettes GM Kavis Reed said in a statement. “We worked with the league and presented alternatives to Johnny, who was unwilling to proceed.”
On “Comeback SZN,” Manziel pointed to two of his favorite quarterbacks, Josh McCown and Kurt Warner, as guys who were well out of the NFL before getting second chances and running with them.
It’s a shot he sees in the AAF, for instance.
“It’s all about timing and getting into the right place,” he said. “I think the best thing about the AAF is, when you want to get picked up by a team, they know it’s going to be a high turnover rate — guys coming in, guys going out — but they know what the league is. Trying to develop people to get to the biggest stage, and I think its a great thing.”