Canadian League clears Johnny Manziel to sign a contract to play football again

No. 2 might get a second chance North of the border. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Should we call him Johnny “Canadian” Football?

Former Cleveland Brown and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has been cleared by the Canadian Football league to sign a contract, presumably with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Hamilton now has 10 days to make him an offer or trade his rights. If neither happens after that point, he becomes a free agent.

Manziel -- perhaps the greatest A&M football player ever -- has not seen the field since being released by Cleveland in 2016. He was a 2014 first-round draft pick after two explosive seasons at A&M, including a year where he won the Heisman.

But like a lot of great college players, things fell apart when he reached the pros. His work ethic was questionable, and off-the-field incidents with alcohol, drugs and domestic violence helped end his career quickly.

The CFL basically had to do a months-long investigation into Manziel before clearing him to be offered a contract. They have attached conditions to his eligibility. Here is the statement the league released:

“Since last summer, the Canadian Football League has been engaged in a thorough process to determine the eligibility of Johnny Manziel. This process has been conducted with the cooperation of Mr. Manziel and independent of the team which currently holds his CFL rights, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

It has included an ongoing assessment by an independent expert on the issue of violence against women, a review by legal counsel, and an in-person interview of Mr. Manziel conducted by the Commissioner. As well, Mr. Manziel has been required to meet a number of conditions set by the league.

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 process that led to this decision does, however, 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 Hamilton Tiger-Cats have 10 days to make an offer to Johnny Manziel in order to keep his rights or to trade his rights to another team. If Manziel does not receive an offer from the Tiger-Cats or isn’t traded by January 7th, 2018, he will become a free-agent."

I watch a lot of CFL football and really enjoy the league, but it is a different game. The field is wider, the end zone is 25 yards deep, wide receivers get a running start and there are only three downs. The game puts a premium on a quarterback with a  strong arm and mobility, and unlike the NFL size is not a huge factor. All of that should play to Manziel’s strengths.

If Ti-Cats head coach June Jones -- the former SMU and Hawaii coach (and Oilers assistant back in the day) -- is to be believed, Manziel will be offered a deal in Hamilton.

"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 very well could be a star in the league. The quality of play is a lot better than people realize -- every roster is littered with former NFL players -- and it is not as simple as walking on a field and doing what he did at A&M.

If Manziel puts in the work, he could revitalize his career. Doug Flutie used the league to get back to the NFL, but he was an outlier. More former college stars fail in Canada than succeed. (Most recently, Vince Young tried it). But Manziel is still young enough and presumably talented enough to get things jumpstarted.

The big question is will he straighten his life out enough to be a success on the field? The skill is certainly not in question. If he focuses on improving his game and keeping his nose clean off the field, he can be an impact player. Jones’ overhyping aside, he definitely can have success. But only if he avoids the massive train wrecks that have followed him throughout his career and deals with the inevitable adversity.

Manziel was amazing to watch in college, and he could be for Hamilton, too. If he plays well, it will help him get back on track and raise the profile of the CFL in the States. If not? The Ti-Cats, who were terrible last season, lose nothing.

No matter how it plays out, it should be fun to watch. As it has been throughout his career, either Manziel will be a star or the victim of yet another massive train wreck.

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