The Canadian Football League has approved former NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel for a 2018 contract, the league announced Thursday.
Manziel’s CFL rights are owned by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who worked him out in September. Thursday’s announcement does not necessarily mean that Manziel will play in the CFL in 2018, but the league’s decision, after months of background work that included an investigation into Manziel’s 2016 domestic violence charge, gives the Tiger-Cats the green light to sign him or trade his rights.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has been reviewing Manziel’s eligibility since he informed the Tiger-Cats over the summer that he was interested in playing there.
Following the CFL announcement, the Tiger-Cats released a statement thanking Ambrosie for his “due diligence” but did not provide an update on their potential interest in Manziel, a former Heisman Trophy winner. Per CFL rules, any player signing his first CFL contract must commit for two seasons. So unless he was released by the team that signs him, Manziel would be bound to the CFL — and unable to play in the NFL — through the end of its 2019 season.
Manziel was not immediately available for comment.
In an interview with ESPN earlier this month, Ambrosie said he was impressed after a private discussion with Manziel but wanted to hear from independent experts as well.
“He represented himself incredibly well [in the meeting],” Ambrosie said at the time. “He was thoughtful. I found him to be authentic and sincere. I also felt like he seems to have come to a good place in his life. He was talking a lot about his family. Now, I should say that’s part of the problem. My bias is toward family. So when I’m with somebody in there talking about my family, immediately I feel good about the conversation.
“That’s exactly why we feel for any player who has had some trouble in their past. It’s important to not let the laypeople be the only part of the decision-making process. That’s why we’ve implemented a process where we’ll lean very heavily on experts who have training and skill that will allow them to really understand where somebody is in their personal journey and be able to give me wise counsel.”
In a statement issued Thursday, the CFL said Manziel was required to meet several conditions and must continue meeting them to remain eligible. The statement read in part: “These conditions, while extensive and exacting, remain confidential.”
The Tiger-Cats are coached by June Jones, the former Hawaii and SMU coach. In an interview with a league-sponsored podcast, which was posted on the CFL’s website, Jones made it clear that he wants Manziel as his quarterback.
“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 has not played since the NFL’s Cleveland Browns released him in March 2016. A first-round pick in 2014, he played in 14 games over two seasons, throwing seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions.