Johnny Manziel FAQ: What CFL fans need to know

Johnny Manziel joins Tim and Sid to talk about starting a new chapter in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and proving the haters wrong.

If you were away at a cottage for the Victoria Day Long weekend with no cell service you most likely missed out on some big CFL news.

The biggest CFL transaction this weekend that will impact the upcoming season was Adam Bighill signing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The modern-day Mike O’Shea playing for Mike O’Shea changes the landscape of the West. The biggest signing of the long weekend that changes the future of the CFL is 2018 first round draft pick Peter Godber agreeing to a contract with the BC Lions. The offensive lineman out of Rice was selected third overall and could become the Lions’ best non-import lineman of the next decade.

But that’s not what was trending on Twitter and setting off Google alerts.

The 2018 campaign has started earlier than most seasons and there already is added intrigue with the announcement that Johnny Manziel is in fact coming North to play for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Like only he can, the celebrity QB hijacked Twitter in the height of royal wedding madness on Saturday morning to trend in his own right after he broke the news himself while waiting at customs at the Buffalo, N.Y., border.

Here’s all the pertinent news on the signing and what it means for the league, team and player moving forward.


Manziel has 2.2 million Twitter followers. The CFL league account has 274,000 and the Ti-Cats have 141,000. Manziel signing was home page news on ESPN,, Bleacher Report, Deadspin and TMZ plus was discussed on Pardon The Interruption.

Manziel is just 25. From a physical standpoint, he should have a decade of good QB play left in his body, especially since his body hasn’t been hit for the past two years. Prior to Sebastian Giovinco, the MLS generally didn’t land international soccer stars in their primes. Similarly, the CFL doesn’t often get first-round NFL QBs in their primes either.

This is the highest-profile signing in the CFL since Ricky Williams joined the Toronto Argonauts in 2006.


During his two seasons at Texas A&M University in 2012-13, Manziel was the most electrifying player in the NCAA. In 26 games with the Aggies, he completed 595 of 863 pass attempts for 7,820 yards, 63 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, while adding 345 rushing attempts for 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns. In 2012, Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, Davey O’Brien Award and Manning Award.

Manziel was then drafted by Cleveland Browns in the first round, 22nd overall, of the 2014 NFL Draft. Manziel got in 14 games and started eight for Cleveland in 2014 and 2015 before being released in 2016.


Manziel threw at the University of San Diego’s pro day and at the pro day of his alma mater, Texas A&M, in March.

“ No I will not come throw at your Pro Day next week “

A post shared by Johnny Manziel (@jmanziel2) on

He’s been working out in California with QB coach Terry Shea and high-performance trainer Jamal Liggin, Leonard Fournette and his friend Odell Beckham Jr. is his throwing partner.

Only the beginning.. @jamalliggin @akil_jlt @alexfine44

A post shared by Johnny Manziel (@jmanziel2) on

The last competitive ball he played was participating in The Spring League in April.

Chapter II

A post shared by Johnny Manziel (@jmanziel2) on

* Insert Drake quote here

A post shared by Johnny Manziel (@jmanziel2) on


In the pole position is incumbent Jeremiah Masoli. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats re-signed him to a two-year deal on Jan. 4, naming him the team’s starting quarterback. Masoli has looked good in training camp.

Manziel is essentially competing for the back-up job with Vernon Adams Jr., Bryant Moniz and Dane Evans. Once he’s No. 2 on the depth chart he’s one play away from being the starter.


CFL entry level deals are a two-year minimum contract, which is what Manziel signed.

Hamilton will have Manziel’s rights for the 2018 and 2019 season. The earliest Manziel could get back to the NFL would be after the 2019 Grey Cup. It’s unlikely a team would sign a quarterback in December, which realistically means 2020 is the earliest Manziel will be back in the NFL.

The best contract comp for Manziel is the contract Vince Young signed, a standard one-year deal plus a team option with a base salary of $120,000.

As a reference, the current league minimum salary is $54,000.


There has been talk that the Ti-Cats wouldn’t pay Manziel to come if he wasn’t going to be the starter at some point. In fact, the opposite is true. They have more money tied up in Masoli, who will make north of $700,000. His signing bonus alone of $125,000 is more than Manziel’s base salary. It’s money Masoli has earned. Ti-Cats head coach June Jones named him his starter in September and Masoli rewarded him by leading the CFL in passing yards and rushing yards by a quarterback. He took a winless team and finished the season 6-4. Masoli will have to fail big to open up an opportunity for Manziel.


Manziel has been marketing his “Comeback SZN” clothing line via social media.

I ride for my dogs #ComebackSZN @thespringleague

A post shared by Johnny Manziel (@jmanziel2) on

On Day 1 of training camp, fans were already wearing it. Manziel also announced he will partner with Barstool Sports in the form of a podcast series that chronicles his time in the CFL.


The CFL has seen former Heisman winners before. Troy Smith and Eric Crouch had limited success up north.

Arguably the greatest player in the history of the league, Doug Flutie, is a great comp to Manziel from a physical standpoint. Flutie wasn’t great in his first season. In eight starts he put up a 52.8 completion percentage and threw 16 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

The other QB in the greatest ever convo is Warren Moon. His first season in Edmonton in 1979 wasn’t much better putting up 1,112 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The point is the CFL game is full of nuances that it takes even the best years to master. Don’t expect Manziel to master the game and dominate in two weeks. It will be a great success story if he can do it in two years. Manziel has gone out of his way to temper expectations in all of his media availabilities since being signed.


Vince Young’s name has been brought up in comparison. It’s apples and oranges. Young signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders but was released after struggling in the preseason and injuring his hamstring.

Young had financial motivation and was 34 years old after already having physical issues. Manziel’s physical health hasn’t been an issue during his career but his biggest obstacle has been his mental health. Given that he could make money throwing parties in Las Vegas or playing in other up start leagues, money isn’t his sole motivation either. He’s motivated to play competitive football ASAP, and a motivated and talented athlete is an intriguing combination.


The alternative was to wait until February and play in the Alliance of American Football. The rules would be closer to the NFL thus the learning curve wouldn’t be as steep and he’d be able to jump back in to the NFL after just one year. The Spring League, the Alliance of American Football and the XFL are all providing competition to the CFL for top players by offering a chance to stay local and not barring their players from getting back in the NFL immediately. It’s a great advertisement for the strength of the CFL that Manziel chose to commit to the league for two years.

Manziel’s love for football has never been in question. During his lay off he has repeatedly said he just wants to play and him being in Canada is testament to that fact. In comparison, equally in demand QB’s Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick both sat out the entire football season last year and look to be about to do the same this season. Both men continue to have opportunities in Canada as they are on the negotiation list of the Montreal Alouettes, who have had issues at the QB position.


Manziel consulted with Texas A&M teammates Jeff Fuller and Derel Walker about playing in the CFL. The presence of June Jones, who recruited Manziel out of high school, also made him more comfortable coming to Canada.


The reason Manziel is available to play in the CFL and isn’t in the NFL has more to do with what happened off the field than on it.

Manziel was charged in January 2016 after being accused of hitting and threatening his former girlfriend. Manziel agreed to a dismissal agreement that required him to complete an anger management class, attend a domestic violence impact panel and participate in a substance-abuse program.

His contract being honoured by the CFL league office was contingent on him continuing to meet these standards even after he met with CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie last year.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.