TORONTO — Johnny Manziel’s agent has given the Hamilton Tiger-Cats until Jan. 31 to sign the former Heisman Trophy winner.
In a statement obtained by The Canadian Press, Erik Burkhardt said the Ticats had until the end of the month "to work out a fair deal to make him their quarterback."
If an agreement can’t be reached, Burkhardt added "we will turn our focus to several other professional options readily available to us."
Manziel gave Burkhardt props on social media while boldly stating he’ll be playing football somewhere this year.
"I’ll keep grinding and let @ErikBurkhardt work this thing out," he tweeted. "I have all the faith in the world in him during this process.
"One way or another I am getting back on a football field this year. Believe that."
There was no comment Monday from the Ticats.
Burkhardt, who’d been silent on the Manziel front before Monday’s bombshell statement, didn’t specifically stipulate what constituted a "fair deal." But he insinuated he wanted to make Manziel one of the CFL’s highest-paid players.
In the statement he said: "I will tell you that we believe ‘fair deal’ means on par with what Hamilton has paid their QB in recent years, despite not having much on-field success."
Former Ticats starter Zach Collaros was scheduled to be the CFL’s highest-paid player this season with a salary exceeding $500,000. Hamilton dealt Collaros to Saskatchewan last week and Collaros was expected to re-work his deal with the Roughriders.
Manziel has been on Hamilton’s negotiation list since his college days at Texas A&M. He captured the 2012 Heisman Trophy as U.S. college football’s top player before being selected in the first round, No. 22 overall, in the 2014 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns.
Manziel has been out of football since March 2016 when he was released by the Browns after posting a 2-6 record as their starter.
On Dec. 28, the CFL announced it would approve a contract for Manziel if one was negotiated with Ticats. That gave Hamilton 10 days to make an offer to Manziel in order to maintain his rights.
The Ticats announced Sunday they’d made a contract offer to Manziel, meaning he’d remain on their negotiation list for up to a year. That would give Hamilton plenty of time to reach a deal with Johnny Football.
But on Monday, Burkhardt issued a firm deadline to Hamilton officials while calling the CFL’s negotiation list practice "an archaic and restrictive rule." Teams in Canada can have up to 45 players on their negotiation list, giving them exclusive CFL rights to those listed although clubs can add, remove or trade players from the list at any time.
"Their teams can claim an amateur players’ rights, and essentially hold those rights into perpetuity, without any consideration or compensation for the player," Burkhardt added.
Burkhardt said he and Manziel were in Hamilton to meet with chief executive officer Scott Mitchell and new head coach June Jones.
"All of these interactions have been very positive and served to reinforce Johnny’s excitement for coming out to play for the Tiger Cats," Burkhardt said.
But Burkhardt also added he asked for and received permission from Hamilton to discuss a potential trade with another unspecified club. Burkhardt added both he and Manziel met in Texas with officials from that team but Manziel opted to deal exclusively with the Ticats because of his "strong relationship with coach Jones and Hamilton executive Kent Austin."
In August, Manziel worked out for the Ticats, who passed on making him a contract offer at that time. But Manziel’s camp activated Hamilton’s 10-day window, forcing the CFL club to make a decision on whether to sign or trade him.
The CFL then stepped in and extended the window for further evaluation.
The following month, Manziel met with commissioner Randy Ambrosie to discuss a resolution, which included Manziel having to fulfil certain requirements to join the league. Shortly afterward, the CFL announced the Ticats would hold Manziel’s rights until Nov. 30, before extending the process again into January to continue with its due diligence.
Earlier this month, after signing a three-year contract to remain as Hamilton’s head coach, Jones boldly gushed about Manziel’s potential.
"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."
Hamilton (6-12) finished third in the East Division last year and missed the CFL playoffs. The Ticats were 0-8 under Collaros before Austin resigned as head coach and was replaced on an interim basis by Jones.
Last week, the Ticats signed quarterback Jeremiah Masoli — who went 6-4 after being named Hamilton’s starter by Jones — and receiver Brandon Banks to contract extensions.