Johnny Manziel Signs Contract with AAF, Assigned to Memphis Express

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2019

Former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) prepares for a developmental Spring League game, Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Austin, Texas. Manziel is hoping to impress NFL scouts in his bid to return to the league. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel signed a standard player agreement with the Alliance of American Football on Saturday and was assigned to the Memphis Express, the league announced.

The Alliance @TheAAF

Welcome to The Alliance, @JManziel2. https://t.co/CO1z4eiDLb

ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the news, while Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported Manziel was assigned to the Express after the San Antonio Commanders waived his rights.

"We are pleased to welcome Johnny Manziel to the Alliance of American Football, which we've always described as a league of opportunity for talented players to launch or revitalize their pro football careers," AAF co-founder Bill Polian said in a statement. "We completed extensive background work to determine whether it would be appropriate for Johnny to play this season, and after consulting with many people familiar with his situation, we concluded that it would be good for him to resume his pro football career here at The Alliance."

This comes after the former Heisman Trophy winner was released from his contract with the Canadian Football League, with CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie announcing the league would not allow any of its teams to sign the free agent as the result of him violating undisclosed terms of his contract:

"We advised Montreal that Johnny had violated one of the conditions we had set for him to be in our league. And Montreal announced his release today. We didn't release the terms of those conditions then and we're not going to do that now.

"We're trying to do what we believe is in the best interests of the entire league. The conditions we set, we thought were the right ones. Those conditions have been violated and we feel it's best, and Montreal feels it's best, to let Johnny move on. And we think it's best for our league that he do the same. And we wish him well."

Following his release, the 26-year-old took to Twitter to announce he would look to continue his football career in the United States:

Johnny Manziel @JManziel2

I want to thank Coach Sherman, my teammates, and the CFL fans. 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.

That has led him to the AAF.

AAF chairman Tom Dundon told USA Today's Kevin Allen and Tom Schad in late February that Manziel had been offered a workout for the league.

"Right now, it's a decision of the GMs, and they can decide what they want to do," Dundon explained. "If talent-wise this is close, the negative of him is that there is drama with him and you are trying to win games and build a team. The positive is that he brings in fans and attention."

That came after co-founder Charlie Ebersol let it be known the league would investigate Manziel's ban from the CFL and determine if he was "clean and clear" by its own standards.

The 22nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Manziel spent two years in Cleveland. He went 2-6 as the Browns' starting quarterback, completing just 57 percent of his passes for 1,675 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in 15 appearances.

His actions off the field plagued him, though, resulting in him being out of the league within two years of being drafted.

Manziel made his way to Canada, where he signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2018. However, he was unable to supplant former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli atop the team's depth chart, leading to a trade to the Montreal Alouettes during the 2018 season.

The dual-threat quarterback completed 64.2 percent of his passes for the Alouettes for 1,290 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions, adding 215 rushing yards on 7.4 yards per carry. A concussion sidelined him during his time in Montreal.

He would also participate in the Spring League in 2018.

Manziel becomes the biggest name in the AAF, although not due to a lack of effort on behalf of the league. The AAF reportedly pursued former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow but was unsuccessful.

Manziel's return will provide the AAF with star power as it continues its rise as a premier developmental league and give the Express a compelling new option under center following failed experiments with Christian Hackenberg and Zach Mettenberger.


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