There’s a lot to unpack in the incendiary statement from Johnny Manziel’s agent issued on Monday night but here are five big takeaways from the firebomb Erik Burkhardt just threw into negotiations.
1. He calls the CFL’s neg list system “archaic and restrictive.” While there are certainly critics of the system, it exists at least in part to keep teams from engaging in bidding wars for players that would quickly prove financially unsustainable for the CFL. Yes, it limits a player’s opportunity and ability to maximize his value – so does the NFL Draft process. Burkhardt doesn’t like the system because it’s making life difficult for his player but it’s worked just fine for countless other guys who have come to the CFL, played for very little on their entry-level deal, then gone on to make more money as a veteran player after proving themselves (or an even bigger payday in the NFL.) If Manziel had better, higher-paying options he’d already have taken advantage of them.
2. Manziel wants to be one of highest paid players in the CFL right away. Here’s the salient line: “…we believe ‘fair deal’ means on par with what Hamilton has paid their QB in recent years, despite not having much on-field success.” As has been well reported, former starter Zach Collaros was the league’s highest-paid player last season with a salary of around $540,000. There is absolutely zero chance the Ticats will pay Manziel that kind of money. Zero. First, they just dumped Collaros’ deal because it was too expensive. Second, they just signed Jeremiah Masoli to be their starter. Third, nobody has any idea whether Johnny Manziel will be any good. He could be Doug Flutie 2.0… or he could be any one of dozens of former college stars who flamed out in the CFL. Add Manziel’s recent history of substance abuse and domestic violence and the doubts are even more significant: the Ticats aren’t blowing up their salary cap for a giant question mark.
3. Burkhardt has given the Ticats a deadline of Jan. 31 “to work out a fair deal to make him their Quarterback,” which makes it sound, along with the contract demands, that they expect Manziel to be the starter right from the get-go (which is not happening.) He adds ” If we cannot reach a deal with Hamilton by this date, we will turn our focus to several other professional options readily available to us.” Which would be what, exactly? The pipe dream that is a renewed XFL? An arena league? Maybe a spring showcase? The bottom line is that the CFL is the best – and maybe only – chance for Manziel to resurrect his career.
4. The Manziel camp talked to another, as-yet-unnamed CFL team about a possible trade but have decided to focus on Hamilton. There will be plenty of speculation on which team (until it inevitably leaks out) but the early speculation is the Montreal Alouettes – the only CFL team at the moment without a presumptive starting quarterback in place (sorry Darian.) In general, Burkhardt says nice things about the Ticats specifically mentioning CEO Scott Mitchell, head coach June Jones and vice-president of football operations Kent Austin. “All of these interactions have been very positive and served to reinforce Johnny’s excitement for coming out to play for the Tiger Cats,” he said. Sounds like the Ticats have handled this pretty well at least.
5. The whole thing is remarkably tone-deaf. Manziel has earned at least some measure of early goodwill by essentially staying silent but his recent return to social media (where he chirped his former team the Cleveland Browns) and now this rocket from Burkhardt will have a significant chunk of the CFL fan base up and arms: just another clueless American player and agent thinking they can do and say whatever they want in regards to the CFL. It feels disrespectful to the way things work around here. And makes Manziel seem like a guy who thinks he can walk into Canada and dominate immediately without having to earn the opportunity. That last part might be the most galling of all.
It was beginning to feel like Manziel had learned something from his recent spate of trouble. But by allowing Burkhardt to issue this statement he has, once again, made himself the story.
At this point, it seems to be the only thing he’s good at.