Like everything else these days, it’s all about Johnny Manziel.
An insane turn of events on Friday saw the Hamilton Tiger-Cats acquire a future Hall-of-Fame defensive end Charleston Hughes in exchange for, essentially, a fourth-round draft pick only to flip him to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for quarterback Vernon Adams.
The Hughes deal kind of made sense. He’s an elite-level, if ageing, pass rusher and a defensive line featuring Hughes, fellow American Adrian Tracy and Canadian Justin Capicciotti in rotation would have been excellent. But the Ticats were third in the CFL in sacks last year, just two off the league lead: Hughes was a luxury they didn’t necessarily need.
But they do need a backup quarterback. Jeremiah Masoli is the undisputed No. 1 and has the contract extension to prove it but with Zach Collaros gone, the Ticats had very little by way of experience behind their starter. Everett Golson has thrown four CFL passes and is set to be a free agent and Dane Evans was with the team for about five minutes at the end of last season.
Which brings us to Johnny.
The conventional wisdom has been that Manziel would sign with Hamilton and provide the Ticats with, at worst, a dynamic back up to Masoli and at best some legitimate competition for the starting job. But his agent’s outlandish contract demands coupled with Manziel’s ill-advised and since-deleted Tweets this week about selling jerseys and tickets has led to questions about how serious he really is about coming to the CFL.
Acquiring Adams also gives the Ticats another useful piece of information about Manziel: how does he react to the news that the club has acquired another quarterback? His social media accounts have provided at least some indication to his state of mind and focus, from ComebackSZN merchandising to workout videos. The next few days and weeks should be even more interesting, given Friday’s developments.
The Ticats have been, in general, seemingly inclined to slow play the Manziel situation. While the agent issued a completely fabricated Jan. 31 deadline, the team has kicked the can down the road at pretty much every opportunity, giving Manziel every chance to slip up or lose focus on his own time instead of theirs.
Trading for Adams doesn’t preclude the Ticats from signing Manziel but it gives them both insurance and leverage. Hamilton holds his CFL rights for a year and the season starts in June; they are in absolutely no hurry to get a deal done.
And that’s even truer now that they’ve acquired Adams. He doesn’t have a ton of experience with just three starts in two CFL seasons but the 75 per cent completion percentage and four touchdowns against one interception are promising. The kid can run, too, and he’s just 25.
Ticats head coach June Jones apparently loves him, having coached him in the East-West Bowl in 2016. Here’s what he said at the time:
“He can play in the NFL. Somebody’s going to give him an opportunity to do that,” Jones told the NFL Network. “Now whether he makes it or not, it’s up to him. He has all those things that the great ones have. He gets better as the game goes on.”
I'm too pumped to be apart of the @Ticats organization. Gonna keep grinding and doing my part. ????????
— Vernon Adams Jr. (@bigplay_va) February 2, 2018
Adams tweeted out his excitement about joining the Ticats shortly after the trade was announced, hardly surprising given that he was stuck behind Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge in Saskatchewan. Being in a good situation playing for a coach that believes in you is no doubt appealing.
That’s a lesson that Johnny Manziel hasn’t quite learned yet.