CFL could obliterate its credibility if they give Johnny Manziel special treatment

Who wants to talk more about contracts and leaving for the NFL?

It has been the topic that has dominated the off-season more than any other. More than potential expansion to Halifax, more than who will sign where in free agency and more than whatever Johnny Manziel is up to at any given moment.

OK, maybe not that last one.

But the newest report of a player possibly wanting an opt-out option combines that talking point with Johnny Manziel, so it’s win-win, right?

The news came to us from Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk when he wrote about what is next for Manziel.

The requisite CFL talk came up, as did the possibility of Johnny joining the Alliance of American Football (AAF), and it seems the sticking point for Mr. Football is the length of time he’d have to spend up here in Canada.

[T]he CFL continues to refuse to relent on its requirement that Manziel commit for two seasons.

I get that Manziel wants to get back to the NFL as soon as possible — news flash: so does almost every American player who first comes to the CFL —but if he is to embark on his #ComebackSZN in Canada, he’ll be required to sign the standard two-year, entry-level contract that every newbie to the CFL has to sign.

Or will he?

Later in Florio’s piece he drops this nugget:

However, the possibility lingers that the CFL will make a change in order to entice Manziel to come to Canada, allowing him for example to leave after one year, if he plays well enough to attract NFL interest.

Well, isn’t that interesting? And talk about a rather abrupt about-face after the off-season we’ve had.

Now, it must be stated that Florio is not a connected man in the CFL, and no one in CFL circles has suggested that the league would allow this, so this could be Florio putting things together on his own and it is pure speculation on his part.

That said, if we take this at face value, this is a pretty bad look for the league if this turns out to be true.

Side deals and handshake agreements have been one of the topics du jour since the off-season began.

We had the whole James Wilder, Jr. and Victor Butler fiascos, the Micah Awe situation that saw the B.C. Lions get “heavily fined” and most recently the debacle regarding Justin Zimmer (where, unbeknownst to the league, he had an out clause written into his contract).

It looks like Manziel wants a contract like Zimmer’s, but there is no way the league would consider that… would they?

No, they can’t, and not just because it would be placating the demands of a guy who hasn’t proven anything on a CFL field, but because it would be a slap in the face to James Wilder, Jr., Victor Butler and the B.C. Lions. They took a lot of body shots over the last few months for taking the stances they took and for the league to turn around and grant the exact same thing they were crushed for to someone else would not do much for their public image.

In fact, I would go so far as to say it would obliterate its credibility in the eyes of the players and many fans.

If this was any player other than Manziel, perhaps people would be more willing to see the player get such a deal, but it’s not, and for as much as I am an advocate of players maximizing their income as quickly as they can, we can’t have the league making policy changes like this for one player.

The NFL option window should exist, but it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t for James Wilder, Victor Butler or Micah Awe, then it shouldn’t for Johnny Manziel either.

Manziel wants a quick path back to the NFL, and that’s fine, but that path involves two years of commitment to the CFL, not one.

If he doesn’t like that, he doesn’t have to sign. The CFL was here before him and the CFL will be here after him.

The league simply cannot risk its credibility by providing special treatment for a “star” player. To do so would be a black mark on a league.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.