So the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have traded Johnny Manziel to the Montreal Alouettes. Here are my 11 thoughts on the deal:
1. The Ticats got an excellent haul for an unproven asset in Manziel. Jamaal Westerman is a beast of a defensive end who should help the Ticats pass rush and as a ratio-breaker to boot: the Ticats already start a Canadian at defensive end so he fits perfectly into the rotation or as another national starter.
And before he tweaked his hamstring, Chris Williams looked like he recaptured much of the elite speed that makes him so dangerous. If those guys can stay healthy – Westerman is 33, Williams 30 – they are all-star calibre players and the Ticats gave up one starter (left tackle Tony Washington) in the deal.
But arguably the biggest get is those first-round picks: at a time when Canadian talent is so hard to find and develop, those picks are incredibly valuable. The Ticats are better today and potentially better in the long term. That’s hard to do in any trade.
2. Apparently, the Alouettes have been chasing Manziel for 18 months and things really heated up in the last 72 to 96 hours. Montreal general manager Kavis Reed flew to Toronto on Sunday to finalize the deal with general manager Eric Tillman and team CEO Scott Mitchell.
3. In some respects, Manziel’s trade value will never be higher than it is right now. If he plays and is terrible, his value goes down. If he plays and is good, the immediate speculation will be that he wants to go back to the NFL. And make no mistake, Manziel brings the circus to town. That’s not his fault but if and when he plays, it will be huge news. If he screws up at any point, it will be bigger news.
4. The Ticats have had a good long look at Manziel since mid-May. If they really, truly believed he was the second coming of Doug Flutie would they deal him? Unlikely.
5. This is a reaffirmation of what the Ticats have been saying all along: that Jeremiah Masoli is their guy. No, he didn’t look great against Saskatchewan but he’s played very well, generally speaking, since taking over the starting job in Labour Day 2017. He’s signed for two more seasons. His teammates love him. This puts all the “play Johnny” chatter to rest and that’s good for the team.
6. Dane Evans becomes the backup quarterback and while he doesn’t have the star power of Manziel, the Ticats have been happy with his development. He beat out Vernon Adams in training camp for the No. 3 job. Yes, they’ll need to bring in another QB, whether that’s Bryant Moniz or somebody else. But Evans has as much CFL experience as Manziel does, which is to say none.
7. With Washington gone, they’ll need a left tackle and that will likely come from the recently-signed Avery Jordan or Canadian Kay Okafor who played extensive at left tackle in the pre-season and held his own just fine. Losing Washington isn’t ideal – again he’s the only starter – but Hamilton should be able to find an American tackle.
8. And they have a bunch of young Canadians in development. In addition to Okafor, there’s Mathieu Girard, Brett Golding and Everton Williams and at some point, they have to play. Giving up Rice, a useful sixth man who was beaten out by rookie Darius Ciraco for a starting job.
9. From a cap perspective, this trade is about a wash. Westerman was a big-budget free agent signing but much of his money was paid up front. Williams is in the last year of his deal that pays him around $190,000. Manziel’s contract is incentive-laden and pays him more as a starter. Rice was making pretty good money as Canadian veteran.
10. Manziel wasn’t going to play as long as Masoli was healthy this gives him a better chance to do that. That’s good for him, the league, TSN and the Montreal fan base.
11. Social media reaction is always a funny thing but the majority of fans seems to be against this deal. I think a lot of that is the hype machine that built up around Manziel, some of it fuelled by the team itself and particularly head coach June Jones. Others are pissed they bought a jersey that’s now essentially worthless (the Ticats are offering $100 gift cards, which is nice.) Manziel has been trumpeted as a potential star and now he’s been traded for a deal that doesn’t include anyone nearly as famous. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good deal or, depending on how those picks turn out, even a great one.