Q&A: Alouettes GM Kavis Reed on trading for QB Johnny Manziel

The Montreal Alouettes acquired quarterback Johnny Manziel in a blockbuster deal with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Als general manager Kavis Reed shared his perspective on the trade.

Justin Dunk: When did negotiations begin with the Ticats? 

Kavis Reed: We started conversations we calculated over 20 months ago and I wanted to make sure that we did as much homework as possible about Johnny Manziel and what the young man was about. We wanted to make sure that we had an opportunity to gather as much information as possible. We had an opportunity early in the fall to visit Johnny in Texas, worked him out, had a very nice interview with him, he got an opportunity to speak to a couple of people in our organization. Things did not materialize at that point. We kept a tab on where he was in his progress and what was happening with respect to the league protocol.

JD: How crucial was time spent in Dallas in consummating the final deal to get Manziel? 

KR: It was my first time seeing him throw live. I thought in the workout that we had he threw the ball exceptionally well in the pocket and on the move. He handled the ball very well in terms of manipulation of the football, part of our offensive scheme involves manipulation with the quarterbacks, RPOs, boots and play action. He’s very knowledgeable about football on the board, he can draw up plays and explain them in exact detail. Very impressive football workout and very impressive about football in the classroom. I had an opportunity to socialize with him afterwards.

I was looking for whether or not he’s someone that would make excuses or someone that would have ownership of the mistakes that he made in the past. At that time he showed a level of remorse and understanding of what he had done wrong, that’s the reason we kept monitoring him. Being able to look him eye-to-eye and being able to really see through the soul of the individual I felt there was a very good individual inside of Johnny Manziel, felt that his heart was in the right place. It really helped – I highly doubt that we would’ve advanced the conversation if there wasn’t a sit down visit with Johnny Manziel or a workout.

JD: Did Mike Sherman’s relationship with Manziel influence the trade? 

KR: It was a factor. There was a lot of data collected prior to hiring Coach Sherman, a lot of information gathered, a lot of interviews that we did to gather information. We built up an entire profile on Johnny Manziel. He spoke highly about the young man in the recruiting process. He had an opportunity to very closely work with Johnny. The recruiting process is very intimate and you get to know the individual. That was a major factor in his input.

JD: At any other point in time since last March was a transaction for Manziel near happening? 

KR: Hard to say whether or not it was close because we never really got, in my opinion, to a point where we were just going to emphatically say let’s make a deal. If that were the case we probably would’ve approached them a lot earlier with more intense negotiations. There were a lot of things that needed to happen and unfold in Montreal before we revisited Johnny.

JD: Why re-open conversations to bring Manziel to Montreal now? 

KR: A number of variables went in to play, a number of injuries we started having at the quarterback position, Drew Willy went down, Jeff Mathews came in and played a game and went down, we had already lost progress with Matt Shiltz being out for four or five weeks with an injury. So we watched three guys in the immediate fold go down and be hurt and like any other GM would do you start to make phone calls to other teams about their quarterback situation. We made inquiries and looked at what we had available to us in free agency and on the neg list and we felt comfortable with reengaging in Johnny conversations based on him not playing thus far at that point in Hamilton.

JD: The final agreement included five players and two draft picks, how did the final package come together and become agreed upon? 

KR: Based on previous conversations we had a foundation already, we kind of knew the parameters that were introduced in previous conversations much earlier, almost a year earlier. I knew going in, Eric knew going in where they stood and we started from that then names are introduced then names are taken out when you get to a point where you’re knowing the value for value and obviously numbers have to match up as well. We decided after our football game on Saturday that a face-to-face conversation was necessary to try to close it out.

Everyone takes their notes. You try to protect your clubs interests. There are some certain things that are staunch that you’re not going to do and staunch that you want. You have to learn to know those hard things that are on the table and you negotiate from there. You banter back and forth, reason out a lot of things.

JD: What was it like discussing a trade with Eric Tillman who you worked with in Edmonton as the general manager and head coach tandem? 

KR: I have the utmost respect for Eric I’ve learned a lot about the business of being in football and the position of general manager from watching and talking to Eric. There is a level of trust already established. It makes it easy knowing we have that understanding. We know each other’s idiosyncrasies.

JD: How did you vet Manziel? 

KR: I trust Eric I trust that they’re going to give information as much as possible to be transparent, we all want each other to succeed. Being able to talk to Vernon Adams in-house was helpful. I feel very strongly that we got enough information on Johnny, recent information, that we’re comfortable with him.

The city of Montreal and the country of Canada is a very forgiving country and a country that loves people and loves giving people an opportunity to show that they’ve changed and he deserves that opportunity.

JD: Manziel played in Montreal against the Alouettes in the pre-season, from a scouting standpoint what did you take away from seeing him live? 

KR: Very important to see that because you have to look at the fluidity of the athlete, the comfort of the athlete in game speed and how comfortable is he on the CFL field. We got to see that he was a tremendous athlete playing quarterback, the most important thing that I took out of it was when he was able to extend plays, he was extending plays with his eyes down the field to make a pass down the field instead of being a runner. Instinctively a lot of guys would just try to be a runner and get a lot of accolades for being a running quarterback, but sooner or later you’re going to have to pull the trigger as a quarterback and we felt that he showed that in the pre-season.

JD: How did you process giving up two first-round picks? 

KR: I’m going to address this without giving away a lot of trade secrets. I presented a draft style to ownership when I interviewed for the job. I really love studying the draft. Last year we were able to go without a first round pick and we felt very strongly about the draft. We feel very strongly about the 2018 draft. When you look historically at where really the value in the CFL Drafts are those value picks are in the third round moving back. Not to say the first round is not important but the value picks really are in the third round moving back.

Based on the style that we use I was not afraid of doing that and also I did not feel that we’re compromising the organization in the big scheme of things. The picks that we gave up in 2020 and 2021 we felt that as an organization with our draft style we were able to afford that. You go in with the expectation that you’re not picking very high, that’s the expectation.

JD: When will Manziel see game action for the Alouettes? 

KR: It’s the expectation is that Johnny is going to dress this game [Thursday against the Edmonton Eskimos]. The coaches are well aware that we traded for him to play, we don’t know how much, but it’s the expectation that he’s playing very soon. I would say the chances of him starting are better next week. We play on Thursday of this week so I would say the chances are better that he may be the starter next week.

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