Former Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel signed with the Alliance of American Football on Saturday night and will join the Memphis Express. The quarterback's rights belonged to San Antonio of the spring league, but that team declined to sign him and Manziel then was free to join any of the other seven clubs. He was awarded through the AAF's waiver system to the Express, who have a league-worst 1-5 record.
"We are pleased to welcome Johnny Manziel to Alliance of American Football, which we've always described as a league of opportunity for talented players to launch or revitalize their pro football careers,'' Alliance co-founder Bill Polian said in a statement released by the league.
"We completed extensive background work to determine whether it would be appropriate for Johnny to play this season, and after consulting with many people familiar with his situation, we concluded that it would be good for him to resume his pro football career here at The Alliance.''
Manziel is expected to report to the Express on Sunday.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M had his contract with the CFL terminated last month. The CFL said he violated his agreement with the league, but has offered no specifics.
In Memphis, Manziel could get an opportunity to play quickly. Express quarterback Zach Mettenberger was injured Saturday and unable to return to the team's 22-9 loss at Salt Lake and his status is uncertain. Mettenberger had replaced Christian Hackenberg as Memphis' starter, so coach Mike Singletary could look to Manziel to lead his squad.
Manziel was a first-round draft pick by Cleveland, but quickly fizzled out there.
He was 2-6 as a starter with the Alouettes last season, completing 106 of 165 passes (64.2 per cent) for 1,290 yards with five TDs and seven interceptions after Montreal acquired him in a trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Manziel also ran for 215 yards on 29 carries as Montreal (5-13) missed the CFL playoffs.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie announced in December 2017 that the league would approve a contract for Manziel, who at the time was on the Tiger-Cats' negotiation list. But Manziel had to fulfil certain requirements to join the league.
The league's due diligence included an assessment by an independent expert on domestic violence and a head-to-head meeting between Manziel and Ambrosie. Manziel had sought treatment for anger management and alcohol abuse as part of his acquittal on a 2016 charge of domestic violence.
Manziel eventually ended up signing with Hamilton in May 2018 but was unable to get on to the field behind starter Jeremiah Masoli. The Ticats dealt Manziel and offensive linemen Tony Washington and Landon Rice in a blockbuster trade with Montreal last July for receiver Chris Williams, defensive end Jamaal Westerman and two first-round draft picks (2020, '21).
The move reunited Manziel with Alouettes coach Mike Sherman, who also recruited Johnny Football to Texas A&M.
Manziel's CFL action was his first in pro football since December 2015.
Manziel was due a $75,000 bonus March 1 and scheduled to earn a $202,000 base salary in 2019. Manziel's departure left Montreal with five quarterbacks on its roster (Vernon Adams Jr., Jeff Matthews, Antonio Pipkin, Matthew Shiltz and Canadian rookie Richard Hugo).