Johnny Manziel released, barred from other CFL teams
Thursday, February 28
MONTREAL (AP) — Johnny Manziel’s time in the Canadian Football League is over.
The CFL terminated the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner’s contract with the Montreal Alouettes on Wednesday. The league also informed the eight other teams that it wouldn’t register a contract for Manziel if any tried to sign him.
“We advised Montreal that Johnny had violated one of the conditions we had set for him to be in our league. And Montreal announced his release today,” CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in Vancouver. “We didn’t release the terms of those conditions then and we’re not going to do that now.
“We’re trying to do what we believe is in the best interests of the entire league. The conditions we set, we thought were the right ones. Those conditions have been violated and we feel it’s best, and Montreal feels its best, to let Johnny move on. And we think it’s best for our league that he do the same. And we wish him well.”
A post on Manziel’s Twitter account indicated he was already looking for other opportunities.
“I want to thank (Alouettes coach Mike Sherman), my teammates and the CFL fans,” Manziel tweeted. “My time there re-established my love for the game of football and the work that goes into it. I look forward to exploring new options within the United States.”
One option for the former Texas A&M star and onetime Cleveland Brown could be the Alliance of American Football, which kicked off its inaugural season earlier this month. Manziel said he was intrigued by the prospect of playing in either that or Xtreme Football League, which begins operation next year.
“It’s great for football, it’s great for the guys who need more opportunity, need more film and time to play,” Manziel said on Barstool Sports Comeback SZN podcast. “I don’t know exactly what my exact steps will be for the next years coming up, but at least there’s a lot of options.
“Me and E.B. (agent Erik Burkhardt) are fully committed to playing ball and trying to get into the best situation possible and that’s what it’s all about.”
In December 2017, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie announced the league would approve a contract for the former Cleveland Browns first-round pick, who at the time was on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats negotiation list. But Manziel had to fulfill certain requirements to join the league.
The league’s due diligence included an assessment by an independent expert on domestic violence and a face-to-face meeting between Manziel and Ambrosie.
Exactly what conditions or requirements that were broken or violated weren’t divulged. 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 Tiger-Cats dealt Manziel and offensive linemen Tony Washington and Landon Rice in a trade with Montreal on July 23 for receiver Chris Williams, defensive end Jamaal Westerman and two first-round draft picks (2020, ‘21).
The move reunited Manziel with Sherman, who recruited him to Texas A&M. Acquired to be Montreal’s No. 1 quarterback, the 26-year-old nicknamed Johnny Football went 2-6 as a starter, completing 106 of 165 passes (64.2 percent) for 1,290 yards with five TDs and seven interceptions.
He also ran for 215 yards on 29 carries as Montreal (5-13) finished third in the East Division but missed the CFL playoffs.
“We are disappointed by this turn of events,” Alouettes GM Kavis Reed said in a statement. “Johnny was provided a great deal of support by our organization, in collaboration with the CFL, but he has been unable to abide by the terms of his agreement.
“We worked with the league and presented alternatives to Johnny, who was unwilling to proceed.”
Manziel was taken in the first round, No. 22 overall, in the 2014 NFL draft by Cleveland. But following two tumultuous seasons, the Browns released the Tyler, Texas, native in March 2016 after he posted a 2-6 record as their starter.
Manziel appeared in just 14 games with Cleveland, completing 147 of 258 attempts (57.0 percent) for 1,675 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also ran for 259 yards and a touchdown.
Eagles agree to let Foles seek starting job in free agency
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Nick Foles rejuvenated his career in Philadelphia. Now he wants to turn his success into an NFL starting job — and the Eagles intend to give him that chance.
General manager Howie Roseman told reporters Wednesday that the franchise will not use the franchise tag on Foles, making him a free agent.
“It’s hard when you have someone who is incredibly valuable to your organization, the most important position in sports,” Roseman said during the NFL’s annual scouting combine in Indianapolis. “But at the same time, he deserves an opportunity to lead a team. It’s a goal of his to lead another team and lead another locker room, and we feel at this point it’s the right decision.”“
Roseman said the Eagles agreed to make the move after Foles expressed his desire during a recent meeting.
And with Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2016 the established starter in Philadelphia, Foles understood it meant he would have to find a new team.
Over the last two seasons, Foles became one of the most precious commodities in sports — a backup quarterback with championship-caliber talent.
When Wentz tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in December 2017, Foles stepped in, led the Eagles to their first NFL title since 1960 and was the Super Bowl MVP.
Last season, when Wentz suffered a back injury, Foles again stepped forward and led the Eagles back to the playoffs. Foles helped Philadelphia to a 16-15 wild-card victory at Chicago before losing 20-14 at New Orleans in the divisional round.
But in those two seasons he won four playoff games — more than he did in his previous five in the league combined — and turned himself into a hot commodity at the most prized position in the league.
“We’ve been so fortunate over the last couple of years to have two top-15 quarterbacks in Carson and Nick, and we spent a lot of time discussing this internally and with him,” Roseman said. “We feel very comfortable about it. Again, hard decision because of someone who means a lot to us, professionally and personally, but at that end of the day as an organization, we felt it was the right thing to do.”
When Foles signs elsewhere, Nate Sudfeld will move into the No. 2 spot.
The 30-year-old Foles comes with a solid resume.
He was Philadelphia’s third-round pick in 2012, starting six games as a rookie and 18 more before signing with the Rams in 2015. After one season as the starter in St. Louis, he moved to Kansas City, where he rejoined former Eagles coach Andy Reid to serve as the backup to Alex Smith. In 2016, Foles returned to Philadelphia to mentor Wentz and wound up becoming a fan favorite and a Super Bowl champ.
And he hits free agency with a chance to cash in.
“Nick and I have a lot of history together, all the way back to when we drafted him and I was on coach Reid’s staff here in Philly,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “We had conversations, obviously, at the end of the season and he knew where I stood and how I felt about him, but at the same time, he was a huge part of our success the last two years. It’s an opportunity now, as Howie mentioned, to be a starter in this league. And he’s very capable of doing that.”
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Defensive linemen dominate this year’s combine class
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — This year’s class of quarterback prospects isn’t as sexy as last year’s group led by Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. Nor does it feature the tantalizing talents of next year’s headliners: Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jake Fromm.
There are a few passers who merit first-round consideration, but what teams will see an abundance of at the NFL scouting combine this week are the players who will make their living chasing, corralling and clobbering quarterbacks.
“To me, it’s all about big guys,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “Premier talent and depth at the defensive line position, inside, outside, it’s outstanding. And it carries deep into the draft.”
It’s not only the rush, but the push.
Defensive ends led by Ohio State’s Nick Bosa and Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell are prized pass rushers, but nowadays players such as Clemson D-tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence are just as highly valued for their interior pressure.
“I think we’re getting to the point in this league where we’ve become such a pass-first league that you take those guys wherever you can get them,” said Mike Mayock , who parlayed a 14-year run as the NFL Network’s draft guru into the Oakland Raiders’ general manager’s job.
Mayock said he’s spoken to just about every top quarterback in the NFL since 2004 and he’s asked them all the same question: What bothers you the most?
“And almost every top-flight quarterback says, ‘immediate pressure up the middle,’” Mayock said.
“It disturbs sight lines, forces you to readjust your feet. So, I think we’re at the point now where people are throwing the ball so much that you’ve got to find a way to affect it regardless.”
Broncos new coach Vic Fangio concurred, saying it’s no longer enough to have two great pass rushers such as Denver’s duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
“You want four guys that the quarterback can feel caving in on him,” Fangio said. “And that’s critical in the pass rush. And that’s an area that we need to improve in.”
There’s plenty of those players in Indianapolis for interviews, physicals and testing this week.
Despite the down year for QBs, there’s still plenty of intrigue at the position thanks to Kyler Murray, who followed Mayfield from the state of Texas to Oklahoma, won the Heisman Trophy like Mayfield did, and is now following the Cleveland Browns’ starting QB to the NFL after spurning the Oakland Athletics.
“He’s a guy that, once again, people are going say is small and too short, but the kid knows how to win,” Mayfield said. “When it comes down to it, that’s the most important thing.”
After committing to football over baseball, the biggest questions surrounding Murray this week aren’t about ability — “Kyler can make every single throw,” Jeremiah insisted — but his height and weight.
So his weigh-in Thursday will garner as much interest as anything else this week.
Is he really under 5-foot-10? Has he really bulked up to 206?
Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, Daniel Jones and Ryan Finley all project as a solution to somebody’s quarterback quandary despite the relative weakness of this year’s QB class.
The scouting combine always seems to come on the heels of another Super Bowl parade for New England. As usual, Bill Belichick isn’t among the coaches and general managers who will meet with the media, so football’s focus moves on to other topics:
Where will Antonio Brown play next season? Don’t count out Pittsburgh. Or, for that matter, Baltimore, Cincinnati or Cleveland. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said he’d prefer to keep one of the league’s top playmakers in Pittsburgh. If he does trade Brown, he’d rather deal him out of the AFC North.
“If a team comes through with the best compensation, we have to balance that out: OK, we’re going to play him twice a year, but we’re going to get the best compensation,” Colbert said.
Don’t expect the Raiders to use one of their three first-round picks on a quarterback after Mayock’s high praise of Derek Carr on Wednesday.
“I think it’s really difficult to improve over a franchise quarterback like the one we have in our building right now,” Mayock said.
ELWAY’S QB CAROUSEL
For the first time in four years, Broncos GM John Elway attends the combine knowing who his quarterback will be. He has a trade in place with Baltimore for Joe Flacco once the league year begins March 13.
Just like last year, when the Chiefs had a deal pending that would send Alex Smith to Washington, the Broncos and Ravens are barred by NFL rules from discussing the matter, making for an awkward situation as both teams dance around their franchise’s biggest offseason story line.
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Steelers hope to see less of Brown if they pull off trade
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert insists he would gladly welcome back Antonio Brown next season.
If things don’t work out, Colbert has a plan for that, too.
Colbert addressed the rampant rumors about Brown’s future Wednesday by saying he would only trade the Steelers’ star receiver if he gets equal value in return — and preferably to a team outside the AFC North.
“Ideally, you’d want to trade him to somebody you’ll never play but that can’t happen because if you’re good enough to get to the Super Bowl you’ll have to play him anyway,” Colbert said while answering a hypothetical question. “The less you would play him the better. But if a team you play twice a year comes through with the best compensation, you have to weigh that into the discussions. We haven’t ruled out anybody.”
What Colbert has ruled out is giving away one of the league’s top playmakers at a bargain price — even as some believe Brown’s price has continued to drop as he lobbies for a trade.
Just last week, after Brown met with Steelers president Art Rooney II, Brown wrote on Twitter that the two agreed it was time to part ways.
Colbert acknowledged Brown first asked whether he could post a photo with him next to Rooney.
“I took that to be an indication of where he is right now,” Rooney said.
But with Brown still seeking to play elsewhere and running back Le’Veon Bell expected to leave in free agency after sitting out all of last season in a contract dispute, Colbert doesn’t buy the notion the Steelers’ locker room has become dysfunctional.
Rather, he continues to believe coach Mike Tomlin can help resolve any potential problems even as Colbert continues to listen to a growing list of trade offers. He declined to name any teams involved.
“Antonio Brown is one of the best players in the NFL and we’d like to have him on the team,” Colbert said before addressing what he’d seek in a deal. “It would take significant compensation just to balance out the loss of a player of that value.”
Brown has topped the 100-catch and 1,000-yard marks each of the past six seasons and has had at least 10 touchdown catches in five of those six seasons. The 30-year-old Brown led the league in receptions in 2014 and 2015, as well as yards receiving in 2014.
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