Johnny Manziel is headed back to the United States to play football, and it will be in Memphis, Tennessee.
The Alliance of American Football announced Saturday night that it has signed the quarterback and that he was claimed on waivers by the Memphis Express after the San Antonio Commanders relinquished his rights.
The AAF, in its first season, said Manziel will report to Memphis on Sunday. The Express lost to Salt Lake 22-9 on Saturday to fall to 1-5 on the year. The former first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns could be the fourth quarterback to play for the team this season. Christian Hackenberg started the Express’ first three games but was relieved by Zach Mettenberger, who was injured Saturday and replaced by Brandon Silvers. Silvers completed 23 of 37 passes for 242 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions against Salt Lake.
“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,” league co-founder Bill Polian said in a statement Saturday night. “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.”
Polian said he believes Manziel will benefit from “the coaching and mentorship” of Memphis coach Mike Singletary. A corresponding roster move was not immediately announced, but the league’s waiver rules stipulate that the team would have to make a move with a quarterback.
San Antonio had the rights to Manziel because he played college football at Texas A&M. But in a statement Saturday night, general manager Daryl Johnston said he was content keeping the Western Conference-leading Commanders as presently constructed, which was why the team relinquished his rights. San Antonio quarterback Logan Woodside has completed 82 of 150 passes for 1,025 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions this season.
“One of the most important things I have already learned is when there is an opportunity to get better … you get better,” he said. “The challenge is finding the balance in what I know and what I have learned and finding the best solution to get better as a team. I truly believe that the moves necessary to add Johnny to our roster do not make us better at this time.
“I wish Johnny all the best with the Alliance of American Football and we look forward to competing against him in the future.”
Manziel was available to the AAF after the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL released him earlier this month and then said he could not play for any other team in its league.
He immediately becomes one of the biggest names in the AAF as one of its few former NFL first-round picks, notably among them Birmingham running back Trent Richardson. Other than Orlando, which has Garrett Gilbert at quarterback, most of the league’s teams have had some issues at the position.
Standard AAF contracts are for three years and $250,000. However, players can earn more in incentives.
Manziel had previously said on Barstool Sports’ “Comeback SZN” podcast that he was intrigued by the prospect of playing in either the AAF or the XFL, 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,” the quarterback said.
Manziel has dealt with several off-field issues. In 2016, a domestic assault charge against Manziel in Dallas was dismissed after he took an anger management course and participated in the NFL’s substance abuse program. In a recent interview, he said he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has stopped drinking.
He was taken with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft by Cleveland. But following two tumultuous seasons, the Browns released him in March 2016 after he posted a 2-6 record as their starter.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.