Johnny Manziel tries to continue his career in AAF

NFL News

The AAF needs a little star power, and it’s getting some now with Johnny Manziel.

Into its sixth week now, reviews of the AAF have been generally positive and television ratings have been solid. But a fledgling league could always use some star power, and another capable quarterback. The former is surely coming, now that Johnny Manziel has signed a player contract in the AAF and will join the Memphis Express.

Manziel was last seen on an NFL field in 2015. He landed with the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL last year, and had five touchdowns and seven interceptions over eight games played. In late February, Manziel was suddenly cut by the Alouettes and subsequently barred from playing for any other CFL team.

The precise circumstances that brought Manziel’s exile from the CFL are unclear. The bottom line is he was available to play football somewhere else, with the AAF and next year’s relaunch of the XFL immediately surfacing as potential landing spots.

Since Manziel played in college at Texas A&M, the San Antonio Commanders had what amounted to territorial rights on him in the AAF. But when they relinquished those rights, the 1-5 Express had first dibs in the waiver process and decided to bring Manziel in.

The Express have two former NFL quarterbacks on their roster. Christian Hackenberg opened the season as the starter, before giving way to Zach Mettenberger. Mettenberger suffered a left ankle injury on the first play of Saturday’s game against the Salt Lake Stallions, so Manziel may be arriving at the right time. Brandon Silvers replaced Mettenberger against Salt Lake, and completed 23-of-37 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown and a fumble.

Memphis is coached by Hall of Famer and former NFL coach Mike Singletary, so it’s worth wondering how well he’ll mesh with Manziel. But on the flip side, a strong structure and a no-nonsense coach might be just what Manziel needs whether he sees the field or not.

It’s a stretch to say the Express have an immediate quarterback controversy on their hands. If Mettenberger can’t go next week against Birmingham, Silvers will presumably get the start since he has been there all season. But that game is also in the AAF’s marquee Sunday night spot on NFL Network, and Manziel merely being in uniform with the chance he could play will draw extra eye balls.

Any success the AAF can sustain through and beyond this inaugural season will be driven by the quality of quarterback play, and beyond a handful thus far it’s safe to say it can be upgraded league-wide. Time will surely tell if Manziel will help that cause at all, as the Express stand to have nothing to lose by playing him at some point.

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If he can’t stick in the AAF, with an NFL call definitely not coming at that point, there’s always the XFL in 2020 for Manziel. Regardless, calling him “Johnny Football” is fast becoming inaccurate.

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