Editor’s note: Bovada removed this prop shortly after publication.
Life is tough without a full slate of NFL games to gamble on every Sunday, so in the meantime we have to make the best with what we have. NFL draft prop season is in full swing, and the fine folks at Bovada have blessed us with the chance to now wager on whether #ComebackSZN will actually come to fruition.
Will Johnny Manziel be signed by an NFL team before or during the 2018 regular season? Yes +250, No -400
In case you haven’t heard, Manziel is attempting once again to gain employment as a professional quarterback. He has trained with quarterback guru George Whitfield since early 2017, thrown at several pro days over the past month and even played in the Spring League.
What has changed for Manziel? He’s noted in various interviews that his sense of entitlement and dependence on alcohol held him back during his two seasons with the Browns. Manziel is now taking medication for bipolar disorder and living a sober life in an attempt to regain his position in the NFL.
Reports should all be taken with a grain of salt, but NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo has dropped several interesting tidbits regarding Manziel’s comeback season over the past month.
After I’m done plugging @ThomaHawkNFD, I talk Johnny Manziel and how teams have been told he’s willing to take $0 guaranteed and even spend time on a practice squad to prove himself in the NFL again. pic.twitter.com/thWDWhzPd6
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) Feb. 28, 2018
It’s important to remember that it isn’t (necessarily) a lack of talent that has left Manziel unemployed over the past two years. After being released by the Browns in March of 2016, Manziel was involved in both a domestic abuse case and misdemeanor assault charge for most of that year and 2017. The former was dismissed in December of 2016, and the latter was dismissed a year later. Legal issues prevented any team from taking a chance on Manziel for the last two seasons, but those have since been fully cleared up with no additional problems.
The much-maligned quarterback has seemingly said and done everything right for the better part of the past year. Ian Rapoport reported that Manziel “looked sharp” while throwing at the University of San Diego pro day in March, and DallasCowboys.com beat writer Bryan Broaddus, speaking of Manziel’s performance at the Texas A&M pro day, noted that he “threw the ball better in this workout than he did four years ago at this same place.” Johnny Football completed nine of 15 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in his Spring League debut, although he was sacked three times and fumbled once.
Manziel still carries some off-the-field concerns, and like Colin Kaepernick and Tim Tebow (albeit for different reasons), he will bring a lot of (perhaps unwanted) media attention. Some NFL teams will probably decide that it’s not worth risking a potential daily media circus just to sign an unproven quarterback so he can stand on the sideline. Other teams may still be turned off by his past.
Even so, Johnny Football would be far from the worst person, worst athlete or even worst quarterback ever to receive a second chance in the NFL. Manziel didn’t live up to the No. 22 overall pick that the Browns used to draft him, but it’s hard to say that he’s definitely not one of the league’s top 64 signal callers.
- Manziel’s average of 6.7 yards per attempt in 2015 would have ranked 23rd among the 34 NFL quarterbacks to start at least six games in 2017, ahead of the likes of Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Eli Manning and Joe Flacco.
- Johnny Football ranked 10th among all NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards in 2015 and is one of just five signal-callers to record 100-plus rushing yards in a game over the past three seasons.
- Manziel was victorious in two of his eight career starts. Browns head coach Hue Jackson has won one of 32 games with the franchise.
Plenty of draft pundits cautioned against Manziel as a first-round pick in 2014, but he was still widely regarded as a top-tier prospect. The Heisman Trophy winner broke Cam Newton‘s college record for total yards in a season, and he flashed some breathtaking ability during his short stint in the NFL.
People forget Johnny Manziel has more wins with the Browns than Hue Jackson. pic.twitter.com/uCKUHsjHwp
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) April 12, 2018
Among his 258 career pass attempts, there were certainly more bad than good, and the verdict remains out on whether he can take what the defense gives him while working within the confines of an NFL offense. Still, he demonstrated the ability to make explosive plays outside the pocket and is just 25 years old. Manziel now seems serious about putting to good use the talent that made him the second quarterback off the board in 2014. The financial and legal holdups from past years have seemingly evaporated, so we’re about to witness the first offseason with Manziel as a reasonable free agent target.
The Bet: Yes +250
I’ll take the +250 odds that Manziel will be signed by an NFL team before or during the 2018 season. I’m not confident that he can become an effective NFL starter or even an okay backup. Rather, I believe that one NFL team will be willing to give a (former) first-round quarterback a small, non-guaranteed contract to compete for a backup position. Of the 62 quarterbacks drafted in the first round over the past 25 years, only JaMarcus Russell failed to earn another contract after being released by his original team.
Manziel wasn’t great in the NFL, but he wasn’t JaMarcus either.