NFL’s free agency has been somewhat uneventful for the most part in 2016 if you’re not a New York Giants fan. The Giants splurged on defensive linemen Oliver Vernon, Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
Beyond a few cogs in the reigning champion Denver Bronco defense changing uniforms (LB Danny Trevathan to Chicago Bears and DE Malik Jackson to the Jaguars), and several overrated and overpaid wide receivers changing teams, this has been a dull free agency. Most of the great players were frachise tagged or resigned with their teams.
In Big D, there has been Big Silence up to now with only DT Cedric Thornton being signed which was a blurb at the bottom of ESPN screens. That has all changed. In what has been a successful circumvention of media coverage, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has managed to sign former Browns quarterback, Johnny Manziel, to a one-year deal with the team.
Despite conflicting media reports of him signing a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos, the Dallas Cowboys finally get their man—a native Texan—in bringing Manziel back to the Lone Star State.
Manziel, the 22nd overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2014 NFL Draft, has a 7-7 touchdown to interception ratio, a 2-6 record as a starter, has been all sighs and shakes of the head since winning the Heisman Trophy in 2012 and coming in fifth for it in 2013. The financial terms of the deal are expected to be minimum wage with almost none of it guaranteed.
“We are quite excited that this young man can come in here and compete,” Jones said to the Inscriber. “We hope he can set himself up for the future and we intend to help him through his problems.”
Manziel’s problems include a long history of alcohol abuse including underage drinking, excessive partying, and now even a domestic violence charge against him for assaulting his then-girlfriend while they were in a car.
“I’ve always wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy since I was a kid,” Manziel said to the Inscriber. “I’ve dreamed of being a Dallas Cowboy and now that I’m living that dream, I feel like the nightmares can go away.”
Manziel, a native Texan, refused to comment on the domestic violence allegations, but commented on his partying.
“I’ve been the biggest fool. I’ve got opportunities that most people would give up everything for and I’ve been living the fun life too much,” He said. “In Dallas, I want to redeem myself. I spoke with my father who told me that what I’ve done is history, both for me and in the books. He asked me, ‘do I want to be remembered as the guy who had so much potential and I pissed it all away or was I a guy who made several mistakes, but proved that turnarounds can happen even after so many failures?'”
Manziel’s father was unavailable for comment, but Manziel’s agent Drew Rosenhaus was.
“What we have here is a talented young man who has made a grocery list of mistakes and that’s being nice,” Rosenhaus, in a rare candid mood, said. “But I wouldn’t have taken him on as a client if I didn’t believe that he could turn it around.”
When asked if there was a strategy in place to keep the Dallas-Fort Worth nightlife away from Manziel, Rosenhaus said that he and Jones would discuss strategies to keep Manziel in line.
Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President, and Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones said that his father, Jerry, had coveted Manziel since 2014 and wanted to draft him. Stephen convinced him to take eventual All-Pro guard Zack Martin instead.
“My father really wanted us to get Johnny for a long-term backup plan for Tony [Romo]. But the rest of us managed to convince him that we should invest more in protecting Tony for the present term and then focus on a backup plan,” Stephen Jones said to the Inscriber. “I also told my father that I felt that Johnny would not do well in Cleveland and a potential trade in the future was a better option than spending a valuable first round pick on him now.”
Stephen, who has been making more decisions as of the last few years, also said that Manziel is guaranteed nothing with Dallas. There is no favoritism of any kind.
“I don’t care if he’s from Texas. I don’t care if my dad even really likes him,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, if he’s still not going to take this life seriously when he’s 23-years-old, then I will have him cut as fast as I can dictate the paperwork to my secretary. I can only justify this one chance after all the things that happened in Cleveland.”
Jones went into detail on how Dallas gave Ryan Leaf, a frequent selection for the greatest bust of all time label, a second chance in 2001 and how Leaf squandered his chance there.
“Ryan was unfortunate because his wrist was very injured, but even then, he did not put in the effort.” Jones said. “Johnny doesn’t have an injury, but he reminds me of Ryan, so if he wants this opportunity to turn into something more than another failed chance, he will have to make some serious adjustments to his life.”
The fan reaction to the move has been mixed with a larger focus on the negative.
“I don’t want a person who would hit a woman on the football team,” Sheyna Petty said. “He’s talented, but I don’t think he’s realized that he can’t be successful while doing the things that he’s done. The NFL is almost like a child. When it happens, your partying days are over for the most part unless you just don’t care and I don’t think he cares enough.”
“They [Cowboys] had enough bad press from ESPN about Greg Hardy just this past season and Manziel’s an even bigger media target,” Marty Love said, who also concurred with Petty about not wanting women abusers on the team.
Another pessimistic feeling came from Ryan Steinbrunner who has played almost as much football as Manziel.
“I loved him when he was at [Texas] A&M, but even then he was a hard person to handle. Plus, you could tell he won because he was talented, not because he was dedicated and in the NFL, you can’t win on talent alone,” the A&M graduate and former walk-on Steinbrunner said. “You have to be dedicated and studying the playbook, the film, working at the gym, and productive practicing with your teammates in order to win. This isn’t pickup on the playground, it’s a job that requires even more than a 9-5 shift in order to succeed. It demands your life and unless you have a burning passion for it, it’s not going to work.”
Steinbrunner, a lawyer now, said that as he grew older, his passions changed from football and it was one reason why he eventually quit. When asked about off-field incidents, Steinbrunner rolled his eyes.
“That’s another thing. I think it’s only a matter of time until he screws up again and then he’s in my world; the courtroom,” Steinbrunner said. “Guys like him don’t learn in time typically.”
There is reason for hope with some fans. A&M alumnus Richie Oliver, who has gone to home games every year for the past 26 years, is hopeful.
“He’s not the best kid in the world, there’s no question,” Oliver said. “But I’m also a Christian who believes in the power of redemption. I’ve seen plenty of guys wake up in time and make something of their careers. Even that all-time bust Tony Mandarich came back and played guard with the Colts in the 90s. If Johnny can turn himself around, I really feel he can become an all-time great still and a great story for the future generations.”
The clock is clearly ticking on Manziel’s NFL career and if he can’t succeed in Dallas, there is almost no hope he can succeed anywhere. But he has another chance whether he deserves it or not, so let’s hope for his sake, he can pull it together.
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