Former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will participate in the developmental Spring League this year as part of his attempt to return to the NFL.
The Spring League announced Wednesday that Manziel has signed a deal to play in the Elite D-League, which runs in Austin, Texas, from March 28 through April 15.
“We believe our platform is the ideal forum for Mr. Manziel to enact his NFL comeback,” league CEO Brian Woods said in a statement.
Manziel, who told ABC News on Monday that he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, acknowledged in a statement that he has “made my share of mistakes” but said he is thankful for the opportunity to play in the Spring League.
“Football has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. Sometimes you take for granted how much you value something until it’s gone. My goal is to make it back to the NFL and I realize I have to earn that privilege,” Manziel said. “The Spring League has provided me with a great opportunity to play ball again, and ultimately, that is all I want to do. I miss the competition.”
The Spring League consists of four teams competing in two doubleheaders, which will be played in April. According the league’s website, 10 NFL teams attended games in the 2017 season and 22 NFL teams requested game film from last year.
Manziel last played in the NFL in 2015 with the Cleveland Browns, who selected him 22nd overall in the 2014 NFL draft. As a Texas A&M freshman, Manziel won the Heisman Trophy in 2012.
New York Jets’ Zach Wilson signs rookie deal after missing first 2 days of practice, sources say
The first-round pick and presumptive starter, who missed two days of practice as the two sides haggled over technicalities in the contract language, will sign a four-year, $35.15 million contract — a slotted deal that is fully guaranteed.
It includes a $22.9 million signing bonus and a fifth-year team option, standard for all first-round picks.
Wilson, who took a red-eye flight from Los Angeles and arrived in New Jersey on Thursday morning, was the last unsigned first-round selection from the 2021 NFL draft.
The contract includes offset language and the signing bonus will be paid within 15 days, per a source, details that imply that the sides have compromised because those were the sticking points.
At the start of camp, coach Robert Saleh said he wasn’t concerned about Wilson missing camp time. “It’s something he’ll have to navigate through,” Saleh said. “I’ve got a lot of faith in Zach. He’s incredibly intelligent, and he’s got a tremendous drive. When he does get here, I know somehow, some way he’ll make up for it.”
Wilson benefited from a heavy workload in the spring. With no veterans on the roster, he took all the first-team reps.
There was an increased sense of urgency to strike a deal because the Jets are counting on him to be their opening-day starter, although they haven’t announced that. The only other quarterbacks on the roster are James Morgan and Mike White, neither of whom has regular-season experience. Rookie contract disputes are unusual because the deals are slotted, but teams and agents sometimes haggle over certain clauses.
The Jets include an offset in every contract that has guaranteed money, which provides financial protection if they release the player before the contract is complete. An offset allows a team to cut a player before the end of his four-year contract is completed and have the remaining money reduced by the amount of his next contract.
This isn’t an unusual stance. It’s believed that 30 of the 32 teams use offsets in contracts. The exceptions are the Los Angeles Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars, with the latter having signed No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence to a deal with no offsets.
Without an offset, a cut player collects the guarantee from his old team plus the money he receives from his new team — aka double dipping.
What complicated the Jets’ negotiation was that at least two of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round received deals without full offsets — Lawrence and Justin Fields (No. 11 by the Chicago Bears). Fields received a partial offset.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank ‘disappointed’ in Julio Jones trade request
Blank had earlier said Jones would be a Falcon for life. Instead, it was a 10-year relationship that ended with Blank trying to reach out to Jones, but ending up not being able to speak with him.
“I think the part that bothered me personally was the fact that he expressed that he wanted to be traded,” Blank said Thursday at the first day of Atlanta’s training camp. “You know, we had a 10-year relationship. I think it was a good relationship. It was certainly productive.
“He’s a Hall of Fame player so I was disappointed he felt that way. For whatever reasons, I’m not sure. I was unable to speak with him myself. I tried to, but he felt the way he felt and was ready to make a change.”
Blank said he learned through his years of ownership in Atlanta that you want players on the roster who want to be in the building. He believed the trade, which also sent the Titans a 2023 sixth-round pick but brought the Falcons a 2022 second-round pick and 2023 fourth-round pick, would be beneficial for both sides.
It already worked out to Atlanta’s benefit financially as it created room under the salary cap for the team to sign its rookies, including No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts. Blank said he did not realize the team would end up trading Jones at the end of last season, either, and that “was not our original intent.”
The idea of possibly trading Jones first surfaced publicly before the NFL draft. Jones then said on FS1 on May 24 that he was “outta there,” meaning Atlanta. He was traded weeks later.
“We have tremendous regard for the player and the human being as well and he’s given us 10 great years and that’s about half of my ownership and set all kinds of records,” Blank said. “But the time was right for him to move on and I think the coach did what he could and the general manager did what he could to have him try to stay but he was ready to move.”
Jones had 848 catches for 12,896 yards and 63 touchdowns with the Falcons and is the NFL’s all-time leader in yards per game with 95.5 — almost 10 yards better than the No. 2 receiver on the list, 2021 Hall of Fame inductee Calvin Johnson.
Baltimore Ravens CB Jimmy Smith still traumatized by February robbery
“Going into the store and being around anyone with a mask or hood on, it really makes my heart thump to this day,” Smith said after Thursday’s practice. “It was terrifying situation.”
Five months ago, Smith got out of his car after checking into a hotel near the Los Angeles International Airport and was surrounded by three masked men with guns. The woman in the car with Smith, who is pregnant, had a gun pointed at her stomach, Smith said.
“You feel helpless,” Smith said. “Cowards running up on you with three guns. You don’t know if you’re going to lose your life in that moment.”
Smith said he and his family were followed to two fast-food restaurants and then back to the hotel. Smith’s children were in the car when the robbery occurred.
“The crazy thing is I seen it kind of coming,” Smith said. “You know, when something bad happens, you get this eerie feeling. I kind of had an eerie feeling. I didn’t listen to it. I hopped out of the car and just seen dudes coming at me with guns. They surrounded me. All you could think of is ‘I want to live, I want to get out of here.’ At that moment, jewelry didn’t matter. None of that matters.”
Smith said he doesn’t expect the robbers to ever get arrested.
“I’m not going to I wish death upon them,” Smith said. “But they’ll get what’s coming to them.”
Smith is starting his 10th training camp with the Ravens. A first-round pick in 2012, Smith remained with Baltimore when he signed a one-year, $2.5 million extension on Jan. 1.
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