Johnny Manziel is interested in playing for the XFL. But is the XFL interested in Manziel?
“Well, I don’t know that yet,” XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck told Tom Schad of USA Today over the weekend. “That remains to be seen.”
The fact that Manziel didn’t receive an invitation to one of the currently-ongoing XFL showcases doesn’t mean the league won’t pursue signing him.
“There are a lot of guys that played in the AAF and played all seven games or whatever they had,” Luck said. “We didn’t invite them here because we’ve got enough tape on them. So Johnny has some tape, right? Whether it’s Canada — and we have two coaches from the CFL, [Marc] Trestman and June Jones. Or there’s college. What he did obviously in the NFL.”
The hesitation to embrace Manziel seems ultimately to trace to the quality of quarterbacks the XFL may target.
“[Y]ou have to kind of look a little bit ahead and think about the kind of talent that we’ll have, right?” Luck said. “So last week in Dallas, Landry Jones participated. He just got cut from the Raiders. He was sort of in a battle for I guess the backup spot to [Derek] Carr, with Mike Glennon. So that might happen three or four times with others in similar situations.
“There’s a lot of good players in that league that very well could get cut. Like Landry. So we have to make sure we kind of keep that in mind as we think about how we structure our draft pool.”
In other words, Manziel isn’t currently on an NFL roster. Players who currently are on NFL rosters will be released from NFL rosters between now and Labor Day weekend, when rosters plunge from 90 to 53. As previously explained, the XFL could immediately target some of the quarterbacks who are cut, persuading them to commit to the XFL, remove themselves from the pool of injury-replacement options for the full NFL season, and use them for marketing purposes through the February cicada-style relaunch of the XFL.
But here’s the thing: Johnny Manziel moves the needle. Landry Jones doesn’t. Other third- and fourth-string NFL quarterbacks don’t. If the XFL wants to thrive, it needs to create or to attract star players. Manziel is far closer to being a star player than Landry Jones or any other eventually-to-be-former-NFL quarterback, barring the unexpected release of someone like Ryan Fitzpatrick or Ryan Tannehill.
Even then, Manziel would be a bigger draw. If the XFL wants to succeed (and it will be an uphill climb because too many people simply don’t want spring football), it needs Manziel in the league.