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Nora Princiotti

Here’s a dose of reality about the Patriots and Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel has appeared in 15 NFL games.Michael Wyke/AP

If you live somewhere with Internet access, you may know by now that the Patriots were one of several teams who spoke to former NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M’s Pro Day on Tuesday, where Manziel threw passes to receiver Christian Kirk.

This, of course, has led to questions about whether the Patriots might sign Manziel, who has been out of the league since 2015.

First, a note: The Patriots, as all teams do, meet with a lot of players at a lot of Pro Days. Manziel got permission to throw at the UC San Diego and Texas A&M Pro Days because he knew it was a way for him to get in front of scouts who were primarily there scouting other players. There was a lot of buzz that the Patriots liked Manziel ahead of the draft in 2014, when he went at No. 22 overall to the Browns, but their conversations now do not mean Johnny Football is destined for Foxborough. As many things with Manziel are, any team’s reported interest gets blown out of proportion because of his former draft status and name recognition.

On that note, let’s get to some wild and largely unhelpful speculation over why the Patriots might, or might not, be interested in his services.


Let’s end on a positive note, meaning we’ll start with the cons:

1. His NFL tape is bad.

The Heisman Trophy winner never replicated his college success in professional football. Manziel threw for 1,675 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions in 15 games (eight starts, 2-6) over two years with the Browns. He reportedly had issues focusing and picking up the playbook, and New England’s offense is demanding and complicated.

2. He could get suspended for a domestic violence incident.

Legally, the domestic violence charge brought in April 2016 by Manziel’s former girlfriend, who swore under oath that he attacked her, was dismissed last November after Manziel completed an anger management course. The league, however, also looks into such incidents and isn’t required to come to the same conclusions as public law enforcement, and Manziel could be suspended under the NFL’s personal conduct policy.


3. It would be a circus.

That’s quite the understatement. If this is the level of attention we’re giving a couple of conversations during a time when teams are talking to everyone, what would it be like during OTAs or training camp? Sheesh!

With all that, why is Manziel still getting looks? Here are the pros:

1. He’s a good athlete.

Manziel has a smaller-than-average frame for an NFL quarterback, having been measured at 6 feet and 207 pounds at the combine in 2014. He can certainly move that body around, though. Manziel’s 6.75 three-cone and 4.03 shuttle times were both excellent and show similar agility and quickness to a player such as quarterback-turned-slot-receiver Julian Edelman.

2. He’d be cheap.

Manziel said he’s willing to play for free. The Patriots would have to pay him, but it could be a minimum deal if he managed to make the roster. At the most important position, where if a player shows the slightest bit of promise teams can get great value via trade, that’s a major pro.

3. His could end up being a powerful story about mental health.

Manziel has said all the right things before and wasn’t able to follow through with them. He’s saying all the right things again, as are those around him. Wide receiver Mike Evans said at the A&M Pro Day that Manziel is “getting his life back on track.” Manziel’s agent, Erik Burkhart, took him back after previously ending their relationship, and he has been advocating for Manziel and how different he’s become.


If there’s a good reason to believe that, it’s that Manziel said earlier this year that he’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and now takes medication and gets treatment. He’s also completed programs that stopped his drug and alcohol abuse, Manziel has said, which he described as a form of self-medication.

Manziel’s far past the second-chance stage, but if the Patriots or any team believe he’s ready and able to contribute and that they have the resources to support him, and they turn out to be right, then hats off to everyone involved.

Nora Princiotti can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @NoraPrinciotti.