Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Johnny Manziel looks on from the sidelines during second half CFL football action against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, in Hamilton, Ont., Thursday July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Ticats deal Johnny Manziel to Montreal Alouettes

Hamilton trades ‘Johnny Football’ in CFL swap involving 5 players

Johnny Football is on the move.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats dealt quarterback Johnny Manziel and offensive linemen Tony Washington and Landon Rice to the Montreal Alouettes on Sunday for Canadian defensive end Jamaal Westerman and receiver Chris Williams as well as 2020 and 2021 first-round picks.

Manziel, 25, made headlines across North America when he signed a two-year contract with Hamilton prior to the start of training camp. The former Heisman Trophy winner appeared in both of the Ticats’ exhibition games — completing 21-of-31 passes for 168 yards and a TD while rushing six times for 19 yards — but didn’t see any regular-season action backing up incumbent Jeremiah Masoli.

Masoli started the season impressively with four straight 300-yard passing performances and a record-tying nine overall dating back to last year. But that streak ended with Thursday night’s 31-20 home loss to Saskatchewan as Masoli completed 20-of-28 passing for 184 yards and an interception.

And that prompted some football pundits to suggest it was time for Manziel to get some playing time with Hamilton.

“Professional salute & respect for Ticats, ticatmitchell &Coach Jones for doing the rgt thing.Thank y’all for the opp &great luck in future!” Manziel’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, tweeted Sunday night.

With the departure of Manziel, Dane Evans, a rookie from Tulsa, becomes Masoli’s backup. Hamilton (2-3) hosts the Ottawa Redblacks (3-2) on Saturday afternoon in a battle of the East Division’s top two teams.

The trade reunites Manziel with Montreal head coach Mike Sherman, who convinced Manziel to play at Texas A&M after he verbally committed to Oregon. As a redshirt freshman, Manziel threw for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns while rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 TDs en route to winning the ‘12 Heisman Trophy.

The six-foot, 210-pound Manziel was taken in the first round, No. 22 overall, by the Cleveland Browns in the 2014 NFL draft but was released in March 2016 after posting a 2-6 record over two tumultuous campaigns. He appeared in 14 games overall, throwing for 1,675 yards and seven TD passes.

Montreal (1-4) has scored a league-low 69 points this season while allowing a league-high 148 points. What’s more, starter Drew Willy suffered his second injury of the season in Saturday’s 25-8 loss to the Calgary Stampeders, leaving Sherman to go with third-stringer Matt Shiltz for three quarters of the game.

Backup Jeff Mathews, who replaced Willy earlier this season, is also out four-to-six weeks with foot injury. Montreal takes on the Edmonton Eskimos (3-2) on Thursday night.

“We have acquired an exceptional quarterback with undeniable talent,” Montreal GM Kavis Reed said in a statement. “With his great mobility, his athletic abilities and his instinct we believe that he will have a positive impact on our offence.

“Landon Rice and Tony Washington are two skilled players that will considerably solidify our offensive line.”

The six-foot-seven, 318-pound Washington, a nine-year veteran, fills a need for Montreal, which recently released starting tackle Fulton Xavier.

“Thank you to the city of Hamilton for these last 2 amazing years! For the love and support you guys have shown! Crazy biz doesn’t always make sense… .keepmoving .nextchapter,” Washington tweeted Sunday night.

Westerman, 33, had 19 tackles and three sacks in five games with the Alouettes, who he joined as a free agent this off-season. The six-foot-three, 249-pound Westerman has appeared in 52 career regular-season games with Winnipeg (2015-17) and the Alouettes (2018), registering 137 tackles, 35 sacks and four forced fumbles.

Westerman also played in 58 career NFL games with the New York Jets (2009-11), Arizona Cardinals (2012), Indianapolis Colts (2012), Buffalo Bills (2013) and Pittsburgh Steelers (2013).

Williams, 30, returns for a second stint with Hamilton, The five-foot-eight, 165-pound speedster began his CFL career with the Ticats (2010-12) and was the league’s top rookie before being named its top special-teams performer two years later.

He spent time in the NFL with New Orleans (2013) and Chicago Bears (2013-14) before returning to the CFL with Ottawa (2015-16) and was a member of the Redblacks’ 2016 Grey Cup-winning squad. After spending last season with the B.C. Lions, Williams was dealt to Montreal on Dec. 12, 2017.

He had 15 catches for 283 yards and a TD in four games with the Alouettes.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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