Yeah, I think you nailed it. Before I type the rest of this, my bias is 1) I think Manziel did sign stuff for people he knew were going to make money off it (an NCAA violation) and 2) most likely got paid for some of it. I do not think those are huge violations, but they are violations.
Now, I've read and heard three different opinions today on who probably benefits the most from this deposition (and I think it was a deposition that ran for 6 hours). Most of the opinions run the "both sides were protecting their rears" thread, assuming the NCAA was just doing this to say they had done all they could to investigate the charges, which is the best they could do absent supena powers.
You're the first to mention the "cover up is worse than the crime." angle. That's the one I'd be most afraid of if I was a Manziel fan. I'll admit up front that I'm a former Manziel fan, after the stupidity and immaturity displayed by the guy this summer I just can't get excited about the guy, but don't take this as an "I hope he gets burned," post. Its not. My interest now is sort of tangential, looking to see the character of the guy.What I would hope would have happened (and it probably did not), was the NCAA would have started off saying, "If you did it and own up to it, we'll give you a two game suspension and 100 Hail Mary's," and then we could see what Manziel would do. Since my bias is I think he did the signings for a payoff, the best that would have come from this is a couple of game suspension. He did it, fessed up, took his medicine, then I'd be impressed.
If he denied it all, and he's innocent, God Bless him, I got it wrong. But after listening to him at SEC Media Days, there just is a lingering suspicion he just might not get it all right in a deposition. Hope that is not the case, but the last sentence in your post is what I'd be worried about if I was an Manziel guy.