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October 11, 2017

O’Leary: Quiet deadline day begs plenty of questions

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

The biggest news of this year’s trade deadline may have come in its very final seconds. It still has to be confirmed, but there were multiple reports of the day-long silence very appropriately ending with a tumbleweed rolling down a hall at CFL headquarters in Toronto as the clock struck 4 p.m. ET.

How a tumbleweed could have made its way to downtown Toronto, who got it here and what this person’s purpose was (this has high level Riders/Stamps/Esks fan trolling written all over it), will of course be the focus of the post-trade deadline analysis that will come in the days and weeks to follow. When a trade deadline is this uneventful, our expertise has to be poured into something.

At the conclusion of that investigation, we’ll need to shift our focus to the next thing. And the next thing will actually be a thing. A big thing. After today passed without a ripple in the water, the next sets of transactions that await us could be tsunami-like, sweeping change and ramifications across the league.

This winter has the potential for massive quarterback change. Where successful quarterback change comes, team success isn’t very far behind.

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The Ticats revealed on Tuesday that Zach Collaros would stay put — for now (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

Think about the pending crop of QB free agents. Travis Lulay’s injury could spell the end of his career, but he’s in the final year of his deal and would be a free agent if he chose to come back. Both backups in Alberta — Andrew Buckley in Calgary and James Franklin in Edmonton — are at the end of their respective contracts. Brandon Bridge has played well every time he’s gotten on the field this year backing up Kevin Glenn in Saskatchewan and he’s also heading into the open market. In Ottawa, Trevor Harris has played well through a frustrating season and will be looking for a new deal, presumably to extend his stay in the nation’s capital.

As Pat Steinberg outlined on Tuesday, the Tiger-Cats need to figure out their quarterback situation. Jeremiah Masoli is going into free agency and while Zach Collaros and his heavy contract didn’t leave town this week, it appears as though the off-season will give him a whole new set of opportunities to pursue. And don’t forget Johnny Manziel. If he meets the CFL’s requirements through this upcoming off-season, he’ll be in the mix for a job when the Ticats open camp next June.

Some of those pending free-agents are bound to move. If one of them doesn’t? They’ve unseated a starter, which could lead to a trade or release and more significant change.

We haven’t even touched on the teams that will likely be looking for a new starting quarterback next year. Darian Durant hasn’t lived up to expectations in Montreal and Drew Willy is yet to wow anyone over the last three games he’s seen action in.

Struggles under centre could lead the Als in an entirely new direction this off-season (Dominick Gravel/Montreal Alouettes)

Ricky Ray has had another good year in Toronto and stayed relatively healthy, but, as Steinberg said on Tuesday, his absence and his team’s lack of QB depth was notable when Ray didn’t play in Week 8. Will Chris Jones be OK with bringing Kevin Glenn back to start for another season? Does he see the future in Bridge, or is he intrigued more by Vernon Adams, who ironically enough, appeared in Montreal last year and led to Bridges’ departure there? You know too that Jones will explore every option that he can over this winter. Will he open the door again for a former NFLer trying to get his career back on track?

If history is any indication — and if GMs are on top of their game — we won’t have to wait until free agency opens for some of these moves to happen. In 2013, then-Edmonton GM Ed Hervey got proactive with that year’s most hotly contested free agent, Mike Reilly. He sent Wally Buono a pair of picks for the expiring rights to Reilly, negotiated a new contract and had what turned out to be his franchise quarterback locked up by the end of January, a couple weeks before free agency kicked off.

Now that the (alleged) tumbleweeds have passed, sit back and enjoy the end of this regular season and the playoffs. After that, there’s change on the horizon.