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February 11, 2018

Pivotal Position: Which QBs will impact free agency?

CFL.ca

TORONTO — While the quarterback carousel has stalled, free agency could bring more movement for the CFL’s signal-callers.

The list of pending free agent quarterbacks has been reduced to five, as big names like Ricky Ray, Trevor Harris, Brandon Bridge and James Franklin will not be available on the open market. But that doesn’t mean football’s most critical position will be ignored when the market opens on Feb. 13.

From a proven veteran and former Most Outstanding Player in Travis Lulay to the less-known Everett Golson, let’s look at the five quarterbacks that could hit the open market — and what impact they may have.

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Jacory Harris | MTL

The 27-year-old Jacory Harris has been in a developmental role since arriving in the CFL in 2013 after starring with the University of Miami. Harris went from Edmonton to Hamilton in 2014 but, despite a skill-set that suits the three-down game, he’s never gotten a real look as a starting quarterback.

Harris joined the Alouettes as a free agent one year ago but did not throw a pass in 2017, with Drew Willy, Matthew Shiltz and Antonio Pipkin all taking snaps ahead of him on the depth chart. The 6-foot-4 pivot may draw some interest as a backup.

Drew Willy | MTL

It’s been quite a ride for Drew Willy on this side of the border, and it’s hard to say where it’ll take him next. Willy’s reputation has taken a hit since being replaced as the starting quarterback in Winnipeg, but after a failed stint in Toronto, the 31-year-old made the most of a difficult situation in Montreal.

Willy filled in for Darian Durant for two games in 2017 and while the results didn’t go his way, he completed 54 of 79 passes (68%) and commanded the offence with poise and efficiency. While his days as a starter might be numbered, Willy has proven he can still provide value as a backup somewhere.

Cody Fajardo | TOR

With age on his side, Cody Fajardo might be the most intriguing name on the free agent list going into Feb. 13. The 25-year-old got his first taste of real playing time in 2017, throwing for 154 yards and two touchdowns (with no interceptions) in relief of Ricky Ray.

Aside from scoring the game-winning touchdown to send the Argos to the Grey Cup, Fajardo’s size, running ability and overall athleticism make him a unique prospect in the eyes of fans. But a career completion percentage of 60 per cent and a 5.4-yard average leave some doubt over his future as a starter.

Argos short-yardage QB Cody Fajardo is one intriguing name set to become a free agent (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

Everett Golson | HAM

The Notre Dame alum flashed his potential in pre-season for the Ticats with a couple of rushing touchdowns, then suffered a significant injury that kept him out a large part of 2017. Everett Golson did get on the field in October, eventually completing all four of his passing attempts for 25 yards.

With Vernon Adams Jr. on the roster and Johnny Manziel talk not going away, there might not be any room for Golson on the Ticats. But don’t be surprised if the athletic Myrtle Beach, S.C. native, whose game is well-tailored to the CFL, lands on another roster in free agency.

Travis Lulay | BC

A serious knee injury ended Travis Lulay’s resurgence as a CFL starting quarterback last autumn, and could be stalling contract talks this off-season. There’s no rush for Lulay to get back into things, but wherever he ends up, the 2011 Grey Cup Champion and Most Outstanding Player will offer plenty of value, whether it’s from the sideline or on the field.

Injuries have held Lulay back in his prolific career with the Lions, but the latest setback has nothing to do with his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder, which the 34-year-old showed is just fine in 2017.

Lulay is the big prize among quarterbacks remaining in free agency.