February 1, 2019

Ferguson: For QBs, free agency could be a game of musical chairs


There I was settling in for a nice winter weekend of shoveling and True Detective Season 1 viewing last Friday night when BAM.

A free-agent-to-be signed an extension with his team before the market opens on Feb. 12. This has happened plenty in the last two months – 63 times to be exact – but this one was different.

It was a quarterback. The first of 15 available in this off-season madness.

Dominique Davis, a backup passer for the REDBLACKS who saw some spot duty when Trevor Harris struggled against Calgary early in 2018 and paid dividends in short yardage when the East Division was very much on the line in late October.

The Waggle, Episode 142: Debating the QB landscape

With free agency looming, Davis and Donnovan look at some of the top available pending FA’s, including some big name quarterbacks. Later, newly-minted Riders GM Jeremy O’Day stops by to talk about his whirlwind week.

Davis is a solid piece, but far from the big fish still available named Mitchell, Reilly and Harris. Nevertheless, Davis’ signing before testing free agency got me thinking about the game of musical chairs that we all believe is about to ensue.

Why would Davis sign now when his value could skyrocket should Trevor Harris leave Ottawa? Wouldn’t he be a more sought after piece for Edmonton, BC, Calgary or even Saskatchewan depending on where the big names land in a few weeks time?

While the answer is likely yes due to teams getting more and more desperate when a big name finally does decide to commit, the reality is we will never know because Davis obviously trusted his role in Ottawa and wanted to secure his spot early for fear of being left out in the polar vortex cold once the dust settles.

The Davis example was a great primer for CFL fans playing imaginary general manager on their lunch break over the next two weeks. Davis’ decision showed just how many variables there are at the league’s most important position heading into free agency.

Play along with me if you will.

What if Bo Levi Mitchell heads to the NFL? Stampeders general manager John Hufnagel and Head Coach Dave Dickenson have made it clear they have no interest in starting fresh with an inexperienced quarterback, which doesn’t bode all that well for current Stamps backup Nick Arbuckle. If Bo leaves would Calgary be bold enough to attack Trevor Harris or even Mike Reilly?

It might be tough to get into the Reilly game regardless of Calgary’s want thanks to the BC Lions.

BC really holds pocket aces in this off-season with the ability to – presumably – offer Mike Reilly bigger money than anyone not wearing green and gold. In doing so the Lions could score their sought after franchise pivot in the prime of his career to pair with a dynamic running game and a top end defence — OR they could drive the price on Reilly far enough north to cripple the salary situation of a division rival in Edmonton.

Mike Reilly Watch

As Feb. 12 fast approaches, Mike Reilly is set to become the most hyped free agent the CFL has ever seen.

MORE: The Waggle | Who are the favourites? | Top 30 FAs

Then comes the question of the Riders. How do they get in the game? If they had been able to interview Bombers offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice maybe calling Regina home for a couple years would have been more appealing to Reilly, but the most interesting roadblock faced by Jeremy O’Day as new Riders general manager was the missed opportunity to interview REDBLACKS offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo.

I believe the LaPolice interview was turned down in large part thanks to the prairie rivalry and Lapo’s large role as the creator of Winnipeg’s offensive identity. Ottawa is a whole other can of worms. Ottawa had more to lose than just a coach, they also could have risked losing their quarterback if Harris wanted to follow big money and a coach he understands better than anyone to Saskatchewan.

As a result, the Riders are left offering Reilly what they can while likely ending up in the tier two market of Jonathon Jennings, a developmental project or back in the hands of Brandon Bridge and/or Zach Collaros.

Thanks to Elizondo remaining in Ottawa and based on the outstanding season he had, Trevor Harris now has the right to truly negotiate with respected REDBLACKS general manager Marcel Desjardins.

Should Harris push a hard bargain and Reilly decides to stay in Edmonton, could BC outbid Calgary for Harris’ services? If so, does Calgary end up with Jennings or even Collaros? Does that make Bridge a more viable option somewhere else, or more likely to start in Saskatchewan from Week 1 onward?

Your guess is as good as mine, I’m just glad we get some answers in the coming weeks and months so we can all start spending those lunch breaks day dreaming about chemistry between old faces in new places.

One thing is for sure. Hamilton, Winnipeg, Toronto and even Montreal have to feel pretty good right now sitting back watching the quarterback free agency shrapnel wiz past their head without fear of injury.