February 4, 2019

Steinberg’s MMQB: The clock is ticking

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Tick, tick, tick.

If I had a direct line to the Calgary Stampeders front office, I feel like that might be the sound I’d hear right now. We are just over a week from the start of CFL free agency, and the Stamps still don’t know what’s going to happen with quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

The reigning Most Outstanding Player and Grey Cup Champion continues to weigh his options south of the border, Calgary is getting more and more anxious for an answer about his future, and you can understand why. Head Coach Dave Dickenson and General Manager John Hufnagel could certainly use the information to shape their approach heading into free agency.

“For Bo, to be honest, I think he knows it’s kind of right now,” Dickenson told Sportsnet 960 last week. “I think he either has to decide he’s going to take an offer, which I don’t know what the offers are. I’m guessing it isn’t the offer he’s looking for or else he would’ve already signed it. But I know there are offers there.

“It’s now getting into crunch time, it really is. It’s time to either make that call and say I’ll take this offer and go to the states or let’s get a deal done.”

Of course, Mitchell has no obligation to meet any deadline and is well within his rights to take all the time he wants. This is likely the biggest decision he’ll ever have to make in his professional career, so fully weighing every option and being confident at the end is crucial. I certainly wouldn’t be critical at all if there’s not an imminent resolution.

From Calgary’s perspective, though, having an answer in time for free agency would be massive. As we wrote about last week, the 2019 class is stacked with game-changing talent at unprecedented level, specifically at quarterback. If the Stamps know Mitchell is going to be in the NFL next year, all of a sudden they’ve got some motivation to land a big fish next week.

Free Agency 2019

As Feb. 12 fast approaches, some of the league’s biggest stars are closing in on free agency. CFL.ca has ongoing coverage.

MORE: Free Agent Tracker | Latest News | Top 30 FAs

Mike Reilly and Trevor Harris are both poised to test the free agent market. As such, would it surprise anyone if Calgary were to enter the fray in bidding for either of their services? The Stampeders would have the cash to make it happen, and perhaps more importantly, some impressive leverage and sway.

We all know how successful Calgary has been over the last decade, and specifically the last five years. Yes, they’ve played in five of the last seven Grey Cup games, but the Stamps also boast an elite group of receivers and high-end offensive minds behind the scenes. Can you imagine one of Reilly or Harris working with Dickenson and Ryan Dinwiddie?

It’s tough to truly handicap this situation, but I feel comfortable saying there’s a decent chance Mitchell will be in the CFL in 2019. The guy wants to play, so I don’t get the feeling a third string gig with an NFL team is really going to cut it. Dickenson’s read seems to be on the same wavelength.

“Calgary to me is a great option,” Dickenson said. “He is a guy that wants to have a legacy, I don’t think he’s interested in going down and just making a pay check. I do feel like we’d have a good chance to sign him and obviously he’d be that focal point of our club as he’s been for the last four (or) five years.”

One of the most interesting things I’m watching heading into training camp is this Stampeders quarterback situation. Will they be able to land a big name in free agency? Do they bring in someone with less name value in a Grey Cup title defence? Or is Mitchell back in 2019?

The answers to the first two questions are a little tougher to pinpoint. The third, however, is one Calgary would love a response to in the next week. Whether they get it or not is anyone’s guess.

Off the market, under the radar

I’m really excited to see what Alex Green has in store this season. The Hamilton running back signed a contract extension early last week and is poised to have a monster 2019 campaign. For me, Green was a notable omission on CFL.ca’s top 30 pending free agents, but I also understood why.

Due to a couple injuries, Green only suited up for eight games with the Tiger-Cats last season. When he was healthy, though, the guy was as impactful as any tailback in the league. From a pace perspective, Green’s season extrapolated over a full schedule would have put him right in the same ballpark as William Powell and eventual rushing champ Andrew Harris, which is solid company.

What set Green apart in 2018, though, was his work in the scoring department. After making his season debut in Week 8 (he suffered a hand injury at the end of training camp), Green went on a ridiculous tear. In five straight games, Green scored at least one touchdown, either on the ground or through the air, before being laid up with another injury in Week 14.

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.

Yes, upon his return from the second injury, Green wasn’t able to register a touchdown, but he was still extremely productive and dangerous. The guy was basically good for 100 total offensive yards each and every game, which isn’t something to take for granted. There’s a reason Hannah, Jeff, and I gushed about this guy seemingly every week on the CFL Fantasy Podcast.

Part of the reason Green’s signing flew under the radar as much as it did is because it came exactly one day after Brandon Banks re-upped with Hamilton. It’s tough for a Banks signing to go unnoticed; this guy is a legit superstar and turned into the league’s most dangerous player, let alone receiver, last season.

Think about what the Ticats have accomplished as we sit on the cusp of free agency. Their off-season includes extensions to both Green and Banks to go along with another quietly important re-signing in receiver Jalen Saunders. As it stands right now, Hamilton might have the scariest and most set core of anyone in this league.

Remember, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and receiver Luke Tasker were already under contract for the coming season, so virtually all of this team’s key offensive pieces are coming back for 2019. With things as in flux as they are right now, continuity like that is a huge coup for the Tiger-Cats. Most importantly, it puts new head coach Orlondo Steinauer in a really good spot heading into year one.