Watching the quarterback carousel spin is always a fascinating part of a CFL off-season…and it’s definitely spinning. Edmonton and Ottawa have already made significant moves at the position, while a number of big-name pivots have agreed to restructured contracts for various reasons.
It’s the highest profile position in the sport, so let’s take a look at all nine quarterback rooms as we move closer to free agency.
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The REDBLACKS made the other big power move at quarterback this winter when they acquired the rights to Dru Brown from Winnipeg last week. Brown joins Ottawa after three years with the Blue Bombers including a noticeable 2023 campaign. Last season saw Brown start a pair of games and throw for 983 yards and nine touchdowns against no interceptions.
Most expect the REDBLACKS to sign Brown, who becomes a free agent next month, to an extension. If everything goes according to plan, he’ll become part of a very crowded group of quarterbacks. Also under contract are Dustin Crum, who started 14 games as a rookie last year, and a pair of players who had their 2023 seasons ended early due to injury: veteran Jeremiah Masoli and sophomore Tyrie Adams.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
There’s no intrigue at the top of Winnipeg’s depth chart, of course. When he’s not hanging out with Taylor Swift at NFL playoff games, Zach Collaros happens to be a two-time CFL Most Outstanding Player and the best in the business. But with Brown’s departure, everything else is far more uncertain.
Dakota Prukop is a pending free agent after he returned to the Bombers late last season after a short stint with USFL New Jersey and got right back to being the most automatic short yardage specialist in the league. And joining the fray in Winnipeg are a pair of new American signings in Terry Wilson and Eric Barriere, both of whom spent time in the USFL last season.
The decision to restructure Bo Levi Mitchell’s contract this off-season makes things very interesting for the Tiger-Cats. After a difficult, injury filled first season in Hamilton, this new deal gives the team more salary cap flexibility and Mitchell a realistic chance of starting games in 2024. Let’s not forget that Hamilton acquired Mitchell a year ago for him to be the guy.
Also under contract is Taylor Powell after showing plenty of promise in eight starts as a rookie last year. What will be interesting to see is if the Ticats opt to bring veteran Matthew Shiltz back for another season as a veteran security blanket. Shiltz also started games last season and got the nod in Hamilton’s playoff loss to Montreal. Both Shiltz and midseason acquisition Kai Locksley are pending free agents.
The Elks raised eyebrows across the league when they signed 2022 Grey Cup champion McLeod Bethel-Thompson to a lucrative contract earlier this month. Bethel-Thompson returns to Canada after a year away with USFL New Orleans and instantly moves to the top of Edmonton’s depth chart.
Bethel-Thompson also gives the Elks the most stability they’ve had at quarterback in quite some time, and that’s no disrespect to Tre Ford. With Bethel-Thompson, though, Edmonton gets a player with more than 50 CFL starts to his name along with two 4,000-yard seasons and a Grey Cup ring. It’s a big addition for a team looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2019.
Speaking of Ford, he moves to number two on the depth chart after putting himself on the map in the second half of last season. Playing behind Bethel-Thompson this season should help a young, developing quarterback like Ford. Jarret Doege, who started his first pro game last year, and newly signed Steven Montez round things out for the Elks.
Mitchell wasn’t the only veteran pivot restructuring a contract this winter. The Riders and Trevor Harris did the same thing with general manager Jeremy O’Day praising him for “helping out”, which suggests additional salary cap flexibility. Harris was off to a nice start in his first season with Saskatchewan before sustaining a season ending leg injury in Week 6.
With Harris back for year two, I’m curious to see if the Roughriders extend or re-sign free agent Jake Dolegala after he took over as starter in Week 10. There would be plenty of benefits having Dolegala work with a veteran like Harris all year while the returning Antonio Pipkin gives Saskatchewan solid depth at the position. Free-agent-to-be Mason Fine is the biggest question mark after a few up and down seasons with the Riders.
We don’t have to spend much time here because the defending champs are fairly status quo. With a new contract extension in tow, Grey Cup MVP Cody Fajardo returns for year two with nothing but confidence. Fajardo had a great comeback season in 2023 with the Als that saw him throw for 3,847 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Also back for year two in Montreal is Caleb Evans after starting two games in 2023. Evans, who showed nice flashes in two prior years with Ottawa, gives the Alouettes a nice second option if Fajardo has to miss time. Completing the quarterback roster is third year Portland State product Davis Alexander and newly signed James Morgan, a 2020 fourth-round pick of the New York Jets.
Chad Kelly is the reigning Most Outstanding Player and will look to build on his stellar numbers from 2023. In his first year as a number one, Kelly threw for 4,123 yards and 23 touchdowns while running for eight additional majors. Kelly is cemented as Toronto’s number one, and the rest of their depth chart looks pretty set, too.
Both Cameron Dukes and Bryan Scott return for year two with the Argos. The former won last year’s backup job out of camp and threw for 760 yards and a pair of touchdowns in spot duty. Scott, on the other hand, has bounced around the pro ranks since his time at Occidental College came to an end in 2017.
Much like Montreal, the Stamps will also be relatively unchanged at quarterback in 2024. With a new restructured deal to his name, Jake Maier looks to take another step in his second year as a full-time number one. Maier was generally efficient last season and threw for 4,244 yards and 19 touchdowns, but he’ll look to be more explosive this season.
Freshly extended Tommy Stevens is back for year three in red and white and will serve as Calgary’s short yardage specialist again; Stevens has rushed for 15 touchdowns the last two seasons. Battling for third on the depth chart will be the returning Chris Reynolds and rookie Logan Bonner, fresh off a six-year college career with Arkansas State and Utah State.
Rounding out the list of teams completely set at the top of the depth chart are the Lions after Vernon Adams Jr. had an outstanding 2023. In his best season to date, Adams finished first overall with 4,769 passing yards and threw for 31 touchdowns as BC became the league’s most feared aerial attack.
Behind Adams, though, the Lions have some decisions to make. Dane Evans announced his retirement in early January, which leaves an opening for an experienced backup. I’m curious to see if BC targets a free agent like Nick Arbuckle or Mason Fine to compete for the backup role as short yardage specialist Dominique Davis has yet to be extended. In fact, the only quarterback aside from Adams currently under contract is 25-year-old Chase Brice who returns for a sophomore season.