Prognosticating the CFL’s quarterback carousel

Darian Durant, Saskatchewan Roughriders

The CFL’s best pending free agent pivot has spent the past eleven seasons in green and white, leading the Riders to a Grey Cup victory in 2013. After injury-riddled 2014 and 2015 seasons, Durant started fifteen contests in 2016 and performed well in spite of a lackluster supporting cast.

Reports have indicated that Durant wants $350,000 per season to remain in Saskatchewan, a reasonable demand given his decade-long run of success in Riderville. Chris Jones, Saskatchewan’s head coach, general manager, vice-president, and all-around football guru, appears hesitant to pay Durant what he desires.

The Riders’ most recent offer to Durant included a salary of $300,000 with playtime incentives to $400,000. These numbers are virtually identical to the contract extension Toronto recently inked with Drew Willy. While Willy is a serviceable quarterback, the former Rider and Bomber is simply not in the same tier as Durant.

Durant’s departure from the Riders would open cap space for Jones’ squad and allow the G.M. to further purge Saskatchewan’s roster of players who predated his arrival in Regina (just 13 players remain from the club’s 2015 squad).

There are many reasons why Montreal would (and does) have interest in the veteran pivot. New Alouette head coach Jacques Chapdelaine got a close look at Durant during his stint as Saskatchewan’s offensive coordinator (2015), while Kavis Reed, Montreal’s new general manager, was on the Riders’ offensive coaching staff in 2009.

Reed has hinted that the Alouettes are interested in acquiring a CFL veteran pivot and, with high-priced veterans Luc Brodeur-Jordain, Winston Venable, Marc-Olivier Brouillette, and Alan-Michael Cash set to hit free agency, will have the cap space to pay Durant the cash he desires.

Outside of Saskatchewan and Montreal, the only possible destination for the North Carolina product appears to be Winnipeg where Durant would be reunited with former offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice and receivers Weston Dressler and Ryan Smith. The Bombers would be likely to pursue Durant only if contract negotiations with Matt Nichols prove unsuccessful. More on that in a moment…

2017 landing spot:

Montreal Alouettes: 55%

Saskatchewan Roughriders: 40%

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: 5%

Matt Nichols, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Nichols is coming off the best season of his career, recording 3,666 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns, six rushing touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Contract negotiations between the Bombers and Nichols are currently underway and, while nothing appears imminent, it is likely the Eastern Washington product will be back in blue and gold this upcoming season.

One thing working to the Bombers’ advantage in negotiations is the lack of alternative landing spots for Nichols this off-season. Montreal would like to add a veteran quarterback, but it’s clear Kavis Reed and Jacques Chapdelaine prefer Darian Durant over Nichols (see above). Nichols would also be an unlikely replacement for Durant in Saskatchewan given his history with Chris Jones. Jones, Nichols’ head coach in Edmonton, was part of the brain trust that traded the veteran pivot to Winnipeg midway through the 2015 regular season in exchange for a conditional seventh round pick.

2017 landing spot:

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: 90%

Saskatchewan Roughriders: 5%

Montreal Alouettes: 5%

James Franklin, Edmonton Eskimos

Franklin, 25, is quickly earning comparisons to Jonathon Jennings (24) and Bo Levi Mitchell (26) as part of the new wave of talented young quarterbacks taking the CFL by storm. Saskatchewan attempted to trade for Franklin prior to the 2016 regular season after his excellent rookie campaign (973 passing yards, six touchdowns, and one interception in seven appearances), but deemed the asking price too high. After Franklin dominated the Argos in week 20 of this past season (19/23 for 335 yards and four touchdowns), it’s likely Edmonton’s asking price has gotten even higher.

Reports have indicated that the Eskimos have had preliminary discussions with Franklin about a contract extension. If Edmonton is unable to lock the Missouri product down long-term (which will prove difficult, given that starter Mike Reilly is due $1 million over the next two seasons), the club will be faced with a difficult quandary: trade the pivot for a king’s ransom now or risk losing him for free next season when/if he becomes a free agent.

It is likely that Franklin’s future will prove to be the linchpin of the CFL’s entire quarterback carousel this off-season. Teams are always looking for the best, youngest, and least-expensive player for their rosters. In time, Franklin may prove to be all three.

Winnipeg and Montreal have also been mentioned in trade talks with Edmonton regarding Franklin, albeit to a lesser degree.

2017 landing spot:

Edmonton Eskimos: 70%

Saskatchewan Roughriders: 25%

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: 2.5%

Montreal Alouettes: 2.5%

Ricky Ray, Toronto Argonauts

Ray’s future in Toronto has been clouded by the Argo’s recent contract extension with pivot Drew Willy. Willy will earn north of $300,000 in 2017, a strong indication the Boatmen see the Buffalo product as their starter of the present and future. With Ray set to earn north of $400,000 in 2017, the Argos are unlikely to enter training camp with both players on the roster unless Ray is willing to restructure his deal.

Ray, given his injury history (he has appeared in just 53 of a possible 90 games with Toronto), is virtually untradeable at his current pay rate. As such, it is likely he will be released if he refuses to take a pay cut from the Argos or decides to retire.

Saskatchewan, Ottawa, and Edmonton are the three most likely destinations for Ray should he play outside of Toronto in 2017. The Riders may be looking for a starting quarterback if they are unable to retain Darian Durant, while Ray’s connection with Eskimo head coach Jason Maas and Henry Burris’ possible retirement from the Redblacks make Edmonton and Ottawa possibilities as well.

2017 landing spot:

Toronto Argonauts: 60%

Retirement: 25%

Saskatchewan Roughriders: 5%

Edmonton Eskimos: 5%

Ottawa Redblacks: 5%

Kevin Glenn, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Glenn was released by the Bombers on January 6th with the club claiming it was the “appropriate and the right thing to do” given that the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension.

Glenn, who will turn 38 in June, is still an above-average CFL back-up, meaning there will be a market for his immediate services.

2017 landing spot:

Saskatchewan Roughriders: 35%

Montreal Alouettes: 15%

Calgary Stampeders: 15%

Edmonton Eskimos: 15%

Toronto Argonauts: 15%

Ottawa Redblacks: 5%

John Hodge

John Hodge

John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.
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John Hodge
About John Hodge (204 Articles)
John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.

23 Comments on Prognosticating the CFL’s quarterback carousel

  1. Glenn Chernick // January 7, 2017 at 10:58 am //

    I would not be surprised to see Hamilton, or Toronto take a shot at Adrian in Free agency as well.

  2. Durant is still an elite QB. The Riders are nuts if they let him go

    • Don Sutherland // January 7, 2017 at 6:03 pm //

      Riders are know for stupidity. Last year Jones let 3 starters go, one for being too short. This is a GURU? I think not. Go Riders.

  3. Sask NEVER TRIED! No OFFER EVER MADE! Murphy and/or Chris Jones is a Liar! Seems like tampering if you are discussing players under contract. Can’t recall when it’s happened before.

  4. Can Toronto please sign Franklin. We need a young stud, NOT Willy.

    • Franklin is under contract in 2017 to the Esks, so Toronto can trade for him not sign him. One problem though they gave up a lot to get Willy and don’t have much to give for Franklin as a result.

  5. I bet the Writers SALARY Franklin is not traded to Sask! They need more than a QB. Plus why would Edmonton ever help Sask after they poached an entire staff??? Jones a guru??? Of what? He inherited a Great team in Edmonton…he had a boss that he took orders from. There was another JONES…Paul Jones 30 yr vet that gets minimized because of the media lust to embellish on A Coach the league once despised! Now he’s a guru??? Gets Poached (tampering did go on) and goes from hated to Celebrated after 2 yrs a head coach! Great Defensive Coach…Ok Head Coach! He knows nothing about Offense other than trying to slow them! He won’t get Franklin and for Franklins Health Sask is a terrible destination!

  6. It certainly is not a done deal for Nichols in the Peg…He’s not worth his ask….I think with the assets the Bombers have they’ll pursue Franklin

    • A western team would pay a far higher price right now for Franklin than an eastern team.

      Fully expect the Esks are asking for a national player that has been a 1st Rounder, a top international most likely a secondary player (CB or DB) that can play the wide side and a 3rd round pick to western teams. In essence a Willy like trade deal.

      For an eastern team I would bet it is less like the equivalent of a 1st rounder in a player and 2nd round pick. This equates to slightly more than the Esks paid for Reilly.

  7. Great article Mr. Hodge, but there is one scenario you haven’t really explored regarding Franklin. The Esks could simply wait, like they did with Nichols, for teams to get desperate and trade in mid-season. Nothing is pushing them to trade now, unless they get a big offer.

    With the string of injuries, including concussions, to Zack Collaros; wouldn’t it make sense for the Esks to trade Franklin eventually to the Ti-Cats?

    I would bet real money the Ti-Cats could get Franklin for either OT Brandon Revenberg or DB Chris Davis and a 2nd rounder for the 2018 draft.

    The Esks have the cap room, even with Reilly going to $505K, they have saved for Grymes resigning that didn’t happen last year. I would expect that the Esks will sign Franklin to a one year extension and pay him $150K+ for 2017 and 2018 making him even more attractive as a starter somewhere else. However, I would also expect since he has been talking to Warren Moon about his transition to an NFL QB that Franklin wants a shot at the NFL. A buyer beware tag should be given to his possible departure.

    • Very interesting comment Dave. As a TC fan i know I am in the minority when it comes to Collaros, but the facts speak for themselves. He has yet to play a full season, or even close, in 3 years. He has not won a championship (“almost” in 2014 does not cut it – sorry). Other than a small blip in 2015 I have not seen much brilliance. He will be making $520,000 (sans bonuses) next season, which is a pretty huge chunk of cash considering to date he’s been basically a part time player. Some of that cash can be used for, oh let’s see…perhaps a DL who can actually stop the run? Or a DB or two who can actually hit or tackle or not drop a sure interception or even not fall down on a play without being touched? Franklin as a TC would certainly be an intriguing move. But then that would require the blessing of Austin, and I can’t see Mr. Stubbornness breaking ranks.

      • Terry Baxter // January 9, 2017 at 9:37 am //

        Agree 100% Philski. Would also love to Kent get rid of Laurent and his big fat contract lol. He is way overpaid and he played like crap last year. Since the end of season the wonder kid (Kent) has done SFA except that sneaky good move signing daly. Wish Kent would leave

    • Terry Baxter // January 9, 2017 at 9:33 am //

      Trading him to the cats would be a great idea. Given zachs injury history it is doubtful he will be around much longer. However, the smartest guy in the room ie Kent, would not replace zach. Alas…..another year without a cup looms.

      • The Iceman // January 10, 2017 at 11:17 am //

        Trade for him so that he can be the backup to Masolli?

        • Terry Baxter // January 10, 2017 at 1:22 pm //

          No. To replace Zach. Zach is one more concussion away from playing ledgies somewhere. Likely will happen before week 8 this year.

  8. Other than Montreal I would say Nichols and Durant will be hard-pressed to get what they’re asking. And even Montreal might not be willing to put out what they’re asking either so either the two of them end up where they are or they signed for a little bit less on their home teams. The Riders have apparently offered Durrant up to 400,000 with concessions, not sure what Winnipeg has put on the table for Nichols.

  9. i think the riders would be better off with kevin glenn durant is asking way to much

  10. Solara2000 // January 8, 2017 at 4:15 pm //

    Brave prediction – everyone stays put.

  11. Chris Jones is the Grand Poobah of the Riders. All decisions including the buttwipe in the washrooms are his decisions. If he does not like Durant just let him free, however he is going out of his way to insult Darian calling his career a moderate success and offering a contract that mat ches Free Willy is an insult and I am sure this is his intention have been a fan since Ronnie and George but hate arrogance no longer a fan will be back once Jones is gone

  12. BlueCan123 // January 10, 2017 at 11:29 am //

    It would be highly likely that Saskatchewan would forge a new contract with Durant, despite the slight unpredictable expediency of Chris Jones. I’d say the team with the most work to do at QB remains Montreal, as it’s been a revolving task since AC retired.

  13. Marc Lebut // January 10, 2017 at 3:52 pm //

    Durant and Nichols have the same agent, so it will be hard for any team to deal one outside the other. I can’t see Nichols as a good fit for the Alouettes. They don’t want to get rid of either Adams or Cato right now and Nichols is looking for a starter spot, not a transitional job. Durant would be a better fit for the Alouettes, but they should structure an offer linked to his playing time. His recent injury record commands this. So in the end, unless Durant hates Jones so much he doesn’t want to be back in Regina as long as he’s the boss, I don’t think he’ll land elsewhere as I don’t think the Alouettes will offer much more than what he has on the table with the Riders.

    The Alouettes believe one of Adams or Cato will be starter stuff sooner than later. I’d say give Cato a good O line and a structured O, and he’ll do the job. He’s mobile (although not as much as Adams) and can make all the throws on the football field. He needs to be seasoned in D pre-snap reading and going through his reads. But he’s an accurate passer and has a lot more touch on his ball than Adams.

    Adams is more of an all around QB. He has to develop his armstrenght and accuracy. He’s very mobile and can make plays scrambling, but his passing weaknesses may get back to him at some point.

    The Alouettes aren’t so much desperate at QB position as it seems. They’re more in need of an OLT, a C, a RB (Sutton is injury prone and Rutley doesn’t deliver)and WRs (Green may not be who he was, Giguère is good but not elite, Lewis is still good but not a speedster and the other are youngsters). If the Alouettes can fix the LT position (Foucault, Bourke?), it will be the bigger part of their improvements this off season.

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