Lions hope for marketing adrenaline with new Jennings deal

The most-recent quarterback of the B.C. Lions to sign a contract extension was asked to provide context about the size of his new deal and Jon Jennings did so in a manner any prospective 23-year-old Lower Mainland homeowner could understand.

Nosy reporters began asking whether Jennings could now start looking at Yaletown penthouses or simply perhaps camp out for a new two-bedroom in Langley. Neither, said Jennings, who then good-naturedly unloaded a shot across the bow of his boss, Wally Buono.

“No, no…I’m trying to save, man,” said the normally stoic sophomore quarterback, understanding he hasn’t really secured much more than a down payment these days in B.C.’s supercharged housing market. “I’m trying to be cheap like Wally.”

“Frugal,” smiled Buono from the back of the room.

“That’s right, frugal,” replied the quarterback.

Hey, it’s May; political correctness can take place before the first game. And what do you know, the future face of the franchise does have a sense of humour. Jennings might be in line to get his own radio show one day yet.

What had long been forecast on and elsewhere became a reality when the two parties agreed to a deal that by some accounts merely gave Jennings a raise and an extra year of contract security in exchange, according to a CKWX report, for a chance to try the NFL after the 2017 season, which is what he would have had under his old deal.

So in reality, the earth around the Lions didn’t move when the deal was announced, just as it remains unclear whether it’ll be Jennings or Travis Lulay behind centre opening day.

What remains to be seen is if something more important takes place with the deal that will give Jennings $150,000 this year, $175,000 the next and a $300,000 in 2018, according to a TSN report, before incentives.

What remains to be seen if whether the Lions get the shot of marketing adrenaline they could well use in advance of the teeth of the season-ticket selling season ahead.

After posing for pictures with Jennings, which came after a much more taxing rules session with CFL officiating vice-president Glen Johnson, the newly-defined frugal general manager admitted he’d been dragging his heels on a new deal mostly in search of optimal timing.

But a deal was always inevitable, said Buono, not because of what Jennings did during his brief tenure as a starter last fall but how he acted after the season was over.

A new contract for a quarterback, even if it isn’t Ricky Ray money, required Jennings to show some maturity, which Buono said the quarterback showed impressively during a visit with the club in February.

“He could have been standoff-ish (about a new contract), which to me would be very selfish,” Buono said. “But (Jennings) was very accommodating. Jon showed up, did some community and public relations things. He showed leadership.” That was also evident when Jennings said Thursday a camp holdout, inferred by his agent previously, was never going to happen.

“That wouldn’t have been good for anyone,” Jennings said.

Now he has to show he’s better than a healthy Lulay at camp, if it can be believed the Lions indeed will have a competition for the starting job and aren’t compelled to start Jennings to restart fan interest.

So during an off-season during which many have suggested the Lions have done little, Buono has reworked deals for two quarterbacks to now make less combined than what Ray pulls down, plus sign nine CFL free agents to become potential starters, the GM’s biggest off-season in some time. Jennings, meanwhile, only has to find an apartment rental before quarterbacks school starts in just over two weeks. Yaletown will have to wait. Such is the state of reconstructing the most important spot on the Lions depth chart.


Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.