Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette reported yesterday that quarterback Rakeem Cato could be “one of a number of [Alouette] veterans released this week.” This news comes just days after Montreal made headlines by giving up their first round pick of the 2017 CFL draft to acquire the rights to former Oregon Duck pivot Vernon Adams. Adams was quickly signed to a three-year contract.
Should Cato be released — which appears to be a foregone conclusion at this point — he is sure to attract attention on the open market. Still just 24, Cato put up respectable numbers in a sluggish Alouette attack last season, completing 69.3 percent of his passes for 2,167 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Should Cato find his passport sometime soon, here are three potential landing spots for Cato in 2016.
With Henry Burris entering his final year as Ottawa’s starter, general manager Marcel Desjardins would be wise to maximize his quarterback depth to the fullest extent possible. Free agent addition Trevor Harris will take the reigns as the club’s starter in 2017, but adding Cato now would allow him to develop into a suitable back-up to Harris next season. Danny O’Brien has struggled mightily in spot duty as the club’s third string pivot (59 percent completion rate with just two touchdowns to five interceptions), while newcomer Brock Jensen has yet to attempt pass in the CFL.
The Eskimos were so captivated by the play of rookie James Franklin last season that they traded veteran back-up Matt Nichols to Winnipeg for a conditional seventh round pick — literally the least compensation they could have received for any player via trade. Franklin only made one start after the trade, a game in which he completed just 13 of 28 passes for 105 yards before being pulled in favour of a hobbling Mike Reilly. As much as I like athletic third-stringer Jordan Lynch, Cato could be an immediate upgrade over both him and journeyman Thomas DeMarco.
Adding Cato would be poetic justice for a Roughrider team that had him on its negotiations list for three years prior to the Marshall product joining Montreal. Darian Durant has been unable to stay healthy for two seasons now and, at almost 34 years of age, is in the twilight of his football career. With second-year man Brett Smith and rookie B.J. Coleman currently the only two quarterbacks listed on Saskatchewan’s roster, its clear the Riders have the most immediate need for a suitable back-up quarterback of any team in the CFL.