Let’s set the record straight: Drew Willy is not being paid $400,000 to hold a clipboard.
After Winnipeg started the 2016 season 1-4, Willy was demoted to backup quarterback duties and Matt Nichols was named the starter by head coach Mike O’Shea.
Nichols is in his seventh year, meaning his salary has been guaranteed for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, Willy will have his wage locked in by the Bombers if he’s on the roster for the Labour Day Sunday Prairie showdown with Saskatchewan. That has caused some discussion about whether or not Winnipeg general manager Kyle Walters anticipated having to pay each passer.
|Drew Willy||2016 contract||Matt Nichols||2016 contract|
|Signing bonus||$67,000||Signing bonus||$80,000|
|51% per-game||$2000||51% per-game||$2000|
Willy has already earned $181,000 from the Bombers this season. That includes signing bonus, half of his housing allowance, $99,000 base for nine games played or dressed and $10,000 for playing 51 percent of the offensive snaps in the five games Willy started.
That leaves Willy due $99,000 in base salary and $5,000 in housing ($104,000) for the final nine games, which would put his total at $285,000 if he remains the backup at his current base salary rate. He’s already been paid nearly two-thirds of his 2016 contract.
Ever since Willy was relegated to the bench, he’s lost a $2,000 per-game bonus by not playing 51 percent of the offensive snaps. The lack of playing time means he will not reach performance bonuses too. Which, upon agreeing to the deal, Willy had to assume he would’ve been the starter and could’ve reached passing yard and touchdown marks for more money: $2,000 for 3,000 passing yards, $3,000 for 4,000 passing yards and $5,000 each for 20 and 30 touchdowns and 5,000 passing yards.
Nichols has a much smaller base than Willy, but he’s got plenty of play-time incentives. If the Eastern Washington product remains the No. 1 QB for the rest of the season he will make 13 starts. That means he’ll earn $152,000 in per-game playtime bonuses to go along with his base, signing bonus, housing and travel numbers ($169,000), which totals $321,000.
There are performance bonuses Nichols could reach: $2,000 for 3,000 passing yards, $3,000 for 4,000 passing yards, $4,000 for 5,000 passing yards and $5,000 each for 20 and 30 touchdowns. Those numbers are similar to Willy’s.
Clearly, the plan was to invest in Willy as the starter and only pay Nichols if No. 5 got hurt and landed on the six-game injured list, where his salary wouldn’t count against the cap. It would’ve been hard to anticipate Willy losing the starting job while healthy. However, that’s what’s happened.
Based on Nichols starting the final nine games of the season for Winnipeg and Willy making his current base salary, the Bombers would pay over $600,000 to their top two quarterbacks. That could be the highest total for a starter and backup combined league-wide, but Calgary is within that range too. Hamilton, Ottawa, Toronto, and Saskatchewan will pay their two main signal callers more than $515,000.
When taking those figures into account, keeping both quarterbacks is something the Bombers can likely afford to do.