As trade deadline looms, Junes Jones says Zach Collaros won’t be dealt

Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach June Jones says the team will not be trading quarterback Zach Collaros before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. league deadline.

Collaros lost his starting job after the team began the season 0-8 and Jones took over, installing back up Jeremiah Masoli as the No. 1 pivot. The team has gone 4-2 since the change and there’s been speculation that Collaros, who has one year left on the big money contract he signed early last season, would be dealt.

While acknowledging that the final decision rests with vice-president of football operations Kent Austin and general manager Eric Tillman, Jones says the team has already decided to keep Collaros.

“We’ve had that discussion for a long time. Zach’s going to be here,” Jones said. “He’s a good player and he makes us better. You need to have as many quarterbacks as you can.”

The Ticats are currently 4-10 and remain in the hunt for an East Division playoff spot. But a loss to the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night followed by a win by the Ottawa Redblacks later that evening would eliminate Hamilton from post-season contention.

But Jones says the fact that the team still has playoff aspirations isn’t a factor in hanging on to Collaros.

“We talked about it thoroughly even if we weren’t in position [to make the playoffs], Zach is a good player and he needs to be on our team,” Jones said. “He gives us the best chance for the future, too.”

The Ticats declined to make Austin available to the media on Tuesday but the former head coach spoke to a Winnipeg radio station before the team’s win over the Bombers last Friday and addressed the Collaros situation.

“There are certainly quarterbacks that don’t go through troughs in their career – Doug Flutie, Warren Moon – but a lot of quarterbacks do. I certainly did. It’s not that uncommon,” Austin said. “I have a great deal of respect for Zach, I think he’s a great player, he’ll continue to be a great player and will have a great career going forward.”

Austin didn’t want to speculate on Collaros’ future with the club but hinted he could return in 2018.

“Listen, we’re going to do what’s best for the football team for sure,” he said. “But it’s not out of the question that he’ll still be with us.”

Collaros’ contract makes him one of the league’s highest paid players, in excess of $525,000 per season. While the Ticats could ask him to renegotiate the last year of the deal, there have been multiple reports that he is unwilling to do that. Sources say he also has a sizeable roster bonus due next February which would force the Ticats to commit a chunk of the salary cap to the quarterback before training camp in 2018.

The Toronto Argonauts reportedly offered a package of players for Collaros earlier this season but were rebuffed by the Ticats. They are just one of several teams who have quarterback questions going into next season as several players including Ricky Ray, James Franklin, Brandon Bridge and Masoli are set to become free agents.

Hamilton has plenty of questions beyond the future of Collaros, including the fate of Jones, Austin and Tillman. But the interim head coach said he’d be happy to return next season with Collaros as his starter.

“Absolutely. I’ve been more impressed with Zach being in the position that he’s in, carrying himself as a professional,” Jones said. “It would be easy for him to turn negative, be pouting that he’s not playing. He’s not doing that at all, he’s preparing every day. He’s a true pro.”