While there are a number of high-profile starting quarterbacks set to hit free agency around the CFL, including Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell, Edmonton’s Mike Reilly, Ottawa’s Trevor Harris Saskatchewan’s Zach Collaros, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have quarterback Matt Nichols under contract through the 2020 season.
While Nichols’ lucrative deal puts him in the upper echelon of pivots around the CFL, the Bombers do have the ability to move on from the 31-year-old without taking any salary hit prior to the 2020 season.
Nichols earned $420,000 in 2018, including a $215,000 bonus when he signed what became a three-year extension. He is scheduled for a pay bump to $455,000 in 2019 and 2020 with each year of the deal structured the same: $225,000 roster bonus on Jan. 15, a $209,000 base salary and $21,000 combined for housing and travel.
If the Bombers wanted to move away from Nichols as their starting quarterback after the 2019 season that decision could be made in mid-January next year without any cap implications for the Winnipeg Football Club.
Nichols had a career-best season in 2017 when he threw for 4,472 yards and 28 touchdowns. The Bombers won 12 games earning the chance to host the West semifinal which the blue and gold lost at home to Edmonton.
During 2018, Nichols’ numbers were down with 3,146 yards just 18 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. Winnipeg finished 10-8, travelled to Regina for the West semifinal where the Bombers won while Nichols secured his first ever playoff victory as a starting quarterback in the CFL.
However, rookie Chris Streveler started three games while Nichols’ was injured and there were calls for the ultra-athletic quarterback to take over as the starter. The first-year CFLer was a respectable 1-2 as a starter completing 61 per cent of his passes for 11,34 yards, 11 touchdowns against five interceptions and rushing 77 times for 441 yards with 10 touchdowns. Streveler is on a base minimum CFL entry-level contract that runs through the 2019 season.
Winnipeg’s quarterback situation is set up with a proven starter and up-and-coming backup with some experience in place for at least one more year. But Nichols will need to prove he’s worth the money next season if he wants to continue to see big dollars in 2020.