Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

Ticats head coach Orlondo Steinauer has a clear affinity for quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that if Jeremiah wants to be here then we would look at having Jeremiah here,” Steinauer said.

Masoli is a pending free agent (mid-February 2020) after he went down with a non-contact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in his knee during the first quarter against Winnipeg in Week 7. The 31-year-old led the Tiger-Cats to their best start since 1998 at 5-1 while completing 71 percent of his passes for 1,576 yards with nine touchdowns versus seven interceptions adding 17 carries for 79 yards and four touchdowns.

“Anytime you can have great pieces to the puzzle, that’s what you’re trying to do. Like any free agent — yes, Jeremiah is a free agent — they’re going to explore whatever they need to explore,” Steinauer said.

“We’ll put our best foot forward and see where that lands. But at this point in time, there’s a lot of things that we need to go over as an organization.”

Dane Evans took over the starting quarterback job and went 10-2 during the regular season and helped the Tabbies reach the Grey Cup. The 26-year-old passed for 3,754 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions completing 72 percent of his attempts. Evans wants Masoli to keep wearing black and gold.

“Heck ya. That’s one of my best friends in this league. He’s taught me so much. I hope he comes back and I want to be here too. We’re a big family, we don’t just say that, it’s not just a t-shirt slogan, we truly are,” Evans said.

“I’m not going to sit up here and lie to you and say that I wouldn’t compete for it. We’re both going to compete for the job, that’s just both who we are and whoever gets it, gets it and the other one will be the backup.”

Masoli threw for over 5,200 yards with 28 touchdowns against 18 interceptions during his first full season as the starter in Hamilton during 2018. That came after Masoli led the league over the final 10 games of the 2017 regular schedule in passing yards with 3,032. Masoli nearly $400,000 with incentives – $100,000 paid March 1 – in 2019.

“Me and Masoli already had this talk,” Lawrence said, but he wouldn’t divulge what Masoli told him. “I can’t it’s a code in here man.”

“I love Jeremiah. I love Dane. Both of those guys must come back.”

Evans is under contract for two more years at an affordable rate which has playtime and performance incentives. There could be room — depending how the Ticats want to spend their cap money — to fit Masoli in for starting legitimate quarterback money because that’s what he’ll garner on the open market. It wouldn’t bother Evans at all.

“If I’m the backup next year, I’m going to be the best backup in the league. If I’m the one doing the short yardage, I’m going to be the best short yardage guy in the league. If I’m just the holder next year, I guarantee I’m going to be the best holder in the league,” Evans said.

“Whatever my role is I’m going to do it so the 2020 Ticats can get back to the Grey Cup.”

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Justin Dunk is the pre-eminent CFL insider and unabashed supporter of Canadian quarterbacks. He is one of the founders of the new 3DownNation.