The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have gone through their read progression and are ready to make a decision on which quarterback to sign.
Three Winnipeg quarterbacks — Zach Collaros, Matt Nichols and Chris Streveler — are scheduled to hit the free agent market on February 11. With Streveler exploring NFL options and likely to sign a contract south of the border, the Bombers’ choices for a No. 1 option at QB were narrowed to two.
Winnipeg has decided to focus their efforts on inking Collaros to a new contract. Collaros earned $310,000 in hard money last season — $115,000 in base salary and $20,000 in housing combined with a $175,000 signing bonus. Nichols collected $455,000 in 2019 — a $225,000 roster bonus which was paid on January 15, $209,000 base salary and $21,000 combined for housing and travel.
Unless Nichols takes a substantial pay cut, it would be difficult to fit both salaries under the cap — especially considering Collaros claimed the first Grey Cup in his career and deserves a pay raise for those efforts alone.
General manager Kyle Walters acquired Collaros at the trade deadline and it paid off with the veteran quarterback producing a 4-0 record, including three wins in the playoffs en route to hoisting Earl Grey’s mug.
Collaros was the starter who propelled Winnipeg to the run through the end of the season, playoffs and ultimately a Grey Cup championship. Bombers’ head coach Mike O’Shea saw Collaros as ‘the guy’ during the victories which led to a CFL title.
Nichols sustained what Winnipeg described as a “significant shoulder injury” last August when he was strip-sacked by B.C. Lions defensive lineman Shawn Lemon. The 32-year-old had an impressive 15-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio prior to the setback, but there are doubts within the Bombers front office whether Nichols can regain full form.
That makes Collaros the healthier of the two, but he does come with another price tag. Winnipeg sent their third-round choice in the 2020 CFL draft to the Toronto Argos for Collaros and a fifth-round selection during the October deadline. If the Bombers re-sign Collaros, Toronto receives an additional first-round pick, which would be ninth overall in the 2020 CFL draft.
Collaros has a 35-31 win-loss record while completing 65 percent of his passes for 16,979 yards and 94 touchdowns against 52 interceptions in 92 games over eight seasons. During three post-season games with the Bombers, Collaros totaled 630 passing yards, two touchdowns, one interception while completing 65 percent of his attempts.
Quarterbacks coach Buck Pierce helped with the reemergence of Collaros and the fact Winnipeg promoted the former CFL pivot to offensive coordinator has to be enticing for Collaros. Pierce is viewed as a rising offensive mind in the league and Collaros responded well to his coaching.
It looked like vintage Collaros and the quarterback the Bombers want to defend their Grey Cup title in 2020.