CFL free agency could play out much different for quarterback Jon Jennings compared to 2019

Quarterback Jon Jennings was sought by multiple teams during his free agency in 2019 as a starting option.

Jennings had been granted the right by the B.C. Lions to speak with the Edmonton Eskimos prior to the market opening as part of the same agreement going the other way for Mike Reilly.

Jennings and the Eskimos discussed the framework of a contract worth around $400,000, which could have grown larger through incentives. But Edmonton general manager Brock Sunderland was targeting Trevor Harris to take the franchise quarterback spot.

Harris had an offer from the Riders, but the connection to Sunderland and then-head coach Jason Maas from time together in Ottawa — plus the stated goal to reload quickly — drew the former Redblacks pivot to Edmonton. That left Jennings to sign with Ottawa, particularly after Saskatchewan did not offer him a contract.

Jennings got a fresh start in the nation’s capital, which was much-needed after what happened on the left coast. The 26-year-old told the Lions in late November that he would be hitting the open market, a decision that came after general manager Ed Hervey appeared to question his work ethic during the season. Jennings wished the issue had been addressed face to face, after which Hervey said that he should probably move on.

Jennings played in 10 games for the B.C. Lions in 2018 after agreeing to a restructured contract prior to that season. He threw for 1,628 yards, eight touchdowns, and seven interceptions while adding 36 carries for 226 yards. The Indianapolis Colts were interested enough to work Jennings out in December 2019.

Jennings went unselected in the 2014 NFL draft out of Saginaw Valley State. The Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers invited Jennings to their respective rookie mini-camps, but no contract was offered by any of the franchises.

The 27-year-old broke into the CFL in 2015 passing for 2,004 yards, 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in eight games. After putting together a stellar 2016 by throwing for 5,226 yards and 27 touchdowns, Jennings’ 2017 numbers were down across the board with just 3,639 passing yards and more interceptions (19) than touchdowns (16).

That 2016 production had the Redblacks believing Jennings could reach the same potential again. Ottawa paid Jennings $250,000 in hard money — a $125,000 base salary, $100,000 signing bonus and $25,000 in housing — and based on playtime incentives it could have reached $400,000. Jennings made about $8,400 for each game in which he played 51 per cent or more of the offensive snaps in Ottawa.

There was competition for the Redblacks’ number one job in training camp and Dominique Davis opened the season in the starting role. Marcel Desjardins re-signed Davis for approximately $120,000 with $100,000 more available in playtime bonuses. But Davis threw too many interceptions — 14 in 10 games — and suffered an injury, so Jennings was installed as the starter.

Jennings wen 0-6 as a starter with the Redblacks while completing 65 per cent of his passes for 1,154 yards and three touchdowns against seven interceptions. Ottawa’s offence was more offensive than anything else in 2019 and it’s unfair to judge Jennings purely based on last season.

At times Jennings displayed flashes of his former ability, particularly on some choice deep balls. However, there wasn’t enough for new head coach Paul LaPolice to like on Jennings’ film. He’s been let go early for the second straight year as Ottawa released Jennings in mid-January.

Wherever Jennings ends up he’ll have to renew his value, but he could be a bargain for a team looking to add valuable experience at the game’s most important position.

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