Quarterback James Franklin has hit the free agent market early.
The Toronto Argos released Franklin days prior to the opening of free agency on February 11. The 28-year-old Franklin fell out of favour with Marc Trestman and Jacques Chapdelaine while wearing double blue. That led to a less than ideal working situation for Franklin in The Six.
It was an unfortunate set of circumstances for Franklin after former general manager Jim Popp traded with the Edmonton Eskimos in December 2017 viewing the six-foot-two, 225-pound pivot as the Argos potential quarterback of the future. Popp inked Franklin to a two-year deal in January 2018 worth $250,000 and $346,000 in hard money respectively each season.
The starters across the league are slotted in based on the dollars tied to each one: Vernon Adams Jr. in Montreal; Nick Arbuckle Ottawa; Matt Nichols Toronto; Jeremiah Masoli Hamilton; Zach Collaros Winnipeg; Cody Fajardo Saskatchewan; Trevor Harris Edmonton; Bo Levi Mitchell Calgary and Mike Reilly on the Left coast.
CFL teams know the need for a solid duo and the value of a capable backup with starting experience at the game’s most important position. Three franchises in particular standout as matches for Franklin: Edmonton, Saskatchewan and B.C. The Esks could choose to move on from Logan Kilgore, the Riders are young after Fajardo and the same can be said for the Lions following Reilly.
Just two short seasons ago, Franklin was viewed my multiple personnel men as a bona fide QB1. Over Franklin’s first three seasons in Edmonton, he completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,449 yards and 12 touchdowns against one interception. Jason Maas was his coach with the Eskimos and he’s now employed as the Riders offensive coordinator. Saskatchewan could use a quality signal caller behind Cody Fajardo.
Current Edmonton general manager Brock Sunderland was high on Franklin, but smartly realized he could’ve left for nothing and there wasn’t going to be a starting role possible with the Eskimos at the time. However, Edmonton is in need of a QB to team with Trevor Harris. The Esks would provide a familiar setting for Franklin.
B.C. Lions offensive coordinator Jordan Maksymic worked alongside Franklin while the pair were in Edmonton. Franklin knows what it’s like to be with Reilly as the pair were together three years with the Eskimos and Maksymic’s offence would be familiar to Franklin. Meanwhile Leos GM Ed Hervey inked Franklin to his first CFL contract in 2015: there is an existing relationship between the two men.
Through 79 CFL games, Franklin has completed 65 percent of his attempts for 4,305 yards with 23 touchdowns ad 16 interceptions. Franklin is strong as a short yardage quarterback and can run from pressure, he’s accumulated 593 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground — 5.2 yards per carry.
Many of those numbers were totalled during the 16 career CFL starts Franklin has made. Invaluable reps for player with promise and potential. He could join the Esks, Riders or Lions and elevate the depth of their QB position to be top three in the league.
Franklin provides valuable capabilities and maturity in the Canadian game at the quarterback position.