Franchise quarterback Mike Reilly files grievance against Lions for guaranteed money

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Veteran quarterback Mike Reilly filed a grievance against the Lions in September for guaranteed money allegedly owed to him by the franchise.

According to league sources, when Reilly signed his four-year contract worth $2.9 million in February 2019 — averaging $725,000 per season, which made him the highest-paid player in the CFL — there was additional paperwork that accompanied it.

The two sides inked an agreement that guaranteed the veteran QB a sizeable portion of his salary — believed to be in the $250,000 range. There is no language or wording in the collective bargaining agreement that prohibits teams from guaranteeing cash to players.

As a potential six-game CFL schedule was being discussed, there were personnel people around the league wondering how Reilly was going to obtain his $400,000 report and pass bonus — especially if the league and CFL Players’ Association agreed to less than 100 percent of player salaries for playing a condensed schedule. However, the documentation was there to ensure Reilly would still be guaranteed his quarter-million.

After the 2020 season was cancelled due to the coronavirus, Reilly wanted the money he was promised by the Lions. That led to Reilly filing the grievance in the time between the season’s cancellation and Ed Hervey stepping down as general manager on October 16. Late owner David Braley, president Rick LeLacheur and Hervey were in their respective positions at the time the pact was agreed upon and finalized.

No one could have foreseen a global pandemic coming — if a full football year had been played, the quarterback would have received the entire value of his contract. That wasn’t the case and it’s forced Reilly, backed by the CFLPA, to obtain the payment to which both sides agreed during contract negotiations.

“The CFL Players’ Association is not prepared at this time to comment on matters related to the collective agreement, including potential grievances,” the CFLPA said in a statement to 3DownNation.

The Lions aren’t commenting on the situation and neither is Reilly’s side. 3DownNation has asked the league office for comment, but it’s yet to be received. The grievance is still in process.

Reilly started his CFL career with the Lions in 2010 and he’s been in the league for 10 seasons. The 35-year-old has completed over 66 percent of his passes for 31,522 yards with 168 touchdowns against 99 interceptions and rushed 637 times for 3,366 yards scoring 52 majors in 155 games.

The six-foot-three, 230-pound signal caller won the league’s Most Outstanding Player award in 2017 when he threw for a career-high 5,830 yards and 30 touchdowns. He’s been a part of two Grey Cup winning teams, including leading Edmonton to a CFL title in 2015, earning MVP honours in the 103rd edition of the three-down championship.

Reilly started 16 games for the Lions last season, but his first year as the starter in B.C. was cut short due to a broken wrist. Prior to the injury, he was the last healthy starting quarterback league-wide in a pain-filled campaign for No. 1 pivots. The face of the franchise passed for 3,897 yards, 20 touchdowns versus 15 interceptions while completing just under 70 percent of his attempts as the Lions went 5-13 and missed the playoffs.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.