Opposite sides of the boat: QB Matt Nichols, Argos far apart in restructured contract discussions

The Toronto Argonauts and veteran quarterback Matt Nichols are not pulling together on the good ship Argo.

According to TSN reporter Farhan Lalji, Nichols and the double blue aren’t close to agreeing on a restructured contract.

Argos vice president, player personnel John Murphy presented Nichols with an offer in early December. That offer was for a drastic reduction in hard money of close to 40 per cent. More importantly, the deal offers no signing bonus.

Nichols has two years remaining on his current contract and is due to make $345,000 in hard money in 2021 and is due a $220,000 signing bonus February 1. With incentives, his deal could reach $555,000.

All of the QBs who have currently restructured their contracts have signing bonuses that range between $150,000 and $375,000. In many cases, off-season roster bonuses were converted to signing bonuses, which offer greater tax benefits to American players.

Nichols’ camp sent a counter-offer to the Argos which was declined and since then there have been no further negotiations, but the expectation is the two sides will revisit the issue later this month, with CFL free agency set to begin February 9.

Nichols clearly wants to remain with the Argos, and is willing to take a pay cut to do so, but given the market conditions, it would be hard to justify accepting a deal with no signing bonus.

Ironically, Nichols’ lucrative deal was negotiated while he was coming off shoulder surgery. But one year later, he is completely healthy. Nichols has also recently completed his master’s degree in sports administration and has options beyond football, should a reasonable offer not be negotiated.

Nichols visited Toronto in January 2020 for a physical and meetings with Argos coaches and personnel staff, prior to inking his existing pact. Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Kyle Walters released Nichols following the signing of QB Zach Collaros to a two-year contract extension. During the 2018 and 2019 seasons Nichols earned $420,000 and $455,000, respectively, according to 3DownNation insider Justin Dunk.

Bombers, Matt Nichols discussed contract extension prior to 2019 season

Nichols had an impressive 15-5 touchdown to interception ratio, but didn’t eclipsed the 300-yard mark in 2019. The six-foot-two, 211-pound passer was playing consistent football, completing more than 71 per cent of his passes when he was on the field. Chris Streveler was the starter until the final game of the regular season when Collaros took over and led the Bombers to their first Grey Cup championship in 29 years.

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Through 10 CFL seasons, Nichols has passed for 18,363 yards, 108 touchdowns versus 60 interceptions while completing 66 percent of his attempts. He’s added 617 yards on 140 carries with 13 touchdowns on the ground. Nichols has produced a 45-28 win-loss record as a starting quarterback, 7-2 prior to his season-ending injury last season.

Nichols had a career-best season in 2016 passing for 3,666 yards with 18 touchdowns against nine interceptions. One year later, Nichols reset those totals, throwing for 4,472 yards and 28 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. However, during 2018, Nichols’ numbers were down with 3,146 yards and 18 touchdowns against 13 interceptions.

The Argos are rocking the boat and we’ll see if both sides can stay on board.

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