After going head-to-head with Tom Brady, former CFL neg list QB Taylor Heinicke extends NFL career

Photo courtesy: Washington Football Team

The Toronto Argonauts had their eyes on Taylor Heinicke as the next former NFL quarterback to potentially come north of the border.

However, Heinicke played his way off the Argos’ exclusive negotiation list — which are in a constant state of flux — especially following an impressive first career playoff start against Tom Brady in the NFC Wild Card Round.

After veteran Washington quarterback Alex Smith was ruled out due to a lower leg injury that affected his mobility, Heinicke was pressed into action. The 27-year-old completed 26-of-44 passes (59 percent) for 306 yards with one touchdown and one interception plus six carries for 46 yards and one touchdown against the Bucs.

That performance drew rave reviews from NFL analysts and personnel people with many believing the unrestricted free agent earned a job for the foreseeable future south of the border. The undrafted Heinicke will have suitors, while former Washington first-round pick, Dwayne Haskins, went through waivers unclaimed and is seeking work.

Heinicke had stints with Minnesota, New England, Houston, and Carolina. He threw three interceptions in his first career start with the Panthers in Week 16 of the 2018 season and was let go by the Cats at the end of the following training camp. The XFL allocated him to the St. Louis Battlehawks, but Heinicke did not play a down as the backup behind Jordan Ta’Amu.

Following 15 months out of the NFL, Washington signed Heinicke in December 2020 and he was forced into action during Week 16 against the Panthers after head coach Ron Rivera benched Haskins in the fourth quarter. Heinicke completed 12-of-19 passes for 137 yards with one touchdown. That earned trust from the coaching staff.

The Old Dominion University star who won the Walter Payton Award — the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) equivalent of the Heisman Trophy — made the most of his second chance in the NFL on a pressure-packed prime-time stage.

It signaled Heinicke won’t be coming to Canada anytime in the near future, and potentially not ever. The Argos adding and subsequently removing Heinicke from their neg list in December is one example of the daily transactions made behind the scenes in the CFL that largely go unknown but impact the way rosters are shaped in the future.

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