Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Matt Nichols has a small lottery ticket riding on a 2021 CFL season.
Nichols’ contract includes a $200,000 report and pass bonus. For him to receive the payment, the three-down league needs to play football this year and the veteran pivot has to have his medical examination approved at training camp.
“I’m comfortable with that because I’m 100 percent healthy. Whether I get some money right now or when the season starts makes no difference to me. It was something that they requested and I don’t mind,” Nichols said.
“My family and I are doing just fine so it doesn’t matter to me to wait a few months to get that money. I’m rooting for there to be a season as much as anyone.”
Every other No. 1 quarterback in the league was immediately paid six-figures for reworking or signing new deals during the current off-season, Nichols being the only outlier. Nearly two-thirds of his total hard money compensation — which checks in at $317,000 — is tied to a season kicking off.
“There needs to be some type of season and I expect there to be. There wouldn’t be these big bonuses going out if there wasn’t a plan for a season. It’s important that we play this year, and I fully expect there to be a season,” Nichols said.
“Whether that’s 18 games, 12 games or nine games, I have no idea. I don’t think anyone knows, but I think that there will be some type of season. I’ll be ready to go whenever they tell me to get on a plane.”
The destination changed quickly for Nichols. He signed a three-year contract with the Toronto Argonauts last February, but the Double Blue released him prior to paying a $220,000 roster bonus on February 1. That made Nichols a free agent and allowed him to rejoin Paul LaPolice in Ottawa, even though retirement crossed his mind.
“That’s not how I wanted things to work out, but with the imbalance of not knowing whether you’re going to get a contract worked out, you start thinking about what’s best for your family, and making sure that things are in place in case football isn’t an option anymore,” Nichols said.
“I love the game, I don’t want my career to be over yet, I feel like I have a lot of good football left in me. I’m glad that I get to continue this career and playing the game that I love, and not have to move into the real world yet.”
Nichols threw for 1,936 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2019 with LaPolice as his offensive coordinator in Winnipeg. He led to Bombers to a 7-2 record prior to suffering a season-ending shoulder injury against the B.C. Lions. The 33-year-old has set single-season career bests working with LaPolice.
“I felt like I was in the running for an MOP-type season and unfortunately had that season cut short. I felt like I was playing my best football right before the injury,” Nichols said.
“I felt like every snap I was playing the game was slowing down more and it was feeling easier and easier. A big help with that was being in my offence that I know inside and out.”