COVID-19 market reset: CFL quarterback salaries for 2021 season

The coronavirus health crisis has affected everyone around the globe while taking a financial toll on many, including the top earners in the CFL — quarterbacks.

After Mike Reilly and Bo Levi Mitchell moved the market north of $700,000 in 2019 for Grey Cup-winning and CFL Most Outstanding Player signal-callers, it’s been lowered as teams aim to spend to the salary cap floor rather than the ceiling due to the economic impact of the pandemic.

Each projected starting quarterback’s salary has been ranked according to the amount of hard money within their current pacts.

Mike Reilly, B.C. Lions

The 36-year-old has the distinction of being the league’s highest-paid player once again, he’s scheduled to earn $525,000 for the 2021 season.

After his grievance against the Lions was settled, Reilly agreed to a restructured contract which included a $375,000 signing bonus and $150,000 base salary. That equals a simple $525,000 for the 2015 Grey Cup MVP and 2017 Most Outstanding Player.

2021 signing bonus: $375,000
2021 hard money: $525,000

Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary Stampeders

Mitchell is technically tied with Reilly in terms of earning potential for the 2021 season, though the Stamps’ franchise pivot must play in 18 regular season games to earn the final $9,000. That’s because he has a $500 per game bonus for playing one snap.

After restructuring his contract, Mitchell received a $100,000 roster bonus on January 15, and he’s scheduled for another $100,000 roster bonus on March 15. The 31-year-old has a $25,000 bonus for reporting to training camp and passing his medical examination and he’s got a $2,000 travel allowance. Mitchell’s contract also stipulates six red game tickets for each regular season home game.

The two-time Grey Cup champion, two-time Grey Cup MVP, and two-time Most Outstanding Player is underpaid for his accomplishments and 77-18-2 win-loss record.

2021 signing bonus: $0
2021 hard money: $516,000

Trevor Harris, Edmonton Football Team

Even though Harris has yet to win a Grey Cup as a starter or earn a Most Outstanding Player award, the 34-year-old checks in just behind Reilly and Mitchell on the CFL’s quarterback compensation scale. Harris took the Redblacks to the CFL championship game in 2018, but Ottawa was beaten by Mitchell and the Stamps.

Just like Reilly and Mitchell, Harris restructured his deal and collected a $250,000 signing bonus. He’s set to earn a $253,000 base salary and $12,000 in housing. That totals a clean $515,000 for 2021 season.

2021 signing bonus: $250,000
2021 hard money: $515,000

Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Despite taking a reduction on his original 2021 salary ($450,000), Collaros can still earn $100,000 more than he did in 2019.

While recovering from a concussion and leading the Bombers to their first Grey Cup since 1990, Collaros brought home $310,000. For inking the current paperwork with Winnipeg, the 32-year-old got a $180,000 signing bonus. He can net $168,000 in base salary, $50,000 in a first time active roster bonus and $12,000 in housing.

2021 signing bonus: $180,000
2021 hard money: $410,000

Cody Fajardo, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Fajardo accepted a $140,000 as part of his 2021 compensation, which totals $404,000 with the potential for $10,000 in award incentives.

The reigning CFL passing yards leader and league all-star quarterback has a $250,000 base salary, $12,000 for housing, and $2,000 travel allowance. He could earn $5,000 for being named CFL MOP, $3,000 CFL all-star, $2,000 West Division all-star.

Whether or not Fajardo nets the extra $10,000 available, he’ll earn nearly triple the approximately $150,000 from the 2019 campaign.

2021 signing bonus: $140,000
2021 hard money: $404,000

Vernon Adams Jr., Montreal Alouettes

It’s highly likely Adams Jr. earns more than Fajardo this year, especially if a full season is played. The dual-threat quarterback has $404,000 earmarked with $36,000 available in playtime incentive money.

Adams Jr. grabbed a $200,000 signing bonus with an $184,000 base salary, $12,000 housing, $8,000 travel allowance, plus the potential for $2,000 per game for starting and playing one percent of any offensive snaps.

Even if 18 regular season games aren’t played, Adams should pass Fajardo on the pay rankings.

2021 signing bonus: $200,000
2021 hard money: $404,000

Matt Nichols, Ottawa Redblacks

Nichols is the only projected starting quarterback without a cent in his pocket this year.

The 33-year-old has a $200,000 bonus for reporting to training camp and passing his medical examination. Along with it is $105,000 base salary, $12,000 in housing, and the following statistical incentives: CFL MOP $3,000, East Division MOP $2,000, Redblacks MOP $1,000, 5,000 passing yards $2,500, 4,000 passing yards $2,500, CFL all-star $2,000, East Division all-star $1,000.

Nichols has a $317,000 hard money amount with $14,000 more possible.

2021 signing bonus: $0
2021 hard money: $317,000

Jeremiah Masoli, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Masoli left money on the table by electing to re-sign with the Ticats. He’s committed to helping Hamilton play in the Grey Cup the city is scheduled to host in November.

For signing his one-year contract, Masoli got $125,000, with $150,000 in base salary, $12,000 housing. There is $63,000 available in per game playtime incentives. For every game Masoli plays 51 percent or more of the offensive snaps, he earns $3,500.

If Masoli wins the CFL’s MOP it’s an $8,000 bonus, CFL passing yards leader $3,000, CFL all-star $2,000, East Division passing yards leader $1,500, East Division all-star $1,000.

Masoli has $287,000 in hard money coming to him with $350,000 attainable and $365,500 maximum.

2021 signing bonus: $125,000
2021 hard money: $287,000

Nick Arbuckle, Toronto Argonauts

Arbuckle traded a higher signing bonus of $150,000 for a smaller base salary at $109,000.

The Argos’ pivot has $12,000 for housing coming to him as part of his $271,000 hard money amount. He can earn $3,000 per game for playing 51 percent or more of the offensive snaps, bumping his potential earnings to $325,000.

2021 signing bonus: $150,000
2021 hard money: $271,000

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