Assessing the suitors for poised and proven quarterback Jeremiah Masoli

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Veteran quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has instantly become a coveted commodity in the Canadian Football League.

Following the Tiger-Cats decision to re-sign Dane Evans, teams around the league who need a proven player at the most important position in football know Masoli will be available. He could be acquired by trade or free agency, but if Hamilton does right by the man that spent eight seasons in black and gold, Masoli should be released and hit the open market prior to February 8.

The most logical landing spot for Masoli might be the nation’s capital. General manager Shawn Burke signed the 33-year-old to multiple contracts when the two were together in Hamilton and have a longstanding, trusting relationship. The Redblacks need a bonafide No. 1 QB to be competitive quickly after a CFL-worst 3-11 record last season under head coach Paul LaPolice and Masoli is the main target Ottawa should focus on signing.

Masoli’s legend among players as a leader precedes itself and he could provide a key foundational culture-setting piece as a teammate. It’s not just a cliche with Masoli: the man is the first one in the building and last to leave. He sets the tone for a pro approach in workouts, meetings, practice and on game day with his unflappable demeanor.

That leadership is why Toronto, Edmonton and B.C. — if Michael Reilly retires — could have interest in Masoli. Behind the scenes, the Argonauts liked the five-foot-10, 215-pound dual-threat QB the last time his contract was expiring, but he re-signed with the Ticats last January instead of seeing what offers were out there.

Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie was intrigued by Masoli then and even this current off-season he was hoping Jake Maier would come free, but it was not to be as John Hufnagel re-signed the up-and-coming pivot. That in and of itself shows Dinwiddie isn’t 100 percent committed to McLeod Bethel-Thompson as his starter.

Masoli spent the first season of his CFL career in Edmonton, so it’s a familiar place for him. And with Chris Jones’ propensity for seeking competition, Masoli could at the very least be entertained by the Elks general manager and head coach as a potential upgrade over Nick Arbuckle. Yes, Jones gave Arbuckle a $100,000 signing bonus but every personnel man in the league would choose Masoli over him.

It’s worth remembering Masoli is a west coast guy and going to the Lions would put him closer home. He was born and raised in San Francisco, played high school football in Hawaii, earned a scholarship to the University of Oregon and spends off-seasons in his hometown. If Reilly moves on from football, B.C. would have salary cap room to take a run at Masoli who would be another great QB for Nathan Rourke to learn from.

Back-to-back Grey Cup appearances highlight Masoli’s recent resume and even though he was injured part way through the 2019 season, No. 8 still played a major role in his former team making it that far — twice. Masoli was literally inches away from pulling off a stunner in the 2021 CFL championship against one of the best defences in Winnipeg Blue Bombers history.

Consider how different the narrative surrounding Masoli would be if Tim White didn’t take a knee or Jaelon Acklin hauls in what was about to be the Grey Cup-winning touchdown pass. The hype in the Hammer after earning the big silver trophy at Tim Hortons Field — ending the CFL’s longest streak without a title in the process — would not have exceeded any hyperbole.

Masoli would have risen to legendary status and that isn’t lost on football decision-makers — his franchise-altering ability will ensure a high-end pay day.

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