Reigning MOP, back-to-back Grey Cup champ Zach Collaros has all the leverage in contract negotiations with Bombers

Photo courtesy: Alex Lupul/AlexLupul.com

Zach Collaros has the Bombers by their blue balls.

Each second, minute, hour and day that go by, the price rises for re-signing Collaros. Offers have been made but none lucrative enough for him to sign on the dotted line. The pending free agent would be coveted by multiple CFL teams if he happens to hit the open market on February 8.

Since arriving in Winnipeg at the trade deadline in October 2019, the athletic QB has played the best football of his career. He’s won 17 of 19 starts, including back-to-back Grey Cups, and earned the league’s Most Outstanding Player award in a unanimous vote.

Collaros earned a prorated $424,285.71 last season while leading the CFL with 20 touchdown passes and a 111.0 QB rating. He was the best quarterback in the three-down league and even his counterparts would agree, while definitely being underpaid.

His situation is comparable to Bo Levi Mitchell following the 2018 season. Mitchell had done the double, grabbing the MOP award and a second Grey Cup as a starter. He actually entered free agency, entertained offers until Stampeders general manager John Hufnagel opened his wallet to pay Mitchell $2.8 million over four years for an average of $700,000 annually.

That’s the kind of money Collaros could command from rival CFL franchises. The Argonauts would be intrigued by the idea of bringing the 33-year-old back to Toronto where he started his career. It could be a homecoming of sorts, as Collaros makes his off-season home in nearby Aurora, which is less than a 40-minute drive — without traffic — from BMO Field.

Paul LaPolice would love to be reunited with Collaros in the nation’s capital. The offensive coordinator and QB worked closely together in 2019 to help the Bombers win the 107th Grey Cup. Ottawa has lots of salary cap space and Redblacks GM Shawn Burke was in Hamilton for all of the years Collaros spent with the Tiger-Cats, critical familiarity.

Both Toronto and Ottawa have cash to spend on Collaros if the opportunity comes about. At minimum, competing teams could drive the price up on Winnipeg if negotiations go the distance. The Bombers are trying to keep as many key pieces on the roster as possible while eyeing a three-peat, but Collaros is the most important by a country mile.

If Collaros leaves the Blue Bombers, the only QB currently under contract is Dru Brown. Losing No. 8 would completely change the Bombers’ ability to compete for a third straight CFL championship with the 109th edition scheduled to be hosted by the rival Roughriders in Saskatchewan. Winnipeg Football Club president Wade Miller would love to hoist the cup there, but Collaros must be in blue and gold for a legit shot at that dream turning into reality.

It’s a rare time where one player has all the leverage and, with football careers being unpredictable and short, Collaros needs to break the bank while he can. His recent accolades add up to him becoming the highest paid player in the CFL. The major question: will Winnipeg pay up or does Collaros wear new colours next season? We’re about to find out and the drama could be high behind the scenes.

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