Breaking down QB Chad Kelly’s CFL contract with the Toronto Argonauts

Photo courtesy: Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics

The Toronto Argonauts signed former college star quarterback Chad Kelly to a two-year contract last week after acquiring his rights in a trade with the Edmonton Elks in October.

Kelly’s deal for 2022 includes $67,000 in salary — slightly more than the league minimum of $65,000 — along with $12,000 in housing money. This means he will earn $79,000 in “hard money” if he makes Toronto’s active roster in 2022, though he may also receive additional bonuses depending on his level of performance.

The 27-year-old will earn $3,333.33 each time he takes 51 percent or more of Toronto’s offensive snaps in a regular season game and an additional $10,000 if he starts ten or more games. He also gets $500 each time he makes the active roster as the club’s primary backup quarterback.

Kelly will earn $1,500 if he passes for 1,000 yards, $3,000 if he passes for 2,000 yards, $5,000 if he passes for 3,000 yards, $10,000 if he passes for 4,000 yards, and $15,000 if he passes for 5,000 yards. He will also collect $5,000 if he finishes top-three in CFL touchdown passes and another $5,000 if he finishes top-three in CFL passing yards.

The six-foot-two, 216-pound passer will receive a $2,500 bonus if he is named an East Division all-star, a $5,000 bonus if he is named a CFL all-star, and a $15,000 bonus if he is named the league’s Most Outstanding Player.

This means Kelly can earn a maximum of $216,000 in 2022 if he becomes a full-time starter and dominates the league. The terms of his deal with Toronto are the same for 2023, though the salary improves from $67,000 to $75,000.

The Argos have two veteran quarterbacks on the roster in McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Antonio Pipkin. Bethel-Thompson went 7-2 as a starter in 2021 and threw for 2,303 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, while Pipkin threw for 158 yards and an interception in limited action.

The Argos also have former University of Hawaii star Cole McDonald under contract as well as Austin Simmons, who took over from Chris Streveler at the University of South Dakota.

Kelly was dismissed from Clemson University’s football team following his redshirt freshman season due to what head coach Dabo Swinney deemed “conduct detrimental to our program.” He transferred to East Mississippi Community College where he led the Lions to a National Junior College Athletic Association championship in 2015 before transferring to Ole Miss.

The native of Buffalo, N.Y. threw for 6,800 yards, 50 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions over two seasons with the Rebels and rushed 187 times for 841 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was named first-team All-SEC in 2015 and second-team All-SEC in 2016, leading to him being selected in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.

Kelly dressed for only one regular season game over four NFL seasons as a member of the Broncos (2017-18) and Indianapolis Colts (2019-20). He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor second-degree criminal trespassing in March 2019, which led to him being suspended for the first two games of the NFL season.

The young passer is the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who helped lead the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances from 1990-93.