Bombers’ Zach Collaros, Kyle Walters agree partially guaranteed contracts will help CFL build roster continuity

Photo: Larry MacDougal/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Zach Collaros put his money where his mouth is on Tuesday when he signed a three-year contract extension to remain with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers through 2025.

The league’s reigning M.O.P. said he didn’t think it was in the best interest of CFL players to sign long-term contracts when he agreed to one-year extension in January 2022. He expressed concern regarding how easy it was for teams to cut players partway through multiyear contracts and was hopeful that the league’s next collective bargaining agreement, which was set to be negotiated over the coming months, would provide greater security for players looking to sign long-term deals.

The CFL Players’ Association accomplished exactly that under the new CBA, creating the option for teams to guarantee up to 50 percent of the salary in the final year of multiyear contracts for veteran players. This clause can only be included in extensions for players signing back with their existing teams, which incentivizes players to remain with the same club instead of going to free agency every year.

“I think it’s big for the CFL,” Collaros told the media in Winnipeg on Tuesday. “It’ll add some stability for organizations as well as for fan bases. Anytime you can have the same group of guys on a team, I think it’s good.”

According to 3DownNation‘s Justin Dunk, Collaros’ new contract is worth $600,000 per season with $250,000 in guaranteed money in 2025.

The veteran passer indicated that his teammates felt excited for him after the extension was announced and expects the team to extend the contracts of more players in the coming weeks. General manager Kyle Walters confirmed that more re-signings will be announced after Grey Cup and expressed enthusiasm for the new CBA clause allowing veterans to sign partially guaranteed deals.

“I think it’s great for the league that … the teams can now try to keep players for multiple years and create some stability. It’s good for the fans, it’s good for marketing, it’s good for everybody, so it’s a nice win for us for sure,” said Walter.

“Hopefully this is a trend that guys want to commit around the league, not just here. I think it would be really good for our league if we start getting the star players on each team committed to longer contracts for the fans, the marketing departments on each team, I think it would be fantastic if this were the new natural trend.”

It remains unclear how often teams will be willing to guarantee a portion of salaries for veteran players. The only two players to reportedly sign partially guaranteed contracts since the CBA was ratified are Taylor Cornelius and Jake Maier, who appear to be the quarterbacks of the future in Edmonton and Calgary, respectively. It makes sense for teams to invest heavily in a franchise quarterback, though it remains to be seen if they will do the same with veterans at other positions.

Collaros indicated that contract negotiations had been underway since August when Walters reached out to his representation regarding a possible extension. The veteran quarterback wanted to remain in Winnipeg, though his young family makes their off-season home in Aurora, Ont., which is located 50 kilometres north of his wife’s hometown of Toronto. He suggested there’s a possibility that his family will move to Winnipeg permanently, though being away from his in-laws can be tough with two young children.

“I think it adds some stability and certainty to a point where you can get to in this business. There’s a lot of volatility in our profession but I think just being able to plan out a year, two years here in advance is cool. It’s something I’ve not really had the opportunity to do, especially since I’ve been married to my wife. I ran it by her the last couple of weeks and we talked through some things. That was the only approval I needed,” said Collaros.

Walters is pleased to have the club’s franchise quarterback under a long-term contract, eliminating the possibility of other teams courting him after the season. With Collaros likely to win a second consecutive Most Outstanding Player award, he would certainly have garnered interest from other teams around the league had he gone to free agency.

“Getting these guys locked up before free agency is way better than potentially getting into a bidding war down the road. We saw it last year in free agency when there was some pretty interesting numbers that came in over the top and you just couldn’t match them,” said Walters.

“We saw it with [receiver] Kenny [Lawler] last year where he was targeted by a couple of other teams and they went into a bidding process back and forth. We’re certainly concerned with a lot of our top guys and those scenarios could happen again for sure.”

Collaros has shown no signs of slowing down at the age of 34, throwing for a career-high 4,115 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions this season. He has gone 14-2 as a starter this year and is 31-4 as a starter in Winnipeg since being acquired via trade in October 2019. Collaros will be 37 when this extension expires but he doesn’t appear interested in stepping away from the game anytime soon.

“[I will keep playing] as long as my body allows it and [my wife] Nicole’s OK with it. I love the game. I love everything about the game. For one, it’s brought me so much joy in my life — not just playing the game but everything that’s come along with it, the people I’ve met. I love being part of the game-planning, I love taking care of my body and working out, I love being in the locker room with the guys,” said Collaros. “I’m not that old yet.”

The Blue Bombers (14-3) are currently on a bye before closing out the regular season against the B.C. Lions (11-5) on Friday, Oct. 28 at IG Field. The team has already clinched first place in the West Division and will host the West Final on Sunday, Nov. 13 with kickoff slated for 4:30 p.m. EDT.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.