Bo Levi Mitchell wants to ‘hear out’ Ticats, but doesn’t intend to sign anywhere until CFL free agency

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will get the first crack at luring Bo Levi Mitchell to their side this offseason but the veteran quarterback isn’t interested in committing to the franchise that acquired his rights before he’s seen all the options.

“I’ll definitely hear Hamilton out, I want to hear their pitch and kind of what’s going on there. But what I said two days ago, before the West Final, was I want to go into free agency,” Mitchell said in an appearance on the FlamesNation Barn Burner radio show on Tuesday.

“I want to find out what the offers are, I want to know where the coaches are going to end up, I want to know where some players are going to end up, who’s even going to make it to free agency as a player.”

Hamilton acquired the rights to Mitchell on Monday, sending a third and a fifth-round pick to the Calgary Stampeders for the privilege of negotiating with the future Hall of Famer before he can test the open market in February. The Stampeders will receive additional compensation should the Ticats be successful in their quest to sign their new franchise quarterback.

The 32-year-old had made it clear that he intended to test free agency after Jake Maier, who replaced him as the team’s starting quarterback in August, signed a contract extension to remain with the Stampeders through 2024. Mitchell finished the year with 2,010 passing yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions in nine starts.

The two-time CFL Most Outstanding Player entered the game late in Calgary’s regular-season finale against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, a 36-10 victory that meant nothing in the standings. He received a standing ovation from the fans in Calgary in his final farewell as a member of the Stampeders at McMahon Stadium.

He took the field again in the West Semi-Final in relief of Maier with his team trailing 20-6 in the fourth quarter. He engineered an 81-yard drive that ended in a 24-yard field goal by Rene Paredes and drove the team 71 yards on its next possession, resulting in a one-yard touchdown run by Tommy Stevens.

Mitchell said goodbye to Calgary in an Instagram post the day after the team was eliminated from the postseason, thanking fans and his teammates for all of their support. However, he has not yet settled on a choice for the next chapter of his career, wanting to weigh his options and find the best location for success.

“At this point in my career, I’m not going to fight over a certain amount of money with a different team. It’s more to me, I want to build on a legacy that I’ve started,” he said. “I want to do what Henry [Burris] did, what Ricky Ray did, I want to go to another team – what Zach [Collaros] did – and I want to win a Grey Cup. So I’ll make sure I make the best decision based off the team.”

Following the trade, Ticats’ head coach and president of football operations Orlondo Steinauer expressed optimism that a deal would be struck with Mitchell. The coveted veteran would not rule out Hamilton as his ultimate destination, expressing great respect for the organization and its leadership.

“First off, I’m a huge fan of Coach O,” Mitchell shared. “Orlondo Steinauer is definitely one of the best guys in the CFL and I had a lot of players reach out, not just from Hamilton but from other teams, telling me, ‘Hey man, Coach O, he’s that guy.’ I’ve always known that just from playing him, we’ve had some battles in the past.”

Mitchell signed with the Stampeders fresh out of college in 2012 and became the club’s full-time starter two years later. He became Calgary’s all-time leading passer earlier this year and has thrown for 32,541 yards, 188 touchdowns, and 89 interceptions over his 10-year career.

This offseason marks his first opportunity to test the open market since 2018, when he had a number of NFL workouts. While he admits that the requirements of his family life will make waiting until February challenging, Mitchell remains excited to see what’s out there.

Nonetheless, Hamilton’s early interest is appreciated.

“You want to be wanted. You want to go somewhere where people want you, they respect you, they want to hear your opinions about what you want to do with your offence and your team and things like that,” he noted. “I’ve talked to some guys over there, I’m excited about it. I’m sure at some point I’ll probably fly out there, go see the city, talk to them. But as of right now, the plan is not to sign anywhere until free agency.”

“I do want to see what all is happening but I’m going to respect Hamilton and make sure that I listen to everything they have to say and check it out because right now they’ve got my rights and that’s where I’m at.”