The Hamilton Tiger-Cats officially have a new franchise quarterback after Bo Levi Mitchell signed a three-year contract extension tying him to the team through 2025. There are plenty of dominoes left to fall in Steeltown this off-season but none more critical than what the club will do with Dane Evans.
The 29-year-old was anointed as Hamilton’s starting quarterback last off-season after signing a two-year contract extension worth over $400,000 per season. Jeremiah Masoli, with whom Evans had previously shared quarterbacking duties, was released in order to pursue other opportunities and eventually signed with the Ottawa Redblacks.
Evans didn’t live up to expectations in his first season as an undisputed CFL starter, throwing for 3,883 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions over 14 regular season starts, posting a 6-8 record. He threw for 123 yards and one interception in the East Semi-Final against Montreal and was benched in favour of Matthew Shiltz.
Orlondo Steinauer, the team’s head coach and president of football operations, addressed the media during Mitchell’s introductory press conference on Tuesday and provided a brief update regarding the four-year veteran.
“Dane’s under contract with us and we’ve had conversations long since we’ve acquired the rights (to Bo Levi Mitchell),” he said. “Right now, Dane’s a Hamilton Tiger-Cat and the next steps will be determined in the near future.”
It isn’t feasible for the Ticats to keep Evans for the 2023 season under his current deal. The Tulsa product is set to earn over $450,000 this year, which isn’t far off what Mitchell is set to earn under his new deal. Evans doesn’t have any off-season bonuses in his contract, which means Hamilton isn’t under any immediate pressure to trade him, release him or renegotiate his contract.
The six-foot-one, 218-pound passer has shared quarterbacking duties in the past but it seems unlikely that he’d be willing to stay in Hamilton under a reduced salary. Kelly Jeffrey, the new offensive coordinator of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, reportedly covets Evans and the Riders do not have a veteran quarterback under contract for 2023. Saskatchewan could make a trade for Evans or wait until the Ticats are forced to release him.
Steinauer told 3DownNation during the league’s recent off-season winter meetings that Evans was made aware of the club potentially trading for Mitchell’s rights before the deal was finalized.
“I think he took it like any competitor, he was very professional. I think the one thing is just transparency. This isn’t something that Dane was going to read coming across the ticker or anything, this was a conversation that we had once we knew there was going to be some real traction in acquiring Bo’s rights and that’s all you can really do,” said Steinauer at the time.
“You can’t worry about if it’s popular or not, all you can really do is respect the person and not look at them as a player. We had those conversations before anybody else knew of this publicly and that’s all you can do. At the end of the day, he was very professional about it and he took it the way anybody would take information like that.”
Evans has not spoken publicly since Hamilton acquired the exclusive rights to Mitchell in November but it seems clear that he is in need of a fresh start. It appears we won’t have to wait long to see what his future holds in store.