Toronto Argos make QB Chad Kelly highest-paid player in CFL with three-year contract worth $1.865 million

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The Toronto Argonauts have made quarterback Chad Kelly the highest-paid player in the CFL for the next three seasons.

The 29-year-old inked a three-year contract extension which was negotiated by Saskatoon-based, Canadian agent Chris Lambiris. Kelly’s agreement is worth $615,000 in 2024 and $625,000 in hard money for each of the last two years. There are no performance incentives in his pact.

He’s due a $250,000 signing bonus in 2024 but can’t collect it if the six-foot-two, 216-pound QB signs an NFL contract during the December to February window. That means Kelly would need substantial guaranteed money from an NFL team to entertain it as a possibility.

Prior to signing this long-term deal, Kelly had a chance to earn up to $248,000 in 2023 but now he could go up to as high as $330,000 with some of his performance incentives turned into hard money.

The Buffalo native has completed 149-of-213 passes (70 percent) for 2,402 passing yards with 16 passing touchdowns versus seven interceptions in 2023. He has 25 carries for 135 yards and six majors. The Kelly-led Argos’ offence is averaging 29.2 offensive points per game and 380.9 yards of offence per game, both rank second in the CFL.

Originally selected with the final pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Kelly fell in the process due to off-the-field concerns despite a stellar NCAA career at the University of Mississippi. He spent four seasons south of the border with the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts, playing in one game as a backup, earning $1.141 million. He was released by the Colts in September 2020 and waited another year until joining the Argonauts last season.

Kelly started one game in his first CFL season, completing 23-of-35 passes for 264 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the regular-season finale against Montreal, rushing six times for 35 yards and a score. He ran for six touchdowns as the team’s primary short-yardage quarterback in 2022.

Despite spending the year in mostly a backup role, Kelly became the biggest story of the 109th Grey Cup after starter McLeod Bethel-Thompson suffered a dislocated thumb in the fourth quarter. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 43 yards in relief and set up the game-winning touchdown with a memorable 20-yard scramble on second-and-15 to help upset the two-time defending champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-23.

The Argos (8-1) are scheduled to return to action on Monday, September 4 when they take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-6) in the Labour Day Classic.

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