A look at the QB forecast
It isn’t just a blurry, hard-to-decipher picture, but one that is completely indecipherable and illegible.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are just days removed from their Grey Cup victory, but with Thursday’s release of the Canadian Football League’s list of the pending free agents everyone – media, fans, the players alike – are already wondering what next year’s depth chart might look like.
And while that’s the same across the CFL, no team has more question marks about the most important position on the field than the Bombers with Matt Nichols, Zach Collaros and Chris Streveler all pending free agents.
Only Sean McGuire, who dressed all season as the No. 3, is under contract.
The other component to this which will be a major impact in roster shaping for 2020 is the decision to reduce the number of quarterbacks on the active roster from three to two, making it that much more difficult to develop – and keep – prospects at the position.
“We’ll figure out the quarterback situation as we go along,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea in his season-ending media conference on Friday.
“It’s been a great gift to have the quarterbacks we’ve had in that room. I know the room got a little crowded this year, but what a great group of guys and I’ll say it again – the toughest room in the entire league, bar none.”
The Bombers got solid production from all three starters this year, with the club going 7-2 under Nichols, 3-5 with Streveler at the controls and 1-0 under Collaros, who was then behind centre for all three playoff wins.
Keeping that crew together is absolutely impossible.
“Quarterbacks are leaders for a reason and they have confidence for a reason,” said O’Shea. “They’ve got to go out there and all believe they should be starting. We’re fortunate that with the character of our guys they all understood their role when they were put into it, so they all thrived in their role no matter what it was. We’re very… I wouldn’t say ‘lucky’, because we choose character a lot of times… but it was just a great group to be around, but you do remember the fact they all want to be starters.
“In any situation when you’ve got that many guys who are able to start sitting in a room someone is going to go find a job somewhere.”
Let’s examine the Bombers QB situation a bit further with CFL free agency opening in just 74 days…
Synopsis: The club is keen on the upside of McGuire. He’s unproven, yes, but a prospect that could work well with a bonafide No. 1 ahead of him on the depth chart. Good size at 6-2, 218 with a strong arm.
Synopsis: There’s no doubt of the immense respect Nichols has within the organization as the QB who was behind centre for the franchise turnaround dating back to the summer of 2016. The club has posted a 37-16 record in games he has started over that span – including 7-2 this past season – but also turns 33 in March and is coming off shoulder surgery.
Nichols has made no secret of his love for this organization and city. Interestingly, should Paul LaPolice find a head coaching gig this offseason – Ottawa, perhaps — Nichols might be a candidate to be a No. 1 with him should the Bombers opt to push away from the likable and highly-regarded vet.
Synopsis: Unconfirmed, but there are reports that at this very moment Streveler is still likely without a shirt and soaking up the Grey Cup revelry. A huge fan favourite because of his unique skills which have made him one of the most dangerous runners at the position since Damon Allen. The Bombers were 3-5 in his starts this year and his TD-to-interception ratio of 8:14 could mean teams are reluctant to commit to him as a No. 1, but rather see him as part of a tandem the way he was most effectively utilized with the Bombers.
Synopsis: The scenario with Collaros has completely transformed over the last two months. Acquired as veteran insurance at the trade deadline – despite the fact he had taken only three snaps all season – Collaros promptly went 4-0 as a starter and led the club to a Grey Cup while flashing the talent that made him a Most Outstanding Player candidate back in 2015-16.
The provisions of the trade made with the Argos called for an additional conditional first-round draft pick to be flipped to Toronto if Collaros had re-signed with the Bombers. At the time of the deal that seemed an afterthought because Collaros was seen more of a ‘rental’ than long-term option.
So, now what? Given his handiwork, how can the team not consider him an option even with the injuries he has battled through over the past few seasons? The caveat here might be how committed Collaros is to a return to southern Ontario, where his wife works and they have a home and the proximity to his family in Ohio.
If all those potential QB options for the Bombers somehow aren’t on the horizon for 2020, the Bombers could be looking hard at trying to repeat as champs with one of the other two real possibilities heading to market in Nick Arbuckle of Calgary and Jeremiah Masoli of Hamilton.
The rest of the potential QB free agents is a bit of a hodge-podge in Jonathon Jennings of Ottawa, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, James Franklin and Dakota Prukop in Toronto, David Watford in Hamilton, Montell Cozart of Calgary, Edmonton’s Logan Kilgore and Brandon Bridge and Danny O’Brien of B.C.