January 16, 2018

The CFL QB Carousel

Dan LeFevour (13) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game against the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, AB, Friday Nov. 3, 2017. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

The Canadian Football League’s annual quarterback carousel has been on full spin this month and earlier this week, it spat out two veteran names who will have new homes in 2018.

First, Kevin Glenn – twice a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers – was signed by the Edmonton Eskimos on Monday after his release from the Saskatchewan Roughriders earlier this month. And later in the day, Darian Durant was cut adrift by the Montreal Alouettes after attempts to renegotiate his contract – including a $150,000 bonus he was due on Tuesday – failed.

That transaction had barely become public when Durant’s name had been linked to the Bombers, who may be looking for quarterback depth behind starter Matt Nichols. The club is said to be ‘investigating the Durant situation’, as it would with any quarterback with experience who hits the open market.

Nichols is the clear-cut QB1 with the Bombers, having signed an extension last winter that keeps him in blue and gold through the 2019 season. Dom Davis is also under contract while the third pivot from last season and the only other man to start a game besides Nichols, Dan LeFevour, is a pending free agent.

Durant, even with his nightmarish season in Montreal, is certain to draw interest from a few CFL teams looking to augment their QB depth chart in a veteran pivot with two Grey Cup titles to his name. What his release on Monday means is the CFL QB carousel, which has already seen James Franklin traded from Edmonton to Toronto, Zach Collaros from Hamilton to Saskatchewan – not to mention Josh Freeman’s signing with the Als and the ongoing Johnny Manziel saga – has another name in the hopper.

There is always the possibility the Bombers could trade for another QB, and they will undoubtedly look at trying to find more prospects to push Josh Straughn and Philip Nelson, but if they are looking for a pivot with some CFL snaps the list of prospective free agents is as follows (oldest to youngest)…

Ricky Ray (TOR)

Age: 38

His CFL career: Future hall of famer; four-time Grey Cup champion, including 2017. Has told the Argos he will decide on whether he will play this year or retire by the end of this month.

Best Guess: He won’t hit the free agent market as he will either retire or play again with the Argos. Either way, the Boatmen look set at QB after trading for and signing James Franklin.

Darian Durant

Age: 35

His CFL career: A two-time Grey Cup champion who was a fixture in Saskatchewan from 2006-2016 before his one season in Montreal last year. As bad as the Als were last year, Durant threw for 3,233 yards and had 15 TDs against 16 interceptions. Some concerns about his arm strength during the season, but he’s still a tough man to bring down and may still have some game left.

Best Guess: Now that Glenn has landed in Edmonton, Durant moves to the top of the wish list of teams looking for an experienced backup. Question is: Is Durant ready for that role?

Travis Lulay, B.C.

Age: 34

His CFL career: A former CFL Most Outstanding Player (2011) who revived his career last year in replacing Jonathan Jennings before suffering a season-ending knee injury in September. He’s been limited to just 25 games over the last four years due to a series of injuries, but when healthy, proved last year he is less a No. 2 pivot and more a No. 1 or 1A. Likely won’t be ready to play at the start of 2018.

Best Guess: Just about everyone in the CFL expects him to remain with the Lions. In fact, his next big career move in football could be to the sidelines as a coach or to the broadcast booth as he has already proven to be an excellent analyst for Sportsnet during Grey Cup week over the past three years.

Drew Willy, MTL

Age: 31

His CFL career: He was 1-4 in his final year as a starter with the Bombers before being traded to Toronto in September of 2016. He didn’t win a game with the Argos that season and lost both his starts in Montreal last year. He was The Man here from 2014-16, going 11-18 before the shine came off his star.

Best Guess: He does have experience and there is a sense that the situation in Toronto and the nightmare in Montreal last year were impossible for any quarterback to succeed. Willy’s resume might mean CFL teams kick the tires on a guy who has at least won games in the past in this league.

Dan LeFevour, WPG

Age: 30

His CFL career: He’s started and won in this league, including the Bombers regular season finale in frigid Calgary last November. LeFevour is a big-bodied – 6-3, 236 – dual threat who is comfortable working in a supporting role.

Best Guess: Unlikely he’ll be back in Winnipeg, and at 30, might not be seen as a No. 2 elsewhere in this league.

Jacory Harris, MTL

Age: 27

His CFL career: Limited. Appeared in a few games for Hamilton in 2015, completing 13 of 23 passes for 160 yards. Released and didn’t play in 2016 and then didn’t throw a single pass in ’17. In other words: tough to really get a gauge on whether the former Miami Hurricanes star has got game. A third-string candidate at best.

Best Guess: He likely won’t be on any team’s radar as a No. 2 pivot and the Als QB depth chart is, right now at least, thin with Josh Freeman, Matthew Shiltz and Antonio Pipkin currently the three pivots signed for 2018.

Cody Fajardo, TOR

Age: 25

His CFL career: Limited numbers in his two years in Toronto, but he has completed 29 of 48 passes for 261 yards with four TDs and no picks. He’s a big man at 6-5, 215 and was used in some short yardage situations with the Argos the way the Bombers utilized Dan LeFevour.

Best Guess: The James Franklin trade with Edmonton landed the Argos their future starter and he could take the first snap in 2018 depending on whether Ray decides to retire. Either way, this leaves Fajardo in a bit of limbo – the Argos also have Jeff Mathews, McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Dakota Prukop under contract – and maybe looking at other options.

Everett Golson, HAM

Age: 25

His CFL career: Has dressed for 17 games over the last two years with the Tiger-Cats after starring at both Notre Dame and Florida State. Has thrown a grand total of four passes in his career, all of them completions, but his stats are limited.

Best Guess: Hard to say. His college credentials are intriguing, but he’s still a CFL prospect likely to push for work as a No. 2 and not a guy established enough to be considered a No. 2.