Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly poses backstage at the CFL awards in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. Reilly is expected to sign a new deal with the B.C. Lions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/File photo

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly poses backstage at the CFL awards in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. Reilly is expected to sign a new deal with the B.C. Lions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/File photo

QB Reilly expected to sign $700K per year deal with B.C. Lions

CFL free agency opens Tuesday

Mike Reilly is expected to significantly raise the bar in the quarterback-driven open market when CFL free agency begins Tuesday.

The Edmonton Eskimos passer is regarded as the best player available in a deep talent pool that’s top-heavy with quality starting quarterbacks. Also poised to become free agents at noon ET are Bo Levi Mitchell — who led the Calgary Stampeders to last year’s Grey Cup title — and Trevor Harris of the East Division-champion Ottawa Redblacks.

The expectation is Reilly, 34, will be the first of the Big Three to sign. For weeks, the overwhelming sentiment has been that Reilly, who was the CFL’s highest-paid player last year at over $500,000, would sign a multi-year deal with the B.C. Lions worth about $700,000 annually.

And with good reason. Reilly hasn’t missed a game the past three years and thrown for over 5,500 yards each season. After guiding Edmonton to a Grey Cup title in 2015, Reilly was the league’s outstanding player in 2017 and has thrown a combined 88 TD passes the past three campaigns.

But the six-foot-three, 230-pound Reilly is a dual threat, having rushed for a combined 1,311 yards on 319 carries (4.2-yard average) and 34 TDs the past three seasons. In 2018, Edmonton was first in CFL passing (311.14 yards per game), second in net offence (399 yards), third in offensive points (26.1 per game) and fourth in rushing (103.6 yards per game).

By comparison, the Lions were seventh in passing (220.6 yards per game) and offensive scoring (23.5 points) and eighth in both rushing (94.4 yards) and net offence (316.8 yards).

What’s more, Reilly is a native of Kennewick, Wash., and relocating to Vancouver would move him closer to family. And he’s certainly familiar with the Lions, spending his first two CFL seasons in B.C. before heading to Edmonton in 2013.

Earlier this month, the Eskimos gave Reilly permission to speak to other teams prior to the start of free agency.

Reilly’s departure from Edmonton would provide a second blow to the Eskimos. On Monday, the club announced president/CEO Len Rhodes won’t be seeking another term and will be leaving the club Feb. 20.

RELATED: DeVone Claybrooks poised to blaze his own path as B.C. Lions coach

There was a flurry of action Monday as teams locked up pending free agents. Most notable were cornerback Delvin Breaux and linebacker Simoni Lawrence re-signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats while receiver Bryan Burnham and Canadian offensive lineman Hunter Steward remained with B.C.

Only Hamilton (Jeremiah Masoli) and Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Matt Nichols) head into free agency with established starters under contract. That should leave no shortage of potential suitors for both Mitchell and Harris once Reilly goes off the open market.

Mitchell, 28, has led Calgary to four Grey Cup appearances (winning two) and captured the CFL’s outstanding player award twice (2016, ‘18) since becoming the club’s starter in 2014 while amassing a 69-15-2 record. The native of Katy, Texas, worked out for seven NFL teams this winter but hasn’t signed a contract and the prevailing talk is if Mitchell decides to remain in Canada he’ll consider all offers.

On Monday, Calgary president/GM John Hufnagel said he’s optimistic about re-signing Mitchell. If Hufnagel does, though, the question becomes at what cost. The Stampeders’ list of pending free agents includes stalwart defensive linemen Micah Johnson and Ja’Gared Davis, young receiver DaVaris Daniels and offensive lineman Spencer Wilson.

“I’ve given a lot of players what I think are fair offers,” Hufnagel told reporters in Calgary on Monday. “Sometimes I’ve thought I’ve had a deal and the player has gone AWOL.

“It’s been a very confusing, stressful type of couple weeks. You just have to deal with it. That’s the way the game is now.”

Harris is coming off his best CFL season. The 32-year-old established career highs in pass attempts (615), completions (431) and yards (5,116) while sporting an impressive 70-per-cent completion percentage.

Harris threw a CFL-record six TD passes in Ottawa’s 46-27 East Division final win over Hamilton. But he and the Redblacks fell short in the Grey Cup 27-16 to Calgary.

Teams missing out on Reilly, Mitchell or Harris would be left to consider a second tier of available free-agent quarterbacks. That group would include Zach Collaros (Saskatchewan), Travis Lulay and Jonathon Jennings (both B.C. Lions). Kevin Glenn, 39, is a longtime CFL starter who didn’t throw a pass last year backing up Reilly while Brandon Bridge, 26, of Mississauga, Ont., started some games the past two seasons with the Riders.

But there’s more quality available than just quarterbacks. Derel Walker (28, two-time CFL all-star coming off knee injury) and Greg Ellingson (four 1,000-yard seasons, three straight with Ottawa) top the list of eligible receivers while the defensive lineman pool includes Willie Jefferson (28, 10 sacks last year with Saskatchewan), Shawn Lemon (30, 11 sacks last year with B.C.) and Odell Willis (34, 11 sacks with Edmonton).

Also expected to garner much attention are linebacker Larry Dean (29, 96 tackles, East Division’s top defensive player last year with Hamilton) and offensive linemen SirVincent Rogers (32, right tackle in Ottawa) and Sukh Chungh (26, missed just three starts in four years with Winnipeg).

THE CANADIAN PRESS

CFL

Just Posted

The City of Victoria hopes to improve its cultural spaces this year and it wants non-profits to help. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Grants up to $125,000 open to Victoria non-profit arts and cultural organizations

Victoria Cultural Infrastructure Grant applications close at the end of May

Sofia Watts, Charlotte Magill and Harriet Knight were among the KELSET Elementary School students releasing salmon fry into Reay Creek May 7. (Ian Bruce/Submitted)
Saanich Peninsula elementary students help restock, clean up local creeks

Salmon fry releases took place at Reay Creek and Tetayut Creek

(Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich health and safety manager named one of Canada’s top 40 women in safety

Canadian Occupational Safety magazine celebrates women leading safety sector in 2021

Pacific sand dollars are a local species which belong to the same group as sea urchins. While alive, they are covered entirely by thousands of densely packed, short and slender spikes. (Photo courtesy of Louise Page)
The peculiar life of a Pacific sand dollar

UVic biology professor Louise Page offers a glace into sand dollars’ world under the water

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Most Read