The agent for Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols says his client is disheartened by the team’s decision to prioritize re-signing quarterback Zach Collaros, but he’s confident other CFL teams will be interested when Nichols and other pending free agents are allowed to talk to suitors in early February, in advance of the opening of the market on Feb. 11.
“He’s a little bit upset about it,” said Cameron Foster. “When you look at what Matt has been for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers the past (four) years, he didn’t get them across the finish line (due to a shoulder injury last season) but he did get them to the finish line.”
Nichols had been Winnipeg’s starting quarterback since partway through the 2015 season, helping guide the team to four consecutive playoff appearances from 2016-19, each with double-digit regular season wins. He was in the midst of another strong season – with 15 touchdown passes against five interceptions – when he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last August during the ninth game of the regular season.
“I’m confident there will be other CFL teams interested and Matt has zero doubt he will be able to start the season," Foster said.
To back that up, Nichols took to Twitter on Tuesday to refute any speculation that he would not be healthy for training camp.
“I had successful surgery four months ago, I am ahead of schedule and coming back stronger,” he wrote. “I will be ready well before training camp.”
Foster said Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea reached out directly to Nichols to inform him of the direction the club was going. Meanwhile, Foster said he has yet to hear from Winnipeg general manager Kyle Walters.
While the Bombers may be interested in bringing back both quarterbacks, the economics of doing so may be prohibitive. A source said Winnipeg’s opening offer to Collaros was for $350,000 in hard money, plus playtime incentives.
“Frankly, I don’t know if they can (bring both back),” said Foster. “Matt would love to continue playing there but you wonder when they want to talk to the other gentleman first.”
Collaros began last season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders but suffered a concussion during the very first series of the season. He was traded to Toronto in late July but never dressed for the Argos who dealt him to Winnipeg in October, where he suited up for one regular season game and three playoff games, all Blue Bomber victories, including the franchise's first Grey Cup win in 29 years.
Winnipeg’s third quarterback, Chris Streveler, also a pending free agent, has multiple workouts scheduled with NFL teams.
There are two CFL teams currently unsettled at starting quarterback – Toronto and Ottawa. Ottawa traded earlier this month for the rights to former Calgary backup Nick Arbuckle, a pending free agent, who visited Ottawa this week. Paul LaPolice, who was Winnipeg’s offensive co-ordinator the past four season, is now head coach in Ottawa.
Toronto is also looking to add to its quarterback stable, with four of its five quarterbacks from last season pending free agents.