It’s been a month since the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hung up both their cleats and partying shoes, and free agency is now in sight with a massive uncertainty: who will quarterback the Bombers in 2020?
Zach Collaros, Matt Nichols, and Chris Streveler all contributed under centre during the Bombers’ championship campaign last year. All three are still without contracts.
When weighing each’s presumed contract demands versus the league’s salary cap, it creates an assumption that someone will be the odd man out, but the question is whom?
The Blue Bombers also could have looked elsewhere at quarterback too; they could have.
After Hamilton re-upped Jeremiah Masoli and Ottawa traded for Nick Arbuckle’s rights, possibly zero starting-worthy quarterbacks will be on the market come free agency.
The two transactions have in a sense forced Winnipeg’s hand. Kyle Walters and co. will re-sign quarterback(s) from within, a plan they were likely set on from the get-go.
2019 Bombers Quarterbacks Performances
9 starts, 1,936 passing yards, 37 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns, 5 interceptions
Nichols was playing efficient football prior to a season-ending throwing-arm injury. While passing for over 200 yards in just five of his nine starts and failing to reach 300 yards in any game, Nichols led Winnipeg to a 7-2 record.
If there’s any reluctance with bringing Nichols back, it’s his durability and ability to win key games. Nichols will be 33 during the 2020 season and has now suffered serious injuries to both his right knee and shoulder.
He’s also yet to prove that he can win the Bombers a championship or even bring them to one, albeit other factors contributing to his 1-3 playoff record with Winnipeg.
Regardless, Nichols is a solid, safer option with proven CFL experience and leadership.
4 starts, 851 passing yards, 18 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception
The key statistic with Collaros is 4-0 — his record while leading the Bombers to their first title in 29 years, all after coming over in a last-minute trade acquisition.
Collaros’ numbers with Winnipeg don’t jump off the board, but he came as advertised. He brought clutch throws, limited turnovers, and elevated play from those around him.
But do four pretty solid outings warrant the full-time starter keys for the injury-riddled leader? Collaros, now 31, has suffered several horrid concussions plus an ACL tear. While Collaros is arguably the most talented pivot of the three, he’s the riskiest investment.
8 starts, 1,564 passing yards, 726 rushing yards, 20 touchdowns, 14 interceptions
The initial number that pops from Steveler’s statistics is the 20 touchdowns, because in the CFL quarterbacks often accumulate rushing scores too. Streveler’s decision-making and accuracy while throwing are his main problems, some unideal issues for a quarterback.
The costly turnovers and inconsistent passing led to Streveler losing his role as a true starting quarterback, but the 25-year-old athlete can still develop that area of his game.
On the ground, Streveler is as dominant as any rusher, playing a huge role in the Bombers’ playoff run. The big question mark is whether he can throw to the standard of a starter.
Lack of Free Agent Quarterbacks
As mentioned, the removal of Jeremiah Masoli and most likely Nick Arbuckle from the free agency sweepstakes makes it slim pickings for a team in need of a starting quarterback.
Now available are just the likes of McLeod Bethel-Thompson and James Franklin, lesser options than what the Bombers recently ran the table with. There’s also Jon Jennings, Logan Kilgore, David Watford, Montell Cozart, Dakota Prukop, and Brandon Bridge.
By glancing at these names, the Blue Bombers have to look in-house at quarterback.
Winnipeg Choosing a Passer
So, the Bombers should choose to dial in on their pending free agents. And they’ll only have to pursue two of the three for financial purposes; keep in mind Winnipeg also has Sean McGuire and Trevor Knight returning in 2020 as future projects.
Their plan should be quite clear. Technically, Chris Streveler is the only must sign.
Streveler’s been a one-of-a-kind wrinkle in Winnipeg’s offence the past two seasons. Streveler won’t be a starter just yet but rather a 1B option who creates nightmares for opposing defences. Barring any NFL contract, Streveler has to be back in blue and gold.
Then Winnipeg has to choose between Matt Nichols or Zach Collaros. While there’s a clear plan, there’s a difficult decision within.
Both are in their 30s and are no strangers to the injury reserve list. Both are also smart under centre and have shown they can lead top-ranked offences. It’s really a win-win.
Either is a good choice and can work in front of Streveler in a one-two punch. But given Mike O’Shea’s mantra of familiarity and loyalty, a cheaper Matt Nichols is, in my opinion, the more likely option and the best option for the Blue Bombers’ main quarterback in 2020.
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