Matt Nichols entered the fateful 2019 season as the unquestioned leader of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He had 43 touchdown passes during the 2017 and 2018 seasons and threw for nearly 4,500 yards in 2017 with a 71 per cent completion percentage.
He has proven that he is a capable CFL starter, but with the Bombers re-signing Zach Collaros, Nichols is not going to be part of the team’s plans going forward. So what does that mean for Nichols, who will be 33 at the start of the season and led the Bombers before getting hurt and having the Streveler/Collaros duo win the Grey Cup?
Here are three options which Nichols should have available.
1. Ottawa Redblacks
With Paul LaPolice taking over as the head coach in the nation’s capital, there is no question that having a guy that is familiar with the system in place will be a plus. While the team acquired Nick Arbuckle in a trade with the Calgary Stampeders, Arbuckle has never been “the guy” for a CFL team. Nichols certainly brings more starting experience and would be able to push for the starting job.
Arbuckle is clearly the guy for the future, but Nichols would give Ottawa the luxury of not having to start Arbuckle if he is not ready yet. If Arbuckle is ready to start Week 1, Nichols would be a top backup.
I would say there’s over a 50 per cent chance this is where Matt Nichols ultimately signs.
2. Toronto Argonauts
This is a situation where Nichols could start. Michael O’Connor is the only quarterback currently on the roster as McLeod Bethel-Thompson, James Franklin and Dakota Prukop are all free agents. Toronto could bring Prukop back, but the team could use a more veteran leader in the meeting room. O’Connor saw some action in the last game of the year last season, but the 23-year-old could use a mentor.
If Nichols dons the two-tone blue, he’d likely be the starter Week 1. But the Argos would likely only sign him to a short term deal. New coach Ryan Dinwiddie would know that Nichols won’t be the long term answer but he could be a steady hand to guide the team. With Nichols starting for one or two seasons, Toronto could develop the younger guys they bring in.
This might be the most appealing situation in terms of playing time. I set the odds at 40 percent for Toronto being Matt Nichols’ next team.
3. The West — Alberta Teams or Saskatchewan
All three of these situations are fairly similar. Each of them has a veteran starter with their backups from last year gone or pending free agents. It leaves the Western clubs with young pivots behind the starter. But Nichols would come into any setting as the backup.
In Edmonton, Nichols would be a backup to Trevor Harris. With Logan Kilgore a pending free agent the Esks could use a backup. Nichols was a member of the Eskimos for part of six seasons before being dealt to the Bombers in 2015. Therefore, he could return to a club and city he’s familiar with.
After dealing Arbuckle to Ottawa, aside from Bo Levi Mitchell Calgary is left with Marcus McMaryion, who has not thrown a CFL pass. Montell Cozart was on the team last year and threw one pass but is a pending free agent. After seeing Bo Levi Mitchell miss time last season, Calgary should know the importance of a backup quarterback.
Saskatchewan has a veteran, Cody Fajardo, entrenched in the starting role but missed time last season. Having Nichols backup Fajardo would be prudent for the Riders.
It would also be somewhat ironic that Collaros and Nichols end up trading places. Collaros started for the Riders in 2019 and will end up starting for the Bombers in 2020 while Nichols formerly started for the Bombers and ends up in Regina.
The odds of Matt Nichols going to any of these teams are slim, but shouldn’t be ruled out.
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