Christmas has come and gone, and we are on the verge of a new year both worldwide and in the CFL. Free Agency is looming in the Canadian Football League, and a few big-name quarterbacks will be hitting the market this offseason.
Both Bo Levi Mitchell or Mike Reilly could potentially take their talents down south after a bundle of NFL workouts, as both are set to become free agents. Let’s look at the options for Mike Reilly and do the only thing that can be done at this point – speculate!
The most likely scenario for me is that Reilly stays put in Edmonton. He’s spent six of his eight years in the CFL with the Eskimos and seems loyal to the organization. Additionally, Reilly has become a hero in the city bringing them a Grey Cup Championship in 2015.
You would also have to assume that the decision to bring Reilly back would be at the top of the priority list for the team this offseason. The team opted to keep head coach Jason Maas while letting go of most of the rest of the 2018 coaching staff. A decision like that would have to come with the team knowing Reilly was a “Maas guy.”
The Eskimos missed the playoffs this year and Mike Reilly is a quarterback who wants to win. However, despite falling into a slump through the months of September and October the team still finished the season with a 9-9 record . Reilly has only experienced one losing season in his time in Edmonton, with 2018 only the second time he’s missed the playoffs with Edmonton.
I see Reilly in Green and Gold in 2019, but money and playing for a winning team are things that could be hard to walk away from.
Should Reilly not crack an NFL roster and opt to leave Edmonton, I think the most likely destination for him is with the BC Lions. Reilly spent his first two CFL seasons with the Lions in 2011 and 2012. In that time, he was the backup to Travis Lulay before being traded to Edmonton prior to the 2013 season.
BC makes sense for multiple reasons. First and foremost, they need a quarterback. Both Lulay and Jonathan Jennings were given opportunities as starters last year but neither really made a solid impact, with Jennings looking lost and Lulay sustaining multiple injuries.
Reilly also has plenty of connections to BC. He’s a Kennewick, Washington native which is within a five-hour drive of Vancouver. Big deal, right? Well, there are other connections to the Lions as well. Let’s not downplay the significance of Reilly’s first two years in BC.
Last, but not least, let’s talk about the obvious. Ed Hervey is currently the general manager in BC and was also the Esks GM who traded for Reilly back in 2013. Hervey was able to win a Grey Cup with Reilly as his QB and it would make sense to think that he would know how to build a winning team around Reilly.
The other sweetener for Reilly to go to BC is the revamped coaching staff headed by DeVone Claybrooks. Claybrooks should give Reilly a more than solid defence to play behind, something he hadn’t had in Edmonton since the departure of Chris Jones. Part of that revamped coaching staff includes Jarious Jackson as offensive coordinator and QB coach.
Jackson was a teammate of Reilly’s back in 2011 as the back-up to Lulay and would have built a relationship with Reilly in the QB room. Not only that, but Jackson was also the QB coach and passing coordinator for the Eskimos in 2015 when the team won the Grey Cup and Reilly was the game’s MVP.
One other option for Reilly could be the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The team could have made it to the Western Final and possibly even the Grey Cup this past season if they had a viable quarterback at their helm. Zach Collaros had trouble staying healthy and his future with the team is cloudy. Brandon Bridges was ineffective when he stepped in for the team and the same could be said about his future.
The connection for Reilly here is much like that in BC: familiarity with the staff. Chris Jones runs the show in Regina and was Reilly’s head coach in Edmonton during their championship season. Stephen McAdoo is also the O.C. for the Riders and held the same position in 2015 with Edmonton.
What Claybrooks could build defensively in BC, Jones already has in Saskatchewan. The team fielded what could be argued as the league’s best defence in 2018; had they had a QB like Reilly, the team would have run over nearly every other roster in the CFL. For a competitive quarterback like Reilly who wants to win, an opportunity in Regina could be one to build a dynasty with his old coach that will be remembered for decades.
With the role of GM his as well, Jones could find ways to pay Reilly like other teams may not be capable of. Jones has proven in the past he’s not afraid to make changes to his roster to free up cap space.
This is my dark horse pick. The Argos QB situation is in flux, with Ricky Ray not sure if he’s coming back and James Franklin showing promise but lacking consistency. The team could use the services of Reilly and GM Jim Popp wouldn’t be afraid to go big in free agency.
The team will have plenty of cap room to work with to make Reilly the highest paid player in the CFL. Additionally, the Argos can offer a plethora of deep threat receivers with names like SJ Green, Armanti Edwards and Duron Carter on the roster and the opportunity to play with James Wilder JR and the appeal to go east could be one that’s hard to turn down.
Regardless of whether Mike Reilly ends up playing south of the border, stays in Edmonton or finds an opportunity with another CFL the Free Agency period will be an exciting one when it kicks off on February 12th!
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