The Canadian football League free agent list came out Friday.
It’s a large list, with big name players on it, including the biggest name in Edmonton.
Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly — along with over 300 other CFL players, including 34 other Edmonton Eskimos — is a free agent.
Reilly, the Grey Cup MVP from 2015 and the 2017 CFL Most Outstanding Player award winner has been an Eskimo for six seasons and it was clear from the day he arrived that he was and is something special.
Last season Reilly threw for over 5,000 yards for the third-consecutive season, making it very clear that even at the age of 33 (34 in January), he is in his prime and will make any team in the CFL a better one.
Free agency at the prime of your career doesn’t happen a lot in pro sports and that’s why Reilly will take his time in making his decision on what’s next
“You don’t come into these scenarios very often in your career where you have the potential to become a free agent and you can sit back and look at the landscape of everything and truly totally evaluate your own organization and where they fall in line with everybody else.
“Thankfully for me, that’s a decision that doesn’t have to be made today or tomorrow.
“I’m the type of guy, with everything in my life, that likes to sit down and get his thoughts out. I write everything down on paper so I can go through it and figure out where my priorities are and where things fall into that and that’s not a process that can be done in 24 hours or 48 hours, that’s a process for me that takes weeks and sometimes months.”
Money wont be an issue. The next contract Reilly signs will be one of the most lucrative in league history. He will get the money, but that’s not all he is looking for.
“Making sure you are in a scenario where you are going to be happy and you feel that you can show up and put in a lot of time and it’s worth something.
“Winning, to me, is the most important thing.
“I remember what it was like to win a Grey Cup in 2015. I remember that feeling and it was the greatest feeling I have ever had when it comes to pro football.”
We’ve all heard the rumours about the B.C. Lions — they have his former general manager Ed Hervey, they have one of his best friends Travis Lulay and geographically, they are the CFL’s closest team to his off-season home in Seattle.
“I’m in a situation where I don’t have to make a rushed decision and I can look at all the different factors that are important to me and what I look for in a franchise,” said Reilly, in a wide-ranging studio interview at 630 CHED two days after the 2018 regular season ended.
LISTEN: Mike Reilly on free agency
“Edmonton has lived up to the billing for all six years that I have been here. I love Edmonton and talk all the time about the pride that I have when I put the jersey on and that I love playing in Green and Gold.
“In terms of making these type of decisions, there is no reason for any player to rush it, and the CBA is going to have a huge effect on a lot of guys that are going into free agency.”
Reilly says his Edmonton experience so far could not have worked out any better.
“Everything about Edmonton has been amazing. I have been very blessed to be here.
“When I first came here in 2013 I didn’t know a lot about the organization, didn’t know what I was getting myself into and it’s been one of the best experiences I could have hoped for.”
As you would expect, the Eskimos want Reilly back and have been talking with him and his agent. At his season-ending media availability, vice president and general manager Brock Sunderland made it clear that the team wants Reilly back.
“There has been offers made. Mike is very well aware of what we think of him and how badly we want him here.”
One thing keeping Reilly from signing a contract is the expiring collective bargaining agreement.
The league and its players’ association will begin meetings in the new year but no one expects things to be done quickly.
On the Eskimos pre-game show on Aug. 23 in Hamilton, Sunderland said the lack of a CBA for 2019 was the biggest stumbling block he and the other general managers are facing trying to sign their own players.
“It’s the stumbling block that we have right now,” said Sunderland. “A lot of players are sitting back and saying why would I sign something right now when we aren’t sure exactly sure what’s going to be out there? Their concern is do we leave money on the table?
“We can’t fault them for trying to earn as much as they can while the can.”
Reilly is not the only top-flight starting quarterback that will be without a contract on Feb. 12. That list also includes Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell, Trevor Harris of the Redblacks, the Argos’ Ricky Ray, both Jonathon Jennings and Lulay of the Lions and Saskatchewan’s duo of Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge.
Right now it seems to all be in a holding pattern while the league and players’ association get a deal done.
Eskimos pending free agents:
|BOATENG Kwaku||N||DL||Wilfrid Laurier|
|BOND Travis||I||OL||North Carolina|
|CERESNA Jake||I||DL||Cortland State|
|*CHICK John||I||DL||Utah State|
|ELLIOTT Kevin||I||WR||Florida A&M|
|GLENN Kevin||I||QB||Illinois State|
|HIGHTOWER Forrest||I||DB||San Jose State|
|JACKSON Martese||I||RB||Florida Atlantic|
|KELLY Colin||I||OL||Oregon State|
|KING Ryan||N||LS||Saint Mary’s|
|MASTAN Mercy||I||DB||Boise State|
|MCCARTY Calvin||N||FB||Western Washington|
|MITCHELL Bryant||I||WR||Northwestern State|
|REED Taylor||I||LB||Southern Methodist|
|REILLY Mike||I||QB||Central Washington|
|SMITH Blair||N||DB||Angelo State|
|SMITH Jamill||I||WR||Ball State|
|SORENSEN Justin||N||OL||South Carolina|
|THOMPSON Brandyn||I||DB||Boise State|
|WALKER Derel||I||WR||Texas A&M|
|WOODMAN Josh||N||DB||Western University|