On eve of CFL free agency, Hufnagel ‘optimistic’ about signing QB Mitchell

On eve of CFL free agency, Hufnagel ‘optimistic’ about signing QB Mitchell
WATCH: Will he stay or will he go? That's the big question surrounding quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell ahead of CFL free agency on Tuesday as his team, the Calgary Stampeders, still haven't signed him. Lisa MacGregor reports.

Despite not having his Grey Cup MVP quarterback signed, Calgary Stampeders general manager John Hufnagel is viewing his cup as half-full.

“We’re talking. I’m very optimistic something will get done,” Hufnagel said Monday.

“It’s been a very confusing, stressful couple of weeks. You have to deal with it — that’s the way the game is right now. And that’s why I’m leaning towards being optimistic that Bo will be a Stampeder and I’m conducting business as if he will be.”

READ MORE: Edmonton Eskimos’ Mike Reilly headlines franchise QBs for CFL free agency

With CFL free agency set to open on Feb. 12, Bo Levi Mitchell told Global News he intends to test free agency and hear offers from all teams.

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He’s also still in talks with the NFL and said he has three offers on the table as of Tuesday.

“I’ve just been kind of weighing the options and everything,” Mitchell said. “Obviously numbers are sounding big for CFL free agency market as well, so if that’s going to be up there where it is, that’s hard to miss out (on) when you’ve got a kid and a kid on the way and things like that. So you’ve got to put the family first and make sure you make all the right decisions.”

Quarterbacks generally hold the cards right now, with so many contracts expiring at the same time. Top guys like Mitchell and Mike Reilly, who conveniently share the same agent, will set the bar.

Hufnagel said he has a budget in mind for Mitchell, with rumours that former Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly could seek $700,000 in the free agent market.

“I have what I think is a fair figure budgeted for Bo. I’m hoping it works.”

READ MORE: Stampeders coach Dickenson dealing with ‘so much uncertainty’ in off-season

A lack of ratified collective bargaining agreement between the CFL and the CFL Players’ Association is making contract negotiations a difficult task.

“That makes it a little bit more confusing and challenging, but you have to have certain guidelines and we’ve been instructed to have certain guidelines and just move on with it.”

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At the end of the day, Mitchell still wants to be signed for his market value despite an uncertain CBA. “You can’t just take the lower offer because it’s easier and you want other guys to get paid.

You’ve got to think of yourself. You’ve got to make sure that you can take care of your family. You only play this game for so long,” Mitchell said. “I don’t make many decisions based on money but I’ve got to make sure I do the right thing for my family and for myself and make sure it’s a place where you feel wanted.”​

READ MORE: Former Edmonton Eskimos linebacker J.C. Sherritt joins Calgary Stampeders coaching staff

Hufnagel said, despite previous workouts with NFL teams, he doesn’t think interest is as strong for the 2018 CFL Most Outstanding Player.

“I’m not quite sure about the signing down south,” Hufnagel said.

“I talk to his agent every other day and I know (head coach Dave Dickensen) has kept pretty constant communications with Bo.”

READ MORE: Top returner Terry Williams re-signs with Calgary Stampeders

With two-thirds of CFL teams yet to secure contracts with starting quarterbacks, the market value for QBs is still yet to be firmed up — a factor for Hufnagel in his negotiations with Mitchell.

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“Today we need to establish where we can go, what (Mitchell) wants, who’s going to set the bar out there with quarterbacks and start following.”

The Stamps GM has been able to sign 17 players who were set to become free agents, part of his goal to keep the 2018 Grey Cup championship team together. Defensive lineman Micah Johnson, however, will not be signing with Calgary before Tuesday’s free agency deadline.

READ MORE: Calgary Stampeders re-sign linebacker Cory Greenwood to one-year deal

“Micah has had his offer for a couple of weeks now,” Hufnagel said. “He wants to go into free agency so I’m not quite sure how that is going to go.

“I probably can’t use the the word ‘optimistic’ with him.”

When asked if Mitchell has a deadline to sign with Calgary, the Stampeders GM shared what he knew.

“I’m not quite sure if I can answer that question with any real knowledge. I would expect that if he was going to sign an NFL contract it would have been done.”

“But what I expected and what’s actually going on behind closed doors, I’m not sure.”


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