CFL West Division Bound for Massive Shake-Up

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REGINA, SK - OCTOBER 08: Mike Reilly #13 of the Edmonton Eskimos signals a play during the game between the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on October 8, 2018 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images)

Expiring contracts of the top two CFL quarterbacks could result in a massive shake-up within the West Division.

Bo Levi Mitchell is taking a shot at an NFL gig, while Mike Reilly leaving Edmonton, and signing with B.C., makes a lot of sense.

If both Alberta quarterbacks were to throw on new jerseys next summer, the recent Alberta dominance within the CFL would likely be no more. And if Reilly and Mitchell do leave Alberta, the B.C. Lions could be the team to beat in 2019.

Here’s why the CFL’s West Division could see major changes come next June.

Mike Reilly and Bo Levi Mitchell’s Alberta Departures

As mentioned, the CFL’s two best quarterbacks, and most important players, are free agents. Both quarterbacks may be changing teams this winter too.

Bo Levi Mitchell

Heading into his seventh season with the Calgary Stampeders, and the last year of his contract, talks of Mitchell going to the NFL began in early 2018.

After his best CFL season, Mitchell’s taking his shot.

Mitchell passed for 5,124 yards and threw 35 touchdowns, the touchdown passes a career-high for Mitchell. His numbers were even more impressive considering the devastating injuries to Calgary’s receiving core.

Mitchell’s efforts were rewarded with the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award, the second of his CFL career. And days later after receiving the award, Mitchell won his second Grey Cup with a 27-16 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks.

Now Mitchell is attempting to leave Canada as a CFL champion.

He’s scheduled for six NFL workouts in December, according to TSN’s Dave Naylor. As of Dec. 16, Mitchell has worked out for the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Mike Reilly

While Mitchell has the better win percentage, the Edmonton Eskimos’ Mike Reilly has recorded better passing statistics than Mitchell over their CFL careers.

Reilly is likely staying within the CFL — although a recent workout with Jacksonville may say otherwise — and is not under contract.

After the Edmonton Eskimos missed the playoffs despite 5,562 passing yards from Reilly, a change of scenery may be best for Reilly.

The Washington native has an opportunity to play closer to home by signing with the B.C. Lions. While the Lions’ fan base is weaker than the Eskimos, B.C. has a significant advantage of signing Reilly due to the family/home factor. After all, Lions quarterback Travis Lulay, who is also from the west coast, makes the drive down south during the CFL season.

Reilly played his first two CFL seasons for the Lions too before being traded to Edmonton when then Eskimos general manager Ed Hervey acquired Reilly. Hervey is now the Lions general manager.

Uncertainty at Quarterback

The Calgary Stampeders and the Edmonton Eskimos aren’t the only West Division teams without a starting quarterback under contract.

Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge are not under contract for the Roughriders. In B.C., Travis Lulay and Jonathan Jennings are free agents.

In the West Division, only Winnipeg has their 2018 starting quarterback, Matt Nichols, under contract for 2019. Aside from Winnipeg, four of the five West Division teams could be looking for a replacement at the quarterback position.

B.C. Lions Potential Powerhouse

Whichever team has Mike Reilly on their roster is the CFL favourite in 2019.

in a quarterback-driven league, Reilly is the golden ticket this off-season. The Lions have an inside track to that prize due to their proximity to Reilly’s home.

The Lions had a decent 2018 season finishing 9-9, but have already been busy in the off-season. They hired former Calgary defensive coordinator DeVone Claybrooks as head coach, former Montreal defensive coordinator Rich Stubler as defensive coordinator, and retired CFLers Nik Lewis and Ryan Phillips are rumoured to be joining the coaching staff.

The Lions have a ton of high-profile free agents (as does every other CFL team), but the Lions would be in a good spot in 2019 if the majority of Emmanuel Arceneaux, Bryan Burnham, T.J. Lee, Micah Awe, Joel Figueroa, Otha Foster, Shawn Lemon, Odell Willis, Ty Long, Jeremiah Johnson, Anthony Orange, Tyrell Sutton, Anthony Thompson, and Chris Rainey can be re-signed.

Again, this all depends on whether Mike Reilly becomes a Lion.

The Last Word

The crop of 300-plus free agents is an afterthought if Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly decide to leave their respective teams.

Every year CFL rosters see a turnaround, but this off-season has bigger names than ever available. If Mitchell and Reilly do leave Alberta, the West Division, and the entire CFL, is wide open.

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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