The B.C. Lions opened CFL free agency with a bang.
The Lions announced the signing of quarterback Mike Reilly to a four-year, $2.9-million deal (average annual value $725,000) shortly after the free-agent period began at noon EST on Tuesday. Reilly was the CFL’s highest-paid player last year at over $500,000 with the Edmonton Eskimos.
“It’s an amazing feeling for me, my wife and our extended families to know I am back with the Lions,” Reilly, who began his CFL career with the Lions in 2010, said in a statement. “I am grateful for my time in Edmonton and it will always hold a very special place in my heart, but the opportunity to rejoin (GM) Ed (Hervey) and return to Vancouver to be part of what he is building was too good to pass up at this point in my career.”
Reilly, 34, was the most coveted player on the open market. He hasn’t missed a game the past three seasons with the Eskimos and passed for over 5,500 yards in each one. After guiding Edmonton to a Grey Cup title in 2015, Reilly was the league’s outstanding player in 2017 and has thrown a combined 88 TD passes over that span.
But the six-foot-three, 230-pound Reilly is a dual threat, having rushed for a combined 1,311 yards on 319 carries (4.2-yard average) and 34 TDs the past three seasons.
“This is a historic day for our organization and for fans of the B.C. Lions,” said Hervey. “Acquiring one of the CFL’s elite quarterbacks is an extremely rare opportunity and we’re thrilled to welcome Mike home to the Lions.”
With Reilly off the open market, teams needing a quarterback will undoubtedly shift their interest to Bo Levi Mitchell — who led the Calgary Stampeders to last year’s Grey Cup title — and Trevor Harris of the East Division-champion Ottawa Redblacks
There were some moves prior to the start of free agency. Most notably, receivers Eric Rogers and Juwan Brescacin and Canadian defensive lineman Junior Turner opted to remain with Calgary.
Last season, Rogers started eight of nine games he appeared in, registering 36 catches for 499 yards and five TDs. He had six catches for 61 yards and a club playoff-record three TDs in the West Division final before adding six receptions — including three second-down conversions — in Calgary’s 27-16 Grey Cup victory over Ottawa.
Rogers has appeared in 28 career regular-season games over three seasons with Calgary. He’s accumulated 132 catches for 2,096 yards and 17 TDs.
After being limited to a total of 13 games in the previous two seasons due to injuries, Turner played all 18 regular-season contests for the Stampeders in 2018, including four starts at defensive tackle. He recorded 21 tackles including one tackle for a loss and established a new career high with four sacks. The Toronto native also had one fumble recovery.
Brescacin, a Mississauga, Ont. native, set career highs with 35 catches, 567 receiving yards and three touchdowns last year, his third with the Stampeders.
ALEXANDER SIGNS EXTENSION
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers signed American defensive back Brandon Alexander to a two-year contract extension. He was scheduled to become a free agent Tuesday.
The six-foot, 192-pound Alexander has played in the secondary and at outside linebacker in his two previous seasons with Winnipeg.
ALOUETTES RE-SIGN CUNNINGHAM
The Montreal Alouettes signed American receiver B.J. Cunningham to a two-year extension hours before he was scheduled to become a free agent.
The six-foot-one, 199-pound Cunningham was the club’s receiving leader last season with 52 catches for 631 yards and three TDs.
MADU STAYS WITH REDBLACKS
The Ottawa Redblacks have re-signed American running back Mossis Madu Jr. to a one-year extension. He was scheduled to become a free agent on Tuesday.
Madu has spent the last three seasons with the Redblacks after starting his CFL career with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2014.
In 30 career games, Madu has 263 carries for 1,259 yards and eight touchdowns.
TICATS RE-SIGN PAIR
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats re-signed American defensive end Adrian Tracy and Canadian receiver Mike Jones just prior to the start of free agency.
Tracy started 11 games for the Ticats last year, registering 20 tackles, five tackles for a loss and two sacks. The former New York Giants draft pick has been with Hamilton since 2015.
Jones had a career-high 49 receptions for 841 yards and three touchdowns last year. He has been with the Ticats since 2016.