Ranking the 10 likeliest candidates to quarterback the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2023

Ranking the 10 likeliest candidates to quarterback the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2023

Photo Courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders/Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards

When Bo Levi Mitchell signed a three-year contract with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, hearts broke across the province of Saskatchewan.

Many in Rider Nation had pinned their hopes on the future Hall of Famer heading to Regina in 2023 and billeting the green-whites. Now, two weeks until free agency, it’s back to the drawing board.

As the Roughriders look to forge a new path as an organization, they have several options down the middle. Not all are created equal, but talent isn’t the only consideration – availability is important too.

In honor of who is the favorite contender to drop out of the race, here are ten choices for the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ next starting quarterback, ranked by likelihood.

Photo: David Mahussier/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

10. Jake Dolegala
Status: Under contract
2022 stats: 16/35 CMP (45.7 PCT) for 154 YDS, 1 TD & 2 INT, 2 CAR for 12 YDS

The Riders got an extended preview of their seven-foot-tall third-string quarterback as he was forced to start amid a Week 7 COVID outbreak, and the results showed nothing to suggest he’s ready for a bigger role . An inability to drive arrest later in the season seems to underscore that fact.

However, Dolegala can’t be completely ruled out given his impressive stats and NFL pedigree. The Central Connecticut state product has served time with four NFL teams and just last week earned a practice session with the Chicago Bears.

Photo Courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

9. Cody Fajardo
Status: Pending free agent
2022 stats: 282/401 CMP (70.3 PCT) for 3,360 YDS, 16 TD & 13 INT, 81 CAR for 357 YDS & 8 TD

The Riders and Fajardo are apparently doomed for divorce, but they wouldn’t be the first couple to reconcile at 11 hours. Head coach Craig Dickenson has been realistic about the likely departure of the franchise’s former golden boy, but has been careful not to rule out a return.

Fajardo’s 2022 season was disappointing and it remains questionable whether he has the mental state necessary to succeed in Regina, but he is also less than three years away from an MOP season. There’s no denying that injuries hampered his game for much of the past year, as did a holey offensive line. Should both sides not find what they are looking for on the open market, an unpleasant reunion could be possible.

Photo courtesy of Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

8. Caleb Evans
Status: Pending Free Agent (Ottawa Redblacks)
2022 stats: 114/185 CMP (61.6 PCT) for 1,301 YDS, 4 TD & 7 INT, 88 CAR for 354 YDS & 16 TD

A rarity among CFL quarterbacks, Evans spent significant time as a starter in each of his first two seasons. The two-threat pivot has displayed brief flashes of brilliance on an inept Ottawa offense but has failed to establish himself as the face of the franchise material.

The 24-year-old may still have time to thrive, but it would be one hell of a gamble for the Riders. It seems much more likely that he could return to Ottawa, where his style fits well with that of starter Jeremiah Masoli.

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

7. Matthew Shiltz
Status: Pending Free Agent (Hamilton Tiger-Cats)
2022 stats: 85/119 CMP (71.4 PCT) for 935 YDS, 4 TD & 2 INT, 28 CAR for 152 YDS & 1 TD

At 30, Shiltz has yet to land a full-time starting role in the CFL but came awfully close to toppling Dane Evans for the top job at Hamilton midway through last season. In a two-quarterback system, he showed he has the arm to make all shots and his grossly underrated agility.

There are players with far fewer advantages that the Riders could bet on, but Shiltz’s age means his potential for development is limited. He’s likely a career backup and there’s no better place for that than sitting behind Bo Levi Mitchell with the Ticats.

Photo Courtesy: CFL

6. Mason fine
Status: Under contract
2022 stats: 67/102 CMP (65.6 PCT) for 690 YDS, 3 TD & 3 INT, 9 CAR for 52 YDS

The drivers benched Fajardo for the final two games of 2022 in favor of Fine and a decision must be made about his future as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. The 25-year-old looked appropriate when given the opportunity but seemed unwilling to shoulder the burden of running the franchise.

If Saskatchewan were going with an untried commodity, it makes sense to promote from within. The North Texas product needs some growth through 2023, and he could be just as likely to be out of a job altogether as he is to be named a starter.

Photo courtesy of Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

5.Nick Arbuckle
Status: Pending Free Agent (Ottawa Redblacks)
2022 stats: 291/423 (68.7 PCT) for 3,292 YDS, 6 TD & 14 INT, 18 CAR for 74 YDS & 2 TD

Just three years away from his successful dalliance as a backup for the Calgary Stampeders, Arbuckle has ignited his attempts to be a starter in Toronto, Edmonton and now Ottawa. Opportunities will soon dry up for the 29-year-old, but he still offers a reliable option for a team in dire need of a quarterback.

While Arbuckle didn’t live up to expectations, he looked like a much better pivot after taking on a poorly managed Redblacks offense and piling up some plays for 300 yards. Drivers could look to build on that growth with another change of scenery, although its addition would still require a competent 1-B option as insurance.

Photo: Matthew Johnson/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

4. McLeod Bethel Thompson
Status: Pending Free Agent (Toronto Argonauts)
2022 stats: 387/579 CMP (66.8 PCT) for 4,731 YDS, 23 TD & 15 INT, 35 CAR for 166 YDS

McBeth’s future in the CFL appears to be a mystery; Nobody knows whether he will still be playing football next year. If he decides not to retire, the Argos appear to want him back, although some feel they would be better off with their high-profile backup – more on him later.

Money is no longer an issue for Bethel-Thompson now that his wife is cashing checks from Disney, but the Riders may be willing to pay the most on the open market for the league leader at Passing Yards. At 34, you know exactly what you’re getting from him: a fiery gunslinger who runs hot and cold but will statistically end up at the top of the CFL.

Photo: Matthew Johnson/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

3.Trevor Harris
Status: Pending Free Agent (Montreal Alouettes)
2022 stats: 331/462 CMP (71.6 PCT) for 4,157 YDS, 20 TD & 12 INT, 24 CAR for 168 YDS

Given his past relationship with new head coach Jason Maas and general manager Danny Maciocia’s clear affinity for him, it’s hard to imagine Harris not re-signing in Montreal. However, the absolute gong show that has become Alouettes’ upper management and the imminent departure of star receiver Eugene Lewis mean anything is possible.

Should he reach free agency, the 36-year-old would immediately shoot to the top of the drivers’ wish list. Returning to form after a lapse in 2021, he offers a highly accurate passer who can get the ball out quickly when placed in the right system.

Photo: Arthur Ward/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

2. Chad Kelly
Status: Under contract (Toronto Argonauts)
Statistics 2022: 26/45 CMP [57.7 PCT] for 297 YDS, 2 TD & 3 INT, 25 CAR for 137 YDS & 6 TD

Behind the great school pedigree, Hall of Famer bloodlines, stunning arm talent and Gray Cup exploits, Kelly is as unproven as they come in the CFL. However, his overabundance of confidence will put an uncomfortable pressure on the Argos as they decide what to do with him in the final year of his contract, knowing he could run for free next year if his starting ambitions are too high. I’m full.

Saskatchewan could ease those problems by offering a trade and taking a big hit at a 28-year-old with star potential. Kelly’s size, mobility, and bravery seem uniquely suited to a market where the quarterback will be making plenty of shots on and off the field, but he comes with inherent risks. When the former Mr. Irrelevant’s arm becomes a sales machine or his easy-going gun persona becomes a problem, O’Day and Dickenson risk their own demise with a bold move of that nature.

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

1. Dane Evans
Status: Under contract (Hamilton Tiger-Cats)
2022 stats: 305/457 CMP (66.7 PCT) for 3,883 YDS, 16 TD & 16 INT, 59 CAR for 202 YDS & 4 TD

Despite remaining under contract with Hamilton, it seems inevitable that Dane Evans will become the starting quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The only question is who will win the chicken game between an organization that has no incentive to trade a quarterback they don’t owe off-season money and a team that doesn’t pay too much for a passer by before training camp anyway needs to be cut.

Despite his turnover difficulties, Evans has hit the highs of any QB in the league and started two Gray Cup games. The 29-year-old is a worthy salvage project who has shown a desire to up the mental side of his game – although handling the Regina pressure cooker is another matter entirely.

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