It's not about the money for Trevor Harris, the QB Redblacks can't afford to lose

Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris. NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS

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If it hasn’t happened by the time you read this, just hang tight. It’s only a matter of minutes. Tens or hundreds, maybe, but minutes nonetheless.

Know this: At some point before the clock strikes noon on Tuesday, the Redblacks will re-sign quarterback Trevor Harris to a multi-year extension. Fear not that they will let him hit the free agent market when it opens at 12:01 p.m.

It ain’t happening … despite what you may be hearing.

How can we be so sure?

Because on Nov. 27, two days after coming up short in a 27-16 Grey Cup final, Harris not only reminded us once again how much he dearly loves Ottawa but also stated he would not be chasing the almighty buck when his contract officially expired.

Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris walks to the dressing room after losing to the Calgary Stampeders during the 106th Grey Cup in Edmonton, Alta. Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Jason Franson / THE CANADIAN PRESS

“That’s not why I play football,” he said when asked if money would be the determining factor on his next deal. “I don’t plan to enter free agency and find who the highest bidder is. When I came here in 2016, I took less than what I was offered elsewhere. I’d like to finish my career here, if I could.”

There you have it. At the time, it sort of felt like Matt Cushman telling Jerry Maguire not to worry about an unsigned piece of paper. “What you do have is my word … and it’s stronger than oak.”

The confusing part is why Harris’ pen has not yet met the drawn up offer in Ottawa. Not that it matters to him, but surely it was a raise on his $425,000 salary, right? Was there something else he needed?

And now this sudden talk that Harris is poised to become a free agent …. potentially replacing Mike Reilly in Edmonton?

How can that possibly be?

The ball floats over the head of Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris after a throw. Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS

If the 32-year old Harris wasn’t such a committed, sincere, genuine individual, then yeah, perhaps. The opportunity would no doubt be there.

Reilly is expected to start up the quarterback carousel Tuesday afternoon by ending a five-year term with the Eskimos and signing with the B.C. Lions, which would bring him back to where he started his career and closer to his off-season home in Seattle. The Eskimos have set aside a big bundle of cash for him and would then need another QB to take it. For sure they’d love to snap up Bo Levi Mitchell from under the Stamps’ nose, but he’s still chasing his NFL dream and Calgary GM John Hufnagel sounds confident he can sign his star when his dream goes south without him.

Harris would seem to be the next viable option.

He does know GM Brock Sutherland and coach Jason Maas from their time with the Redblacks, but surely he also knows that while Ottawa is only a 10 hour drive from his home in Ohio, Edmonton is 30. That would be another one for the cons column, right beside playing in a stadium that’s so much older and more run down than TD Place. (Nobody said it was a long or terrible column).

Of course, if Harris was playing football for the money and OK with a bidding war, four or five teams could be calling his agent just after noon (assuming you believe everybody plays by the rules and waits to make contact until they are officially permitted). Both powerhouse franchises in Alberta, as well as Saskatchewan, Toronto and quite likely even Montreal, the team that offered Harris more money than Ottawa in 2016.

If, less than three months after he said it wasn’t, cash is now a consideration for Harris, all of the above would be able to throw much of it his way.

The thing is, the Redblacks should want Harris even more than he says he wants them. They don’t have a capable replacement under contract. Backup Dominique Davis appears to have the tools, but he’s 29 years old and there’s a reason why, in four seasons, he has never been a starter. Danny Collins and Will Arndt are also on the depth chart but obviously not the answer.

Harris has his shortcomings, to be sure. But in two years as a starter he has made progress. And the Redblacks have gone from a team that lost in the division semi-final to one that lost in the Grey Cup. In both cases it’s a negative end result, but if Harris is to take another step forward it’s to the winner’s circle.

He is the third best QB in the league when Mitchell is in Canada, second when he isn’t.

Yes, if the Redblacks lose Harris, they are in big trouble. The franchise has had such a strong five year start largely because it has had a quarterback. Winding up with a Jonathon Jennings after Henry Burris and Harris isn’t going to cut it. Not with the fans, and not if the Redblacks are going to continue the new tradition of football in Ottawa — being a contender.

Everyone saw what happened to Toronto when Ricky Ray suffered a season ending injury last June. Sure, their defence wasn’t the same as it was when winning the Grey Cup the previous November, but they also had no capable replacement at the most important position.

Again, we don’t know what the hold up has been to this point, but fully expect that the Redblacks and Harris come to terms before noon on Tuesday. Even though it’s not a money thing with Harris, the Redblacks simply can not afford to let him walk.


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