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CFL 2023

When it comes to analyzing the nine starting quarterbacks slated to open the Canadian Football League (CFL) season on June 8th in Calgary, it’s “déjà vu all over again,” to quote Yogi Berra.

I have this nagging feeling that I’ve written this exact same thing before under the title of “Riding The Quarterback Carousel” or “Everything Old Is New Again.” Every couple of years, it seems the CFL brain trust pulls off the “ol’ switcheroo” at their respective quarterback positions, and it’s no exception this time around. So, get ready to mark up your team programs because here we go again.


Starting in the East, we will begin with the reigning Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts who, against all odds, prevailed in Saskatchewan, denying the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a rare three-peat. Last year’s starting quarterback, McLeod Bethel Thompson, has bolted to the USFL, leaving the door open for Chad Kelly to take the helm. A credible backup and a star in relief in that 2022 Grey Cup game, the Argo brass are high on both his talent and his pedigree. He is the nephew of Buffalo Bills great Jim Kelly, after all.   Time will tell, but it seems like Chad Kelly is a solid fit to plug that quarterbacking hole in the good ship Argo, a team that is still rich on both sides of the ball.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are once again hosting the Grey Cup in 2023 and prioritized their quarterback situation in a big way by heading west to land Bo Levy Mitchell from the Calgary Stampeders. The Dane Evans experiment went bust, so Bo Levy, the future Hall Of Famer with too many credentials to list here, is by far the most intriguing signing of the off-season. Bo knows winning. The Tiger-Cats are maniacally focused on not only hosting the Grey Cup but bringing home the Championship as well.

The Montreal Alouettes also crossed over to the Western Division to land Saskatchewan cast-off Cody Fajardo, another interesting acquisition with plenty of upside if he can recapture his All-Star form. He’s tough, runs well and will be blessed with a healthy William Stanback in his backfield, which should take some pressure off the passing game. But the Als have plenty of receiving talent to connect with as well, and Fajardo threw for over 4000 yards in a magical 2019 season. Plus, Fajardo’s former offensive coordinator in Saskatchewan, Jason Maas, is the new Alouette head coach, so there’s the chance of instant chemistry there as well.

That leaves the Ottawa Redblacks to round out the East, and it looks like Jeremiah Masoli may once again start the season on the shelf. Coming off last year’s leg fracture, this extremely talented quarterback can’t seem to get through a campaign from start to finish. However, the much-travelled and very capable Nick Arbuckle is in the fold as well and will be the guy if Masoli isn’t quite ready. So, that’s a possible four for four new QBs year over year to kick off 2023 in the East.


In the West, let’s skip over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who are set with Zach Collaros, generally considered the best player in the game if he can stay healthy. The Edmonton Elks have brought in a lot of talent, but it looks as if hulking Taylor Cornelius is going to get the nod once again at QB. Elks fans are hoping the growing pains will finally pay off, and having signed all-world receiver Eugene Lewis in the off-season can only add to the optimism. 

Jack Maier came out of nowhere to steal the Calgary Stampeders‘ starting job from Bo Levy Mitchell, making the former MVP expendable. Calgary will go back to Maier in the hopes that he can retain some of that instant magic he brought to the Stampeders’ offence last season. With Collaros, Cornelius and Maier, there’s some stability in the quarterbacking ranks of Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary.

The biggest loss of the off-season was the BC Lions losing Canadian super-talent Nathan Rourke to the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Although derailed by an injury mid-way through last season, Rourke was other-worldly most of the time. The Lions have turned to returning veteran Vernon Adams Jr, ably backed by Dane Evans. That’s a pretty sound tandem. 

The Saskatchewan Roughriders, looking to rebound after a disappointing 2022, have dipped into the free agent pool to pluck out veteran quarterback Trevor Harris. After two mostly successful seasons in Montreal, the 37-year-old pivot has once again moved west to revitalize a stagnant Roughrider offence and still has much to prove as his career starts to perhaps wind down. 

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So, nine CFL teams, and when we kick off the 2023 season, likely only Winnipeg and Edmonton will have the same starting quarterbacks as they did to begin 2022.  Seven teams will have completely new QBs, three of which will be suiting up in their respective huddles for the very first time. East quarterbacks have gone West, and West quarterbacks will now patrol the East. And, like every year, it’s always anybody’s guess who will be left standing at the end when injuries, slumps and coaching decisions come flying at you from every direction.

Let the quarterback carousel spin, spin, spin.  Déjà vu all over again.

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