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Zack takes a whack

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros will have his contract restructured for the 2021 season, but he’s not complaining.

With CFL teams cutting salaries, quarterbacks such as Bo Levi Mitchell, Mike Reilly, Cody Fajardo, Vernon Adams Jr. and Trevor Harris have already reworked their contracts to provide their clubs with some financial relief.

Collaros, who led the Bombers to the 2019 Grey Cup, is the latest to do so. Including pre-season bonuses, Collaros was expected to be making around $500,000 in 2021. The 32-year-old Ohio native will now be getting paid closer to $410,000, with $180,000 coming up front in a signing bonus. Collaros’ original deal was for two years, a contract he signed after the 2019 championship run.

‘I’m still making really good money in the grand scheme of things’‐ Zach Collaros

“Obviously, the total deal is under what the original one was, but given the climate that we’re living in right now, everyone knows it’s going to be tough for the CFL and obviously, it’s tough for everybody,” Collaros told media in a conference call Saturday.

“I’m not ignorant enough or big-headed enough to think that I’m still not making great money. Again, it was a pretty easy decision for me once we started talks with (general manager) Kyle (Walters). My agent Dan Vertlieb handled it really well. There was never any contention, it was just ‘How can we make this work?’ And we made it work.”

With the 2020 season getting cancelled due to COVID-19 and uncertainty surrounding 2021, CFL teams are expected to spend closer to the salary cap floor of $4.75 million as opposed to the $5.35-million ceiling. In all likelihood, Collaros will not be the only Bomber under contract for 2021 to be asked to renegotiate.

Star defensive end Willie Jefferson is scheduled to receive a $150,000 bonus on Feb. 1 and linebacker Adam Bighill has a $50,000 bonus coming his way on Jan. 15 and again on April 15. The Bombers re-signed 11 pending free-agents this week, most notably left tackle Stanley Bryant, wide receiver Nic Demski and defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Seeing all the names from 2019 team re-sign made Collaros’ renegotiation process even easier.

“That was probably the biggest draw. I’ve been saying it for a long time — obviously, you guys probably haven’t covered me for that long — but I really believe in continuity,” Collaros said. “Having the coaching staff back, being able to work with (offensive co-ordinator) Buck (Pierce) is really something I’m looking forward to. And obviously, having the majority of our guys back is something we’ve all talked about during this entire extended offseason. We all want to make it work and get back there.”

Collaros received a $225,000 signing bonus before the 2020 season got axed. He will still end up making $100,000 more this year than what he was paid in 2019, but most players will be getting paid less than originally expected this season.

“I’m still making really good money in the grand scheme of things. I don’t say that to be arrogant, I do it to show some perspective on the situation we’re dealing with in the country, as a continent and in the world in general right now, with people not being allowed to work,” he said.

“I’m really glad we got something done and I really hope the vaccine rollout and all those things go more smoothly than how it has gone so far.”

The quarterback said he isn’t surprised to see players eager to return to the league after the long layoff as opposed to moving on from the sport.

The biggest names left on the team’s list of pending free agents are running back Andrew Harris, kicker Justin Medlock and defensive back Brandon Alexander. Regardless of how free agency shakes out, it appears the Bombers will field a team that looks very similar to the one that had confetti cascading down on them at McMahon Stadium on Nov. 24, 2019.

“There’s not many other feelings like running out of the tunnel before a game or hitting a guy, or taking a hit, or throwing a touchdown. All those different things. It’s hard to find that elsewhere in life. A lot of guys definitely miss the competitive aspect of it. I think the fact that my teammates want to come back to Winnipeg speaks volumes to the organization and what’s been built there, again, from the top all the way down to the bottom,” said Collaros.

Collaros was acquired via trade from the Toronto Argonauts on the CFL’s trade deadline on Oct. 9, 2019. In four starts for the Blue and Gold, three of which were playoff games, Collaros completed 69.1 per cent of his passes for 851 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. While he’s under contract, there’s no guarantee Collaros, or anyone in the league, will return to the gridiron in 2021. Collaros was asked if he’s confident the league will find a way to play this year.

“I know people are working very hard at it and I know we have a lot of smart people involved. For me, all I can do is trust in them, but with the nature of this virus and how it’s being handled politically by the different governments, we’ll just see what happens,” he said.

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.

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