CALGARY — When the crowd chanted "one more year" at Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, head coach Dave Dickenson held up five fingers in an effort to up that demand.
"It's good to feel wanted," Mitchell said.
The Stampeders celebrated their Grey Cup victory Tuesday with a public rally in front of Calgary city hall. The players, Dickenson and general manager John Hufnagel were still savouring Sunday's 27-16 win over the Ottawa Redblacks in Edmonton for the CFL championship.
But both those on stage with the trophy, and many among the 6,000 fans the City of Calgary said were gathered, knew it could potentially be the last time they saw Mitchell in the galloping horse jersey.
The 28-year-old native of Katy, Texas, was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player this season for the second time in his career before going on to earn his second Grey Cup title and game MVP award in four appearances.
Mitchell will be a free agent in February. With the CFL and its players bargaining a new collective agreement in the off-season, he is considering options which include the NFL.
"Things are brewing," Mitchell said. "NFL-wise, it doesn't matter if I have 20 workouts or five, you don't know what's going to happen, if anybody wants me after they see me. I'll try things out. See what happens, but I'm going to have a talk with Huf and Dave and see what we can get done.
"At this point, if I sign a contract right now, it will be long term to commit to this city and this team for a long time. Before I do that, I have to know. I'm an athlete, I'm competitive. I grew up in Houston, Texas, and I've got to know. If I come back to the CFL, I'm playing in red and white."
The Stampeders have won three Grey Cups in six appearances in John Hufnagel's decade as GM.
He coached Calgary to its first two titles before handing the reins to offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson in 2016.
The heavily favoured Stampeders lost to underdog teams in the Grey Cup in both 2016 and 2017, so for Calgary to win it on a third straight try felt sweet to Hufnagel.
"You have to rank this as number one, just because of what transpired the previous two seasons," the GM said.
"There was a lot of noise out there after two losses. I'd hate to think what it would have been after . . . I didn't even say the word."
Mitchell is among a few prominent Stampeders heading for free agency, including league-leading tackler Alex Singleton and defensive end Micah Johnson.
Hufnagel will have to work some off-season magic to field team capable of defending the Grey Cup on home turf at McMahon Stadium in 2019. Retaining Mitchell could be difficult, the GM said.
"I don't know," Hufnagel said. "Obviously he said some things in the paper and whether that transpires, it's out of my control, but obviously I'll be talking to Bo and his agent and making sure they know we want him back.
"I had a chat with the players this morning. It might be a little different than previous off-seasons. We'll sign players and hopefully have a good football team that can play winning football."
Mitchell threw a CFL-leading 35 touchdown passes in 2018.
With 5,124 passing yards, he compiled over 5,000 for the second time in his career, but to a rotating cast of receivers this season because of major injuries at that position.
"When I signed the contract four years ago, I didn't have this interest and this much buzz going," Mitchell said.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press