The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will have first crack at giving quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell a new CFL home.
The Ticats acquired the rights to Mitchell from the Calgary Stampeders on Monday in exchange for Hamilton's third-round pick in the 2023 CFL draft, fifth-round pick in 2024 and future considerations.
Mitchell, 32, joined the Stampeders in 2012 and had played his entire CFL tenure in Calgary, leading the franchise to two Grey Cup titles while twice being named the league's outstanding player.
But the Texas native lost his starting job this year to youngster Jake Maier, who signed an extension with the Stampeders through the 2024 campaign during the '22 season.
“We spoke to other teams and Hamilton expressed interest in acquiring Bo’s playing rights in advance of free agency,” Stampeders general manager John Hufnagel said in a statement. “We are very grateful to Bo for everything he has done for the Stampeders over the past 11 years and wish he and his family all the best.”
The move gives the Ticats, who host the Grey Cup in 2023, an opportunity to talk turkey with Mitchell, who is scheduled to become a free agent in February.
If the two sides can't agree on a deal, Mitchell will be eligible to hit the open market.
The deal creates questions about the future of Ticats starter Dane Evans.
Hamilton signed Evans to a two-year extension in January, allowing then incumbent Jeremiah Masoli to join the Ottawa Redblacks as a free agent.
Hamilton (8-10) finished third in the East Division this season before losing 28-17 to the Montreal Alouettes in the conference semifinal.
Evans, who was Hamilton's starter in the 2019 and '21 Grey Cups, completed 305-of-457 passes (66.7 per cent) for 3,883 yards.
But he also led the CFL in interceptions (16), fumbles (eight) and fumbles lost (seven) while winning just six-of-14 regular-season starts.
Veteran backup Matt Shiltz won two of his three starts this season with Hamilton, completing 85-of-119 passes (71.4 per cent) for 935 yards with four TDs and two interceptions.
Shiltz, who is also scheduled to become a free agent in February, ran 28 times for 152 yards (5.4-yard average) and a TD while Evans had 202 yards rushing on 59 carries (3.4-yard average) and four touchdowns.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press