CALGARY — Bo Levi Mitchell says he left money on the table to stay with the Calgary Stampeders.
Mitchell entered a heated free−agent market Tuesday, but quickly opted to sign a four−year contract with the Stampeders on a day that yielded substantial raises for the CFL’s premiere quarterbacks, including himself.
On the heels of the B.C. Lions signing Mike Reilly to a four−year deal worth $2.9 million came the announcement of Mitchell’s re−up.
His new contract reported to be $2.8 million, the 28−year−old Texan responded “that’s correct” when asked if his price tag was under $3 million.
“I wanted to hit free agency to find out what the market was,” Mitchell said at McMahon Stadium. “I was kind of hearing rumours of what Reilly’s numbers were. I knew we could go north of that.
“The offers from other teams were very, very good and well north of that, but at the end of the day, I gave Calgary the last chance and they got very close to where I wanted to be and where I thought I was very well paid, but we could still put a team together.”
The continuity in staying in a market where he’s won a pair of Grey Cups and the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award twice, plus continuing his relationship with head coach Dave Dickenson also played into Mitchell’s choice to take a “home−team discount.”
His seven CFL seasons have been in Calgary, including the last five as starter. Mitchell is just shy of a career 25,000 passing yards and has thrown 150 touchdowns.
The defending Grey Cup champions will have the chance to defend it on home turf at McMahon in November.
Mitchell says he took less money than he was worth four years ago and joked he got Stampeder GM John Hufnagel to finally open his wallet.
“At the end of the day, I think Dave went to the table for me and made sure we got the job done,” said Mitchell, who was accompanied at the news conference by his wife Madison and daughter Ele.
“Because the offers were so close, I didn’t want to leave something that we had been building here and something we’ve been progressing towards.
“There is something about leaving a legacy and trying to be one of the best to ever play. Being able to do that here is what I wanted to do.”
Hufnagel said the previous day he was optimistic he could retain Mitchell with the proviso that the price was right.
“Very stressful morning to say the least,” the GM said. “It took a little bit longer than I anticipated. The wait was definitely worth it.”
More money for Mitchell meant less elsewhere, with all−star defensive tackle Micah Johnson (Saskatchewan), defensive backs Patrick Levels (Montreal) and Tunde Adeleke (Hamilton), offensive lineman Spencer Wilson (Montreal) and receivers DaVaris Daniels (Edmonton) and Lemar Durant (B.C.) departing on free agency’s opening day.
With receivers Kamar Jorden, Eric Rogers and Juwan Bescasin and running back Terry Williams re−signed and rusher Don Jackson wearing red and white, Mitchell feels he still has multiple offensive threats to work with in 2019.
“It was close with another team,” Mitchell said. “I was just looking at the offences and trying to imagine myself in the other spot. I just didn’t see the pieces of offence I wanted to see to sway me to go that way.”
After leading the Stampeders to a Grey Cup win over the Ottawa Redblacks in 2018, Mitchell tested the NFL market.
He worked out for several teams in the off−season, but was not tempted by Denver, Minnesota or Indianapolis.
“There were offers there I just didn’t see myself taking,” he said. “If you look at the quarterback situation you can understand why. A lot were to compete for (number) two or three jobs.
“It just didn’t feel like there was the right job for me to go out and compete and get an opportunity to play and that’s kind of what made that decision.”