The Zach Collaros sweepstakes have begun earlier than expected, with the Toronto Argonauts announcing Wednesday morning that they have granted the highly coveted CFL quarterback his outright release.
Collaros was under contract and not scheduled to become a free agent until Feb. 15, but the Argos releasing him means he is now free to sign with any team effectively immediately.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who are in the market for a new starting quarterback, are interested in Collaros, but they are not alone. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are also believed to have an interest in Collaros and, further complicating matters, Collaros has said that he’d like to explore opportunities in the NFL.
The Bombers issued the following statement Wednesday morning after the Argos announced Collaros had been released:
"We are continuing to evaluate all options at all positions, including the quarterback position, and are always looking to improve our roster in every area."
Club spokesman Darren Cameron said the team would have no comment on the team’s interest in any specific player, including Collaros.
Privately, Bombers sources have said Collaros’s lack of playing time -- he’s started just 7 games in the CFL -- makes him largely an unknown commodity and that concerns them as they look for a solution to their long-term quarterbacking woes.
An injury to Argos starter Ricky Ray led to Collaros starting 7 games in 2013. He went 190- 287 for 2,316 yards, 14 touchdowns and 6 interceptions and finished with a QB rating of 98.4.
While those are strong numbers, that’s a very small sample size and sources indicate the Bombers have been studying the alternate possibility of signing 39-year-old veteran QB Henry Burris -- who led the CFL in passing the past two seasons as the Hamilton starter and is also a free agent as of Feb. 15 -- as a more proven solution to their problem at quarterback.
Also on Wednesday, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced they have traded non-import defensive back Matt Bucknor to the Bombers in exchange for non-import receiver Giovanni Aprile.
Aprile was Winnipeg's second-round draft pick in 2012 (16th overall) but he never did play a regular-season game for the club. Bucknor had 43 defensive tackles for the Ticats in 2012, but had just 2 in 2013.