TORONTO -- He still has time to get a deal done, but Toronto Argonauts GM Jim Barker won't be surprised if quarterback Zach Collaros tests the CFL free-agent waters.
Collaros, 25, was solid last season, posting a 5-2 record as the starter while incumbent Ricky Ray was injured. Collaros also started Toronto's 23-20 regular-season finale loss to Montreal -- Ray didn't dress because the Argos had already clinched first in the East Division -- but was one of three quarterbacks to play that day.
The second-year player was especially sharp in a 38-21 win over B.C. on July 30, finishing 21-of-25 passing for 253 yards and three TDs. On Sept. 21, he completed 25-of-36 attempts for 330 yards and four touchdowns in a 33-27 victory over Calgary.
An impressive body of work -- 190-of-287 passing (66.2 per cent) for 2,316 yards with 14 TDs and six interceptions while running 59 times for 246 yards and five touchdowns -- will no doubt attract attention when the 6-2, 216-pound Collaros becomes a free agent Feb. 15. Barker said it's likely Collaros will want to gauge interest before deciding on his football future.
"We'd like to have him back and we're still working on it," Barker said Thursday. "But we'll have to see what happens."
One team in need of a starting quarterback is Winnipeg, which had three different starters en route to posting a league-worst 3-15 record. This off-season, the Blue Bombers also hired former Argos special-teams co-ordinator Mike O'Shea as their new head coach.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats could be a darkhorse with veteran starter Henry Burris also slated to become a free agent. If Burris, 38, doesn't return, that would leave the defending East Division champion with youngsters Dan LeFevour and Jeremiah Massoli along with former NFLers Brian Brohm and Stephen McGee under contract.
The expansion Ottawa Redblacks, who begin play this season, will undoubtedly look at Collaros if he's a free agent but they'll do that with many of the players who become available Feb. 15. The franchise selected Calgary's Kevin Glenn and B.C.'s Thomas DeMarco in last month's CFL expansion draft and also has Matt Faulkner, who played at San Jose State, on the roster.
On Tuesday, veteran Anthony Calvillo retired following 20 seasons in the CFL, but the Alouettes positioned themselves well for the announcement. In late December, they re-signed former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and youngster Tanner Marsh to extensions.
-- The Canadian Press