Early in the off-season, after a disappointing 2022 season with an 8-10 record, the Tiger-Cats made a move a trade to obtain the rights to a veteran CFL quarterback from the Calgary Stampeders. The move was a sign that the Tiger-Cats were attempting to upgrade their most important offensive position to make a run to win the 2023 Grey Cup championship in their home stadium. During the Free-Agency period, Hamilton finished the deal by signing Bo Levi Mitchell to a three-year contract that would make the veteran quarterback one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the CFL.
While this move drew significant attention, a dark cloud hung over the signing of Mitchell, who had shown a tendency to get injured and miss a large number of regular season games while at Calgary. Couple that with the trend that the Tiger-Cats have historically failed to protect their quarterbacks, and most seasons, Hamilton is an offense led by a committee of quarterbacks. That trend became an issue when Mitchell suffered a lower leg injury at Toronto in the 2nd week of the season.
Suddenly, the Tiger-Cats found themselves in a familiar position, an injured starting quarterback and backup quarterback Matthew Shiltz leading the offence. With the certainty of the following quarterback injury, the Tiger-Cats made a move to sign CFL rookie quarterback Taylor Powell and former Edmonton Elks backup quarterback Kai Locksley. Throughout the season, it became clear that Hamilton’s quarterback position would again be a weekly adventure.
Ultimately, after completely revamping their roster, the Tiger-Cats had an 8-10 record. They traveled to Montreal for the Eastern Semi-Finals. They turned the ball over repeatedly to finish the season in an identical position to the 2022 season, 8-10 and being led by Matthew Shiltz. After that game, Bo Levi Mitchell was asked about the situation after only getting to play in the last half of the 4th quarter in that playoff game while stating that he was completely healthy.
His frustration leads to him creating doubt that he will return to the Tiger-Cats. Hamilton’s head coach did attempt to clear up the situation, stating that Mitchell is under contract for two more seasons, but the situation opened the door to several complicated situations.
Is Bo Levi Mitchell Worth A Large Contract?
The Tiger-Cats signed Bo Levi Mitchell with the intention that he would be the franchise quarterback for the next few seasons. Due to his injuries, he could not fulfill that role and did not live up to expectations. So, what did the Tiger-Cats get in return for their investment in Bo Levi Mitchell?
During the 2023 season, Mitchell appeared in six games for the Tiger-Cats. Hamilton won two of the six games in which Mitchell contributed to the offence. For the season, Mitchell had a quarterback rating of 67.5, throwing six touchdown passes and ten interceptions.
The Value Of the Backup Quarterbacks
Tiger-Cats backup quarterbacks Matthew Shiltz and Taylor Powell found themselves in the driver’s seat of the Hamilton offense. Both players took advantage of the situation and were key contributors during the Tiger-Cat’s eight wins in 2023. This has been an ongoing trend for the Tiger-Cats, with previous backup quarterback Dane Evans playing the same role as Matthew Shiltz and Taylor Powell.
Ultimately, most teams in the CFL will not realistically have the same quarterback start every game of the season. Also, the best-starting quarterbacks in the CFL do not have to carry their team’s offense but usually succeed because they use their weapons well and manage the game successfully. With these factors in mind, it does not make sense to break the bank for any quarterback, and it makes more sense to bring in a group of high-quality quarterbacks who can learn and execute a systematic offense.
Shiltz and Powell both came into games and played their backup role well. Shiltz played in eight of the Tiger-Cat’s nineteen games. Hamilton won four of those games, and Shiltz had a quarterback rating 99.8 with seven touchdown passes and only five interceptions. Rookie quarterback Taylor Powell appeared in ten games; the Tiger-Cats also won four of those games, and Powell had a quarterback rating of 89.5 with ten touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
The Future Of The Tiger-Cats Quarterback Position
When looking at the stats and the finances of the Hamilton quarterback position, a few things need to be adjusted:
- Mitchell has yet to play up to his contract; if he continues to play with Tiger-Cats, his contract needs to be renegotiated to match his level of performance more closely.
- Matthew Shiltz is entering free agency this off-season, and the Tiger-Cats need to re-acquire Shiltz, but not by overpaying him.
- The Tiger-Cats need to invest heavily in the development of Taylor Powell, which brings a high ceiling to the CFL but needs time to develop.
- Short yardage specialist Kai Locksley is also going into free agency. He is very effective in short-yardage situations, and his presence would help the Tiger-Cats avoid getting their starter injured running a quarterback sneak.
If Bo Levi Mitchell wants to leave the Tiger-Cats, Hamilton should let that happen, and if they can get some of the money back that they paid Mitchell, that would be ideal. If Mitchell wants to return, his contract must be renegotiated, and all Tiger-Cats quarterbacks should be paid relative to their contributions. The Tiger-Cats need as many functional quarterbacks as possible, and overpaying any one quarterback is a bad investment.
Shiltz is a high-quality backup quarterback, and Powell showed the potential to become a starting quarterback in the CFL. Ideally, both will return to the Tiger-Cats and show improvement regarding managing games and eliminating turnovers. If Mitchell can get healthy, he can be a contributor, but he needs to be paid as a contributor rather than an elite-level quarterback.
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