In the wake of Montreal Alouettes' head coach Marc Trestman leaving for the Chicago Bears, in the midst of ongoing rumours about Als' general manager Jim Popp heading south of the border as well (although those have diminished), and with plenty of players (including Armond Armstead) getting U.S. looks, it would be easy to think that most of the CFL news at the moment revolves around departures for the NFL. However, the news that broke late Wednesday night is exactly the opposite. TSN's Farhan Lalji reported that the B.C. Lions have signed quarterback Travis Lulay to a two-year extension with an option for a third year. There's been some NFL speculation about Lulay in the past, but his decision to commit to the team for a new contract of at least two years suggests that he'll be staying north of the border for the foreseeable future.
This is probably a smart decision on Lulay's part. Yes, there's been some vague NFL interest in his services, and yes, there are plenty of NFL teams with terrible quarterbacking situations. However, past evidence has shown time and time again that NFL teams simply don't highly value CFL quarterbacks at the moment; yes, Warren Moon, Doug Flutie, Jeff Garcia and others made the transition very well in the past, but the two most notable recent CFL pivots to try their luck south of the border (Ricky Ray and Casey Printers, near or at the height of their powers in 2004 and 2006 respectively) never really got much of a chance. NFL teams have consistently opted recently to rate freshly-drafted (or even undrafted) quarterbacks and long-time journeymen backups ahead of those coming in from the CFL.
Whether that's fair is a subject of debate. It's especially challenging for quarterbacks to adjust back and forth between the CFL and NFL games given the extra man, the bigger field and the three-down system north of the border, so it's understandable why the NFL rates CFL quarterbacks lower than players at other positions. Plus, it's much easier to get a little playing time anywhere else; teams only use one quarterback at a time, but often rotate other players through. On the other side of that, though, you have to wonder why teams elect to keep recycling quarterbacks like Jason Campbell and Josh McCown (and that's just the Bears!) instead of considering some new faces. Regardless, it's not a great situation for CFL quarterbacks trying to make the NFL at the moment (which is just one more reason why the talk of Tim Tebow using the CFL as a springboard back to the NFL is silly). Things may eventually change with the NFL's growing adoption of zone read principles (many of which are common in CFL offences) and with the growing amount of CFL-connected people taking NFL jobs as coaches or front-office types, but at the moment, the chances of Lulay (or another CFL QB) actually getting to play in the NFL seem limited.
Staying in Canada is far from a bad thing, though, especially for a quarterback and particularly for Lulay. He's really become one of the key faces of the Lions' franchise over the last few seasons. He's already won one Grey Cup and delivered another solid season last year, so it's not like people are really questioning his ability. Moreover, quarterback is the one position where the CFL can offer substantial salaries; Lalji reports that Lulay's extension is expected to be for $450,000 a season, which is a good chunk of change (although probably about mid-range level for CFL quarterbacks; it's not quite the top, suggesting that B.C. got a very good deal here). With this move, the Lions have solidified their starter at quarterback for a few more seasons, and that should keep them as strong contenders for the Grey Cup. For Lulay, this might well spell the end of any NFL dreams he had (he's 29 right now, and it becomes even less likely the NFL will consider CFL quarterbacks after they hit 30), but it keeps him in a good situation in Vancouver, and it gives him a decent amount of cash. The big takeaway for B.C. fans is that in a time where it seems many CFL types are leaving for the NFL, their quarterback's sticking around. That's reason for fans of the orange-and-black to celebrate.