Calgary Stampeders general manager John Hufnagel feels optimistic he can re-sign quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
The CFL star is among several players scheduled to become free agents Tuesday.
"He's not signed yet," Hufnagel said Monday at McMahon Stadium. "We're talking. I'm very optimistic something will get done. I just don't know when."
After leading the Stampeders to a Grey Cup and winning the award for the CFL's most outstanding player for the second time in his career, Mitchell worked out for several NFL teams in the off-season.
No deal was announced south of the border for the 28-year-old from Katy, Texas, contributing to Hufnagel's confidence in bringing Mitchell back in the fold.
"I would expect that if he was going to sign an NFL contract, it would have been done, but what I expect and what's actually going on behind closed doors, I'm not sure," the GM said.
The other hurdle to retaining Mitchell, however, is the price tag.
If Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly can command around $700,000, as he is rumoured to be able to do when he hits the free-agent market Tuesday, the bidding for Mitchell couldn't be far off that number.
"It's quite significant no question about it," Hufnagel said.
"I have a budget with Bo Levi. Now, I said I'm optimistic, but does it fit the budget? We'll have to see. I have a good number. Hopefully that number works."
It will also have to be a competitive number because of the unusual number of established quarterbacks on the market this year.
Ottawa's Trevor Harris joins Mitchell and Reilly as the free-agency headliners, but only Hamilton (Jeremiah Masoli) and Winnipeg (Matt Nichols) have starters under contract.
"I haven't lost any sleep over other people's quarterback situations," Hufnagel stated. "I'm concerned about mine."
Mitchell has thrown for almost 25,000 yards and 150 touchdown passes in his seven seasons with Calgary, including five as starter.
His backup Nick Arbuckle scored five short-yardage touchdowns and threw for 144 yards in 2018. Calgary replaced third-stringer Larry Brihm Jr. with Montell Cozart in August.
"We have two young guys that we like who are very capable and promising," Hufnagel said. "If things went south with Bo, I think we still have the skill at the position to win football games."
Hufnagel signed defensive lineman Junior Turner and Ese Mrabure to extensions on the weekend, bringing the number of potential Stampeder free agents back under contract to 17.
"We have a lot of good depth at most of the positions," Hufnagel said. "Obviously Bo is a cornerstone."
All-star defensive tackle Micah Johnson is putting himself on the market Tuesday.
"Micah's had his offer for a couple of weeks now," the GM said. "He wants to go to free agency so I'm not quite sure how that is going to go. Probably can't use the word 'optimistic' when I'm talking about Micah."
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press