Q&A: Eskimos GM Brock Sunderland on trading QB James Franklin

The Edmonton Eskimos traded quarterback James Franklin to the Toronto Argonauts on Monday and Eskimos general manager Brock Sunderland shared his perspective on the trade. 

How did it come to the point that you were going to trade Franklin?

“It started in our exit interviews when I point blank asked him if it was even worth me offering him a contract of any level and he said unless it’s for a chance to compete to start then no. And I appreciate that and respect that. We were both very honest throughout the process where we’ve got the MOP and obviously, [Mike] Reilly is our starter, there is no doubt about it as he should be. James knew that and for him, he just really wanted to go to a place where he felt there would be an opportunity to compete to start at least, whereas here Reilly is the starter and there is no competition.”

After that exit interview with Franklin, how did you proceed?

“A couple teams had reached out to me as soon as the season ended and asked if there was any interest in us moving James and actually there were a couple teams throughout the season that reached out. Once the ball got rolling I actually met with one team in person and discussed it at length. Then had a couple conversations, all told I had conversations with four teams. I went back and forth and as soon as one team reached out the ball got rolling and I reached out to the other teams. It was probably about a two-week process of back and forth with multiple teams and at the end of the day, Jim and I got on the same page and we worked out a deal that we thought was beneficial for both clubs.”

How did you compare the offers and decide which one was best?

“We look at it from our point of view and what’s the return value for us? We had a first-round grade on Mason Woods. I’ve been through seven CFL drafts and I’ve never had a guy fall to the third round that’s six-foot-nine, 325 pounds who played major college football at guard and tackle. Basically, we’re saying our 2018 third round draft pick is Mason Woods. The more I evaluated it made sense for us. When you have a guy that can play guard and tackle is a potential ratio changer, so if we ever wanted to or decided to go to four Canadian offensive lineman it gives us that flexibility. Again, we had a real high grade on him, we had a first-round grade on him and had he been there in the second round for us we would’ve snapped him up. There were conversations on our end with our first round pick if he was going to be that guy, so we’re getting value for a guy that we knew wasn’t going to be here. That was the biggest thing: we knew James was not coming back. We also knew that he was coveted. If you could get something for him than we thought that would be advantageous for our organization.

At any point during the 2017 season were you entertaining or close to trading Franklin?

“Nope. Never considered trading him during the season. Everyone that reached out I was very direct in saying there’s no chance we’ll trade him and the reason why is look at the 2015 and 2016 Grey Cup champs, they needed two quarterbacks to win. You’re one play away from needing a guy that can run our offence effectively and who gets along in the locker room and with the coaches, understands your system, all those things. It was never an option for us to trade him during the season, it wasn’t going to happen.”

If Toronto signs Franklin to a contract extension would any additional compensation come to Edmonton?

“Nope. No additional compensation for them if he signs.”

Was it important to trade Franklin to an East Division team? 


Why did you feel strongly about trading Franklin before free agency?

“There’s been quarterbacks in the past with organizations that are pending free agents that go and the team doesn’t get value in return. So I really felt it was important for our organization to take advantage of a player that we know is coveted and that we also know isn’t coming back. We had two options, one was to get something in return and the other was to just sit back and let him go to free agency and not do anything. I figured I’d rather be proactive and try to better our organization. Everyone knows finding national offensive lineman that have major university NCAA experience is hard to find, so it made sense for us.”

Who could be your backup quarterback next year?

“We like Danny O’Brien and Zach Kline, two young guys that are up and coming. And there’s a lot of other guys out there that we’ve been scouting, so we’ve got a long time before training camp starts, we’ll take our time and do our due diligence and try to find that right guy. It might be someone already on the roster, it might be somebody who is out there that has CFL experience, it might be someone that doesn’t have CFL experience that’s been from the NFL. We’ll explore all of our options. That will probably evolve through training camp, I don’t think we’re going to sign someone immediately and say you’re are the guy, but depending who it is we might. We’re going to keep our options open and be deliberate in our decision because as I just explained that position is pretty vital to an organization.”

Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk was a five-year starter at quarterback for the University of Guelph. He covers the league for Sportsnet and 3DownNation.
Justin Dunk
Justin Dunk
About Justin Dunk (892 Articles)
Justin Dunk was a five-year starter at quarterback for the University of Guelph. He covers the league for Sportsnet and 3DownNation.

15 Comments on Q&A: Eskimos GM Brock Sunderland on trading QB James Franklin

  1. All in all, I think that Sunderland did the right thing & got good value for the rights to Franklin.

  2. I would agree, surprised he hadn’t garnered any NFL interest, or at least we haven’t heard if it. Let the games begin, things are about to get interesting!

  3. Franklin – won’t sign in Toronto——— unless a big announcement comes from Ricky Ray

    Sunderland did the right thing for his team

    • greenenvy? // December 11, 2017 at 6:18 pm //

      Looking through the green fog again, Stage. As I detailed earlier on this, name a player who had his rights traded who didn’t sign. To repeat – Mike Reilly was days away from free agency & could have got Edm & Wpg into a bidding war but signed Jan 31, with NO GUARANTEE of being starter with Matt Nichols there. He could have waited & gone to Wpg with Alex Brink & Justin Goltz there. Both Vernon Adams & a year later Durant had their negotiation rights sent to Als & signed within 2 & 6 days respectively. Durant could have waited less than a month for free agency. You’re dreaming if you think Jones or anyone else has a shot in February.

  4. Really think Franklin will get various tryouts from NFL teams before Feb. 15th. If he is not signed by a NFL team by then he has great options in the CFL where things are not cut and dried per say with the starting QB position. Only see Toronto getting him signed unless Ray retires or they clear some decks per say so they can make him a substantial offer.

    • Same talking point Jim but these things get done fairly easily. If he’s in the CFL it’ll be in TO. There’ll be a contract with an out clause & TO retaining his rights. Why would he not want to play for Trestman? He’s the best coach for a QB out there to develop his skills if he has NFL aspirations down the road. It’s a match made in heaven.

  5. greenonions // December 11, 2017 at 6:26 pm //

    I’ve said it before & say it again. There was no way Eskimos were waiting to free agency & lose Franklin for nothing. There was no way his rights would go to any team out West. That’s not being prescient, it is just obvious. With 6’11” all-star O’Donnell & now 6’9″ Woods, the biggest OL in the CFL just got bigger. Sunderland has made some smart moves. Trading Franklin to the East is one of the biggest ones.

  6. Colour me green // December 11, 2017 at 6:45 pm //

    Really why would he want to play in TO market. Who would? Go someplace were you are appreciated and Regina is the spot. Could retire a legend

    • Maybe you should check your history. Several QBs have played in Toronto and retired as legends. After all, Toronto has won seventeen Grey Cups. The size of the fan base and the crowd in the stadium does not make a legend. A legend is made by the high quality of play and often by the ability of the coaching staff to bring out the absolute best in their players. Toronto also has a good O line. It might prove to be the perfect place for Franklin to become a legend.

    • Ghostrider // December 11, 2017 at 9:07 pm //

      lol more Toronto legendary QB’s than there are Rider ones.

    • You assume he wants the attention. Just because he’s a pro athlete doesn’t mean he craves the limelight. There’s plenty of examples of athletes who prefer their privacy and not living in a fishbowl. If you wanted to just play and not be stopped by every 2nd person at the grocery store playing armchair QB you’ll sign in Toronto over Saskatchewan

      • Good point CFLfan
        Players don’t necessarily want manure dumped on their driveways either. That’s one of 2 reasons Burris wouldn’t sign there.

    • No he wants to be with a winner not a perennial 4th or 5th place team like the sliders

  7. Burris didn’t sign because Shivers signed Nealon Greene first. His wife also preferred Calgary due to better employment opportunities. Had nothing to do with McCallum’s problem. This is accurate.

  8. Popp was criticized in Montreal for not developing a successor to Calvillo. That is not the case here if Franklin signs.

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