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Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols (15) throws downfield for a complete pass against the Toronto Argonauts during second half CFL football action in Toronto on Thursday, August 1, 2019.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

The Ottawa Redblacks and Toronto Argonauts have made major quarterbacking moves just over one week away from the start of CFL free agency.

Hours after the Argos released Matt Nichols on Sunday, the Redblacks signed the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers and released fellow quarterback Nick Arbuckle.

CFL free agency opens Feb. 9.

Nichols and Arbuckle signed with Toronto and Ottawa, respectively, early last year before the 2020 CFL season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ottawa’s move reunites Nichols with former Blue Bombers offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice, now the Redblacks’ head coach.

“We are excited to bring Matt who has started and won a lot of games in our league,” LaPolice said in a statement. “His experience and leadership will be crucial to our success.”

Arbuckle was acquired by the Redblacks in a trade with the Calgary Stampeders before signing a deal with Ottawa.

However, CFL teams have been renegotiating deals this year as the economic fallout continues to be felt in the aftermath of a cancelled season.

Nichols was leading the league in touchdown passes and passer rating before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury halfway through the 2019 campaign. The Bombers later acquired quarterback Zach Collaros from Toronto and he led Winnipeg to the Grey Cup.

Arbuckle was 4-3 as Calgary’s starter in 2019 while Bo Levi Mitchell was hurt. He finished the season completing 73.1 per cent of his passes for 2,103 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.

All eyes will now be on the Argos to see if they make a move for Arbuckle. The only quarterback on Toronto’s roster is Canadian Michael O’Connor.

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