CFL

Elks sign veteran QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson after stint in USFL

The Edmonton Elks signed veteran American quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson on Sunday. The move wasn't a surprise as word surfaced Friday that Bethel-Thompson had agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Edmonton.

35-year-old helped Toronto earn upset Grey Cup win over host Winnipeg in 2022

A male football quarterback winds up to throw the ball with his right hand.
Newly acquired Elks quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw for a CFL- and career-high 4,731 yards in 2022 with 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions as a member of the Argonauts. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The Edmonton Elks signed veteran American quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson on Sunday.

The move wasn't a surprise as word surfaced Friday that Bethel-Thompson had agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Edmonton. Financial terms weren't disclosed Sunday but Bethel-Thompson can reportedly earn as much as $500,000 if he hits all of his bonuses.

"McLeod brings great leadership to our football team and a proven track record of success," Chris Jones, Edmonton's head coach and GM, said in a statement. "I've coached against him and seen firsthand what he can do.

"He's won everywhere he's been and has shown over and over again how well he can command the football. He knows the CFL well and has always been well respected by his teammates. We're a better football team with McLeod on our roster."

Bethel-Thompson spent last season with the New Orleans Breakers of the United States Football League. The 35-year-old San Francisco native completed 220-of-336 passes (65.5 per cent) for a league-best 2,433 passing yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 10 games.

In 2022, Bethel-Thompson helped the Toronto Argonauts earn an upset 24-23 Grey Cup win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Regina. Bethel-Thompson was 15-of-28 passing for 203 yards before suffering a dislocated right thumb late in the fourth quarter.

Backup Chad Kelly — the nephew of former Bills' star quarterback Jim Kelly — came off the bench to complete four-of-six passes for 43 yards. But it was Kelly's crucial 20-yard run on second-and-15 that set up A.J. Ouellette's game-winning five-yard touchdown run.

The six-foot-four, 220-pound Bethel-Thompson threw for a CFL- and career-high 4,731 yards in 2022 with 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He led Toronto (11-7) to first place in the East Division for a second straight season before completing 19-of-27 passes for 299 yards and two TDs in the Argos' 34-27 conference final victory over the Montreal Alouettes.

The Grey Cup win was Toronto's first since 2017. That year was Bethel-Thompson's first with the Argos and he served as the backup to veteran starter Ricky Ray in the CFL championship game.

Bethel-Thompson feels Grey Cup experience is especially valuable with such a young Edmonton roster.

"You understand the marathon that it is to win a CFL Grey Cup," he said. "Having [the] experience of being on two Grey Cup championship teams — and two very different experiences and seasons — you know the ingredients that it takes to build that recipe.

"[You know] the blood, sweat and tears you need to pour into that soup and it needs to work for months and months at a time before it can come to fruition and you can call yourself champions."

Bethel-Thompson began his CFL career with Winnipeg in 2016, spending time on the practice roster before being released and joining the Argos. He appeared in 74 career regular-season games (starting 46), completing 1,125-of-1,683 passes (66.8 per cent) for 13,261 yards with 70 touchdowns, and 49 interceptions.

Bethel-Thompson also ran 93 times for 513 yards (5.5-yard average) and two TDs.

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