TORONTO — They were the Grey Cup MVP and the game’s top Canadian but the clock is ticking on whether running back Chad Kackert and defensive end Ricky Foley will re-sign with the Toronto Argonauts or test the CFL free-agent waters.
Argos general manager Jim Barker wants both players to help Toronto defend its crown and has made offers to them. But he says the ball is in their court now with the CFL’s free-agent deadline of noon ET on Friday looming.
“I’m not a betting man,” Barker said when asked what the odds were of Kackert and Foley becoming free agents. “You just don’t know.
“Absolutely we’d like to have them both back and there have been offers made to them so we’ll have to see.”
The five-foot-eight, 201-pound Kackert began the season as a backup to Cory Boyd but was thrust into the starting lineup in August when the Argos surprisingly released Boyd, who was leading the CFL in rushing at the time. The rationale for the move was that Kackert was not only a more versatile offensive threat than Boyd but also a better blocker.
Kackert finished the regular season rushing for 638 yards on 100 carries while scoring five TDs. He also added 23 catches for 212 yards.
But the 26-year-old native of Simi Valley, Calif., enjoyed a solid playoffs with Toronto, running for more than 100 yards in two of the club’s three post-season contests. Kackert capped his season off in grand style, rushing for 133 yards while adding eight catches for 62 yards as the Argos beat Calgary 35-22 in the historic 100th Grey Cup game at Rogers Centre.
The New Hampshire grad has worked out for the New York Jets this off-season.
If Kackert signs with the Jets, it would be his second stint south of the border. After being bypassed in the 2010 NFL draft, he signed as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars but was released prior to the start of the season. He eventually signed with Toronto in February 2011.
The six-foot-three, 256-pound Foley, a native of Courtice, Ont., joined the Argos as a free agent three years ago after spending his first four CFL seasons with B.C. Foley was the league’s top Canadian in 2009 with the Lions after registering 12 sacks.
Foley only had three sacks last year, in large part because he was required to do more than just rush the quarterback in defensive coordinator Chris Jones’s scheme. Still, the 30-year-old Foley was named the top Canadian in Toronto’s Grey Cup victory after registering four tackles and a sack against Calgary.
Foley has said his preference is to stay in Toronto and that he’d be willing to take a pay cut to remain with the Argos, an important factor considering CFL teams all operate within a league-mandated $4.35-million salary cap.
Toronto’s front seven will sport a much different look in 2013, with or without Foley.
Defensive tackle Armond Armstead, a CFL all-star last season, recently signed with the NFL’s New England Patriots while nose tackle Adriano Belli – who came out of retirement to rejoin the Argos last October – has retired once again. As well, veteran defensive end Ronald Flemons and linebacker Ejiro Kuale were both released.
If Foley and Kackert don’t re-sign with Toronto by Friday, they’ll be free to join any CFL team. And while veterans annually become eligible to entertain outside offers, this year’s free-agent pool won’t be as deep as it could’ve been because many of the top eligible free agents have re-signed with their clubs, including Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo and Edmonton linebacker J.C. Sherritt, the CFL’s top defensive player in 2012.
As for Barker, he won’t be busy revamping his roster with free agents.
“I don’t believe you build anything through free agency,” he said. “I don’t believe GMs in this league are big on free agency.
“There will be a few (quality players who become free agents) but not a ton, I don’t think.”