January 8, 2013

Barker busy early on in Argonauts’ off-season

John Sokolowski

Argonauts.ca Staff

TORONTO – With free agency a little over a month away and the CFL Canadian draft already being prepared for, the Toronto Argonauts are entering a time when we will begin to see the roster take shape for 2013.  Even a team that wins the Grey Cup will not look the same come kickoff next year.

Roster activity has already begun, as GM Jim Barker has parted ways with veterans Ejiro Kuale and Etienne Boulay in addition to K/P Noel Prefontaine.  The team has also lost a few players to retirement as WR Danny Desriveaux and DB Ahmad Carroll have decided to end their careers as champions.

What is not getting as much publicity, however, is the group of young players that Barker has assembled that will be returning in 2013 to take a run at defending the Grey Cup.  These players are locked up for the foreseeable future and with the departure of a few veterans, will have the opportunity to step up and play bigger roles on the Double Blue.

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In some cases – especially on the defence – their presence has already been felt.  All-Star Patrick Watkins will be hungry as ever after missing the final playoff game and the big game itself last year.  There is also LB Marcus Ball, who finished second on the team in tackles and had a massive Eastern Final with two interceptions, will also be back on the Boatmen defence and ready to wreak havoc on the CFL once again.

In addition to those three CFL rookies returning, Barker is also hard at work signing some of the younger players that were brought in throughout the course of 2012.  Defensive lineman Donte Paige-Moss and LB Johnnie Dixon have already been locked up for 2013 and could be impact players for Chris Jones’ defence in 2013.  Both players saw action at the end of 2012, with Paige-Moss playing in games against both Saskatchewan and Hamilton while Dixon saw action in the final week of the season leading the team with seven tackles.

Finally, Barker has signed LB Shane Horton out of Southern California and DE Adrian Awasom out of North Texas. It remains to be seen what they will bring to the Double Blue defence, but as last year’s unit taught us, you cannot discount the scouting process Defensive Coordinator Chris Jones and his staff have developed.

On the other side of the ball the Argos have also been busy, as they have already locked up wide receivers Julian Feoli-Gudino and Qunicy Hurst for the 2013 season.  Hurst is the only player on the Argos roster who was selected by the team in the 2012 CFL Canadian draft, and will look to make an impact after spending the majority of 2012 on the practice roster.

We all know about CFL mainstays Ricky Ray, Chad Owens and Andre Durie and what they will contribute to the team, but an important part of the Argos growth will be what rookie WR Dontrelle Inman can become in his second full season in the CFL.

Inman showed flashes of brilliance all season as he continually made highlight reel catches.  He finished the season with 50 receptions for 803 yards and 5 TDs and looked to be developing solid chemistry with Ray.  If Inman can improve upon his rookie campaign, the Argos will have a serious outside threat to pair with Owens and Durie in the slot.

The final key to the Argos puzzle will come via free agency.  With impact players like Chad Kackert, Spencer Watt, Ricky Foley, Maurice Mann, Tristan Black and Evan McCollough still needing contracts for 2013, the depth chart could look very different for the Argos come the start of 2013.