February 5, 2013

Free Agent Forecast: Toronto Argonauts

John Sokolowski

CFL.ca Staff

As the February 15th free agency deadline nears, CFL.ca is breaking down each team’s potential needs, wants and wish lists.  Today we take a look at the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts.

The Argos are coming off an inconsistent regular season which saw Ricky Ray and the offence come together in stellar fashion as the club made a push towards the historical 100th Grey Cup Championship in their own town.

Related: Argos Off-Season

» Argos extend Eppele through 2014
» Watt re-ups with Argonauts
» Boatmen release QB Jarious Jackson
» Busy off-season for Argos GM Barker
» Jones opts to stay in Double Blue
» Argos release Armond Armstead

» Boatmen release Boulay; sign two
» Kuale let loose by Argonauts
» Veteran K Prefontaine cut by Boatmen

General Manager Jim Barker has made it clear over the last few off-seasons that he does not use building or sustaining a club through free agency as an overwhelming philosophy.  Historically not an active player in the free agent pool, Barker may be looking to make some depth moves and fill the gaps left by the departures of veterans such as DB Etienne Boulay, DE Ronald Flemons and Ejiro Kuale.

Barker may also be on the market for a new interior lineman after granting all-star Armond Armstead his release to pursue an opportunity with the New England Patriots.

The work done so far:

The Argonauts’ general manager has made mention in past seasons that he often makes offers to most if not all pending free agents but has been relatively quiet so far, coming to terms with two Canadians – OL Joe Eppele and WR Spencer Watt.

Editors Note: The Argonauts added wide receiver Romby Bryant to their roster on February 12.

Potential departures:

There is no doubt who the biggest name on the Argonauts’ potential free agent list is.  Last year’s Grey Cup MVP RB Chad Kackert currently sits without a new deal.  That said, the delay on a new contract could be due to a recent tryout with the New York Jets.  Also consider that coming off the second half of last season, Kackert is due for a significant raise and may want to test the waters to see if he can maximize the opportunity.

Another key contributor in the Grey Cup was the game’s Most Valuable Canadian Ricky Foley.  Despite strong play in the playoffs, Foley’s role as a pure pass rusher was somewhat diminished in Chris Jones’ defence and re-signing with the Boatmen may not be a lock.  That said, he is a ratio buster along the defensive line and youngsters David Lee and Zander Robinson would have had to significantly impress Jones in order for the Argos to confidently supplant Foley.

Impacting the ratio

Would Shomari Williams be a good fit in Double Blue? He may if the Boatmen can’t re-sign Ricky Foley.

Many would argue that Jones’ defence won the Grey Cup for Toronto in 2012’s final game and a quiet but integral part of that was defensive back Evan McCollough.  The athletic defender has been a solid shutdown DB for the Argos since joining in 2010 and could be looking to make a move.  His former secondary coach Orlondo Steinauer is now the Defensive Coordinator in Hamilton and with the Ticats in desperate need of playmakers on that side of the ball, a move down the QEW may be an enticing one if he can’t re-up in Toronto.

Other notables: WR Maurice Mann, LB Tristan Black.

Who may be on the radar?:

As mentioned, Barker has rarely been the GM to steal the spotlight at free agency but the Boatmen could entertain looking at RB Brandon Whitaker (if available) should Kackert not re-sign.  The likelihood of both premier running backs being freed by their club’s is slim but a possibility nonetheless.

Saskatchewan Roughriders lineman Shomari Williams could be a good fit should he not re-sign in Regina.  He is a versatile linebacker/defensive lineman that is younger and likely cheaper than Foley and could help offset the ratio problems that would occur if #95 left.