October 9, 2019

Argos’ pivots worth watching on deadline day

Geoff Robins/CFL.ca

TORONTO — The day after introducing Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons as general manager, the focus shifts to the practice field for the Toronto Argonauts.

All five quarterbacks took in practice at Lamport Stadium on the old Varsity grounds in Toronto, though some face an uncertain future ahead of Wednesday’s 5 p.m. trade deadline.

According to TSN’s Matthew Scianitti, the Argos’ pivots have attracted some attention from other teams around the league, including Hamilton and Winnipeg.

On Wednesday, McLeod Bethel-Thompson took first-team reps while James Franklin, Michael O’Connor and Dakota Prukop were also in pads. Zach Collaros, who was acquired by the Argos earlier this season, was in a hoodie.

» Argos name Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons general manager
» Murphy on Argo Job: ‘I said yes immediately’
» O’Leary: Clemons brings spark to Argos’ front office
» Weekly Say: Who is the No. 1 trade target?


As the only team officially eliminated from post-season contention, it’s no surprise the Argos are at the centre of any trade discussion. John Murphy, who was hired on Wednesday as the VP of football operations — Pinball’s No. 1 personnel guy — has gone on the record in saying his lines are open.

In the nation’s capital, the REDBLACKS are on the brink of playoff elimination themselves. However, General Manager Marcel Desjardins has told the Ottawa Sun’s Tim Baines that the chances of a trade are ‘pretty remote’.

“I’m not shopping anybody,” Desjardins told Baines. “The question is, are the calls going to come in? I got a text, but there’s nothing imminent. It’s not like we have a ton of surplus with all the guys we have hurt.”

While the Argos have struggled to a 2-12 season, some assets could be of interest to teams around the three-down game, especially those in contention for a Grey Cup.

Collaros has been linked to the Bombers by multiple reports. According to Scianitti, Collaros and Jim Popp had agreed in principle to a one-year extension through 2020 before Popp was dismissed on Tuesday.

Bethel-Thompson has tied for the league lead with 20 touchdown passes, improving substantially in his second CFL season with an efficiency rating of 95.5 — fifth among active starters.

Franklin, once considered by many to be the CFL’s top up-and-coming quarterback prospect, has struggled throughout his second season with the Argos.

Other names whispered throughout the media this week are Derel Walker and James Wilder Jr., both believed to be on expiring contracts. Walker has been one of the CFL’s most productive receivers over the last five seasons, while Wilder was already involved in trade rumours earlier in the season.

Zach Collaros is pictured after first being traded to the Argos in the summer (Argonauts.ca)

Realistically, a quarterback trade makes sense for the Argos and other teams in the CFL. But who are the suitors?

The Ticats could be in search of a backup for Dane Evans, who’s thrived since taking over for the injured Jeremiah Masoli.

The Blue Bombers have a championship calibre roster, but have lost four of their last six since Matt Nichols suffered a season-ending injury.

And in Edmonton, the Eskimos are still trying to book their playoff ticket after losing Trevor Harris, who remains sidelined indefinitely.

Sometimes the CFL trade deadline has come and gone with little to talk about. Other times, contenders have found ways to bolster their roster for a competitive edge in November.

Last year, Canadian linebacker Chris Ackie was traded from Montreal to Ottawa, while the Riders acquired Philip Blake and Patrick Lavoie in exchange for Josh Stanford and a second round draft pick.

Until Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, the waiting game continues.