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(THIS ARTICLE IN NO WAY REFLECTS THE OPINIONS OF THE TORONTO ARGONAUTS FOOTBALL OPERATIONS AND GM JIM BARKER)
TORONTO – As the February 15th free agency deadline nears, it is time to start looking at what remains from the Argonauts free agent group.
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.
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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. In case you missed it, Armstead sent a message to all Argos fans.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Veteran WR Maurice Mann still also remains unsigned. Though the Argos have already brought in some youngsters such as Adrian Awasom and Auburn standout Darvin Adams, Mann played some good football for the Boatmen down the stretch in 2012. With Ken-Yon Rambo already released, it remains to be seen if the Argos will bring back Mann or go with another alternative.
Other notables: LB Tristan Black.