February 14, 2011


ARGONAUTS.CA STAFF                         

TORONTO – It is difficult to deny how much change has occurred over the last year and half in Argoland, and fans may soon find that even Toronto’s approach to free agency has seen a shift in philosophy.

The Double Blue, who have been rather active players in the free agent market in recent years, may be a little quieter come this year’s February 16 window.

Argos General Manager & Head Coach Jim Barker has eluded to the fact that he is not the biggest advocate of building a team primarily through free agency. He states that the focus turns more to retaining the expiring contracts of those who wore Double Blue last season.

“We have a plan and we are going to carry that out,” he said last week. “Obviously, I am not going to tip my hand as to what we are looking at but people know how I like to build a team.  I’m just not a huge believer in free agency.”

The true intentions of any G.M. in the CFL aren’t known until the clock strikes 12:01 a.m. on February 16.  What is known is that the Argos still have their own players that could hit the open market before Wednesday and argonauts.ca takes a look at who is left and who may become available.

From the Inside Out

After seeing seven free agents walk last season, Barker and his staff have been very proactive in securing their own potential free agents, inking eight of their ten free agents to date, including team captains SB Jeremaine Copeland and RB Bryan Crawford as well as All-Star DT Kevin Huntley.

In an interview with argonauts.ca two weeks ago, Director of Player Personnel, Mike Hagen said that progress has been made on locking up all of their potential free agents but until pen is on paper, nothing can be guaranteed.

“We would like to get them all,” he said.  “We know that is hard to do because you have a salary cap to work under, so you really need to know the value of each player and where he fits in.  There aren’t any of them that we don’t want to sign and I have told them that, so we are working on getting them done.”

A complete list of Argos free agents and recent transactions can be found below:

2011 Potential Free Agents
DT Adriano Belli
OT Shannon Boatman
SB Jeremaine Copeland
RB Bryan Crawford
DE Ronald Flemons
DT Kevin Huntley
OG Jeff Keeping
WR/LS Chad Rempel
DB Lin-J Shell
DT Eric Taylor
Signed with B.C.

Somewhat Slim Pickins’:

The free agent class of 2011 is not nearly as deep as the one previous and big names are not nearly as frequent on this list. That said, there are a few ‘big splash’ free agents that the Boatmen could go after should they choose to follow the process that saw them sign the likes of Rob Murphy, Adriano Belli and Byron Parker in years past.

Romby Bryant

Romby Bryant: A solid receiver when he was in Winnipeg, Byrant really rounded in to form late last season as a member of the Calgary Stampeders.  Perhaps not the go-to threat that the Argos may need but a reliable pass catcher who could take some of the heat off Jeremaine Copeland in an inexperienced receiving corps.
Editor’s Note: Bryant signed with Calgary on February 15

Kelly Campbell
Another receiver with a very good track record, Kelly Campbell was a key member of the Edmonton Eskimos’ offence last season but consecutive games with dropped passes may have led many to question the hands on an otherwise very talented receiver.

Dwight Anderson

He would probably come with a steep price tag, especially after the season he had last year where he had a career-high five interceptions, two of which were taken back for touchdowns.  A lot of the Argos’ willingness go after Anderson or any other free agent cornerback will depend on how confident they are that last year’s starter, Willie Middlebrooks, can bounce back from a potential career-threatening injury.  Youth may prevail over experience, however, with CB Sean Smalls impressing in the playoffs last season for the Boatmen.
Editor’s Note: Bryant signed with Montreal on February 16

Adding Depth:

If the Argos do go the conservative route this time around, there are a few potential candidates potentially hitting the open market that may be able to add both depth and competition at certain positions:

Ramon Guzman

A relative unknown when he joined the Montreal Alouettes in 2009, Guzman has been a solid addition to the Als’ linebacking corps but may be looking for an increased role after rotating in certain packages with fellow linebacker Diamond Ferri.
Editor’s Note: Bryant signed with Calgary on February 17
Jarious Jackson
One of the few potentially available quarterbacks, Jackson could add experience to a group of pivots that are all in the very early stages of their CFL careers.  He brings with him a very strong arm and decent mobility but has yet to snag the starting role in B.C. despite numerous chances.

Kelly Bates

Released by Edmonton last Thursday, Bates is a veteran offensive lineman who could add leadership late in his career.  The 37-year-old Humboldt, Saskatchewan native could be an additional Canadian body along the line if the Argos fail to re-sign Jeff Keeping, but could also be considered a long shot considering Barker’s willingness to build non-import talent through the draft.

**The ideas and thoughts in the preceding text in no way reflect the thoughts, ideas or opinions of the Toronto Argonauts’ football operations staff.**