January 31, 2024

Hogan: the Linebackers Are Back

CALGARY, AB - August 4, 2023: Toronto Argonauts vs Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium on Friday night.(Chris Lindsey / Toronto Argonauts)

They’re talented, have the knack for making big plays, and are both back with the Toronto Argonauts for the 2024 season.

Linebackers Wynton McManis and Jonathan Jones were pending free agents, but both re-upped with the Double Blue this week. With the trade of Jordan Williams to Hamilton, the two will man the weakside and middle linebacker positions.

It’s almost like it was meant to be.

They are both exceptionally important re-signings by the Argos. McManis told Argonauts.ca it took a while for the two sides to come to terms, but he’s thrilled they eventually got there.

“It took a little time, it took a little work, but we got it done. I feel like we’re on the same page.”

McManis says he still has a bad taste in his mouth from the way the 2023 season concluded with a heartbreaking loss to Montreal in the Eastern Final. He wanted to remain an Argo and the organization certainly valued both his play and his leadership. When the two sides were able to agree to financial terms, he signed the deal.

But to McManis, who was voted a CFL All-Star for the second consecutive season, it was about far more than just the money.

“I hate to use the word comfortability, but I don’t really know another way to put it, it feels like home. It’s a real family environment, the organization is very family oriented. That’s very important at this point in my career, it’s about more than just the money, it had to be a good fit all around.”

Jones feels the same way.

“I thought about it, also prayed about it,” the native of Ocoee, Florida told Argonauts.ca. “With me winning a championship here and then having the year we did last year; it feels like I’ve really built some things in Toronto already. When they came with the contract it seemed like they felt the same, it just made sense to go ahead and lock in so I didn’t have to have it (free agency) on my mind all the time and I can focus in on training and the things I want to do in the season.”

He also loves playing in The 6ix.

“I haven’t played anywhere else,” said Jones, “but I feel like Toronto is, out of all the teams you’d want to play for, Toronto is the team you want to play for. Already been here, already seen the city, what seen it can offer, I’d say location was another part of the ranking.”

The similarities between the linebackers are striking. The two athletes can play either position at an exceptionally high level, they attack the sport with the same brutal ferocity, both opted to stay in Toronto this off-season, both are about to enter their third season in Double Blue, and when McManis was injured, Jones filled in for him; including in the 2022 Grey Cup game where he led the team with five tackles.

“I’m so happy that he stayed,” said Jones of McManis. “Since I’ve been here, he’s played a huge role in my development. He’s been a guy I can talk to on a regular basis, a person I can relate to. He’s done it all, so in a way I’ve always been able to model not only his playing, but his character. I definitely look forward to playing next to him and I think both of us are going to elevate our games.

As one would expect, the two have formed their own mutual admiration society.

“JJ is a great player,” said McManus of Jones. “He brings that edge. He’s a fiery guy; great mind, great upside, great player. He learned the game up here pretty fast. He’s able to mould his game around that. You just see him make plays at any opportunity he gets.”

Your humble typist has taken to calling Jones “Playmaker” during radio broadcasts (or whenever talking to him) because of his knack for making big plays at key times. He was third on the Argos last year with seven sacks and was fourth with 73 defensive plays made.

With a new contract in hand, he wants to improve on the already impressive numbers he posted last season.

“It’s very important to me. I’m a person that likes to earn what’s given to them. The fact they’ve put trust in me, and the fact that they put the money up set a precedent and I don’t take stuff like that lightly. So, me going out to perform is something I intend to do and something I’m confident I am going to do.”

While fans and media members will judge the signings and their importance to the defence, Jones summed up his thoughts on the two deals succinctly.

“I think Toronto got a steal with both of us.”