Big CFL free agent spurns Argos for Riders, blames CEO

Offensive lineman Derek Dennis, one of the premier players available in free agency, says that a conversation with Argonauts CEO Michael Copeland was one of the reasons he chose the Saskatchewan Roughriders over the Toronto.

In a story by the Toronto Sun’s Scott Mitchell, Dennis says the Argonauts made a strong push for the 2016 CFL Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman with 27-year-old assistant general manager Spencer Zimmerman – who is leading the Toronto front office while Copeland searches for a replacement for the fired Jim Barker – leading the way. Dennis says he also spoke to Tommy Condell, the former Hamlton Tiger-Cats offensive coordinator who was brought in as an advisor when Barker was fired. From Mitchell’s story:

“Talking to Condell at first, I was feeling comfortable,” Dennis told said. “It was after I spoke to Copeland that I was like, you could tell, I mean, I don’t know, I just didn’t feel it.”

He heard about the marketing plan and the city and BMO Field.

He just didn’t hear enough about the football plan.

So instead Dennis signed with the Riders.

The Argonauts also reportedly missed out on defensive backs Abdul Kanneh and Emanuel Davis, who elected to sign with the Ticats over coming to Toronto.

In that same story, Zimmerman denied that a lack of clarity around Toronto’s front office and coaching was affecting the team’s ability to lure quality free agents but there’s little doubt that players prefer to know who they’ll be playing for and that the organization is headed in the right direction. As money tightens up and options narrow, Toronto will no doubt be able to land some players on the open market. But there’s also little question that by firing Barker in January and throwing his front office into disarray – head coach Scott Milanovich resigned shortly after – Copeland has put his team at a disadvantage at one of the most critical times of the off-season.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
Drew Edwards
Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1389 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

16 Comments on Big CFL free agent spurns Argos for Riders, blames CEO

  1. Barker should have been retained for one more year

  2. Looks good on the most dysfunctional franchise in the league. Couldn’t happen to a better group. Ticats rock!

  3. I don’t know about keeping Jim Barker. He was a train wreck the last couple years, and the re-signing of Drew Willy says he completely lost the plot and wouldn’t have gotten any better in 2017. However, the Argonauts blew this big time by not having a football guy at the top of the organization at all times.

    CFL contracts aren’t guaranteed, so GMs and coaches have no compunction against getting rid of a player who under-performs or just doesn’t fit. Free Agents have to weigh that information against the offers presented. They just can’t jump at who throws the most money at them, because they may very well never see the contract to completion.

    Every player in the CFL has tendencies as players and schemes they fit best into, and the players know these facts themselves. Without knowledge of who the coach is and what their concrete plans are for how the player is being utilized, nobody in their right mind would sign for the Argos.

    Michael Copeland needed to be decisive about his GM and Coach, and needed to announce his decisions by the Grey Cup. Instead, by dithering in November through January, the Argo’s are paying for it in February… and June… and July… and August…

    Then again, as a Tiger-Cats fan, I couldn’t care less.

    • Well-said Brockleigh! The decision to fire Barker should have been made at the end of November. They knew they weren’t happy with what had gone on and should have started their process of investigation MUCH sooner or completed it much faster. They put themselves at a decided disadvantage, as you mentioned, by dithering and not having at least a GM in place.

  4. Barker took a bullet for his coach, the Willy trade was clearly consumated because Milanovich was high on Willy. Barker also dumped Gurley, Hazleton, et al to help his coach try to regain the locker room. His past trades show that Barker would not have been making these deals simply on their own merits.

  5. Flying Wing // February 15, 2017 at 12:09 pm //

    Certainly not a fan but I’m a little worried whether the Argos will be able to field a team this year let alone a competitive team. With Willy, Ray and Mathews as your QBs you might as well set up tackling dummies in the backfield. Not a word about CFL free agency in the Globe and Mail this morning. Not good.

  6. Slim Pickens // February 15, 2017 at 12:58 pm //

    I am just so happy that Milanovich and Barker are gone, they should never have been hired in the first place. Milanovich came to Toronto on the coat tails of Marc Trestman , who in same fashion took over a great team with a great QB.

    Milanovich as Montreal OC never even called the plays. Milanovich was a average backup QB at best, he would not have cracked a CFL team in his playing career if he had come.

    Good ridance to both of them

  7. Paul Smith // February 15, 2017 at 1:30 pm //

    Derek Dennis didn’t hear enough about the “football plan” because their isn’t one.

    Good news for the East.

  8. Barker as good as he as been in this league make 2 huge QB blunders. Choosing Ricky Ray over Zack Collaros and Trevor Harris. Biggest thread for Ott Ham,Mtl playoff hopes is a Sask or Winn crossover

  9. oceanvista // February 15, 2017 at 8:07 pm //

    Copeland to prospective free agents: We have a natural grass field!

    Player: Yea, but who’s going to be my coach?

    Copeland: There’s tailgating!

    Player: Yea, but what is your organization’s vision? Where do you see me?

    Copeland: More Friday and Saturday games! Did I mention tailgate parties?

  10. I Guess Dennis chose the lesser of the 2 CFLs blackeyes

    • What an idiotic comment stampland, your jealousy is evident…..Huff is not without his faults he just lies better than the other GM’s and doesn’t get caught. Black Eyes???Riders and Argos won the same amount of cups last year as the Stumps…tired of the dishing of the Riders their fan base and franchise is nothing short of admirable….No I am not a rider fan just sick of the haters on here..Go Lions!!!!

      • I’m tired of the disrespect riders fans give stamp fans too.You might be a lions fan Heather but you clearly are also part of the riders hate stamps fan club too.Don’t try to pass yourself as some neutral
        fan to try to prove the riders point of view

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  12. Stupid Argos! They give us our QB1 via FA a few years back, and take our 3rd stringer this year!

  13. POOR SPIRIT MAY.Rather insulting to the Cats,and argos.

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