Release of Carter, Stafford expose flaw in CFL roster rules

Duron Carter and Kenny Stafford are no longer members of the Montreal Alouettes.

And they probably won’t be members of any other team, at least not in 2016.

Both players were released by the Als on Monday, but because neither player is a four-year veteran — Stafford is just seven games shy of the threshold while Carter has played just three seasons in the CFL — their contracts were not guaranteed. Players with four years of experience have their contracts guaranteed after 11 games, players with five years experience get the same guarantee after 10 games and players with six or more years of experience get their contracts fully guaranteed after nine games. Recall Keon Raymond’s release earlier this year by the Argonauts. The Argos let Raymond, a nine-year vet, go after their eighth game to avoid fully guaranteeing his contract for the remainder of the season. Raymond signed with the Ticats last week.

But here is what some, including yours truly, did not know: Stafford and Carter cannot play for any other team because they were released after the trade deadline, which was last Wednesday. So because neither player has reached fourth-year status they are no longer being paid by the Als, but they also cannot play for another team meaning no team is likely to sign them. Your essentially prohibiting both these players, who would surely have suitors in teams looking to make a Grey Cup run from making a living.

That’s not right.

And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here is what Als receiver Nik Lewis had to say about this on Twitter not long after the news dropped:

Lewis is right. How is that reasonable? It’s not and it should change, and there are two options: fully guarantee the contracts of all players regardless of years of service after a certain number of games or allow players released after the trade deadline to sign with other teams and actually play for them.

The first idea a noble one, but ultimately it can’t happen. While it’s unusual for CFLers the calibre of Carter and Stafford to be released at this late date, players get released late in the season on a regular basis. There is also the issue of adding guys from the practice roster because of injury: if contracts were guaranteed after Week 14, every player added to the active roster after that date would be paid through the end of the season – even if he played only one game. It doesn’t make sense. Fully guaranteeing everyone’s contract who is on an active roster after the trade deadline would create cap chaos. You simply cannot do it.

Therefore, the solution is the second option: allowing players to sign with another team.

The argument for not allowing a player to play for a new team after being released post-trade deadline is that it stops under the table trades from occurring. This is not the 1970s or 1980s where teams like the Eskimos could bully other teams to do what they wanted because they had all the power and money. The rule is an anachronism from a time when shady deals happened, but in a post-cap world, how many of these types of deals have we seen? The Als didn’t release Carter or Stafford as a wink-wink, nudge-nudge for a trade they made earlier this year; they released these two because they didn’t want them on the team any longer. So if they don’t want them, why should another team that does be prohibited from signing them and having them actually suit up for them during the season? They shouldn’t. Both Carter and Stafford should be allowed to ply their trade elsewhere this season.

It just seems wrong that teams can release a player, not pay him and still prevent him from signing with another team. In no other industry would this fly, but yet in the CFL it does. Insane.

The CFL needs to decide what it wants to do. Either players get paid in full if they are released after the trade deadline and they aren’t allowed to play elsewhere or they are not paid and free to sign with, and suit up for, another CFL team.

It is one or the other, and for too long the CFL has been allowed to have it both ways. That needs to change, and change soon.

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