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.