Argos GM Jim Popp confident about Ricky Ray return

Toronto Argonauts general manager Jim Popp is confident his star quarterback will be back next season. But he’s going to let Ricky Ray enjoy Sunday’s Grey Cup victory before discussing the future.

Ray earned a record fourth Grey Cup title as a starter Sunday night with Toronto’s 27-24 upset of the Calgary Stampeders at TD Place Stadium. With Ray, 38, scheduled to become a free agent in February, there is speculation the 15-year veteran could follow Henry Burris’s lead and opt to finish his illustrious CFL career on top.

Burris, 42, retired shortly after leading upstart Ottawa to a stunning 39-33 overtime Grey Cup win over Calgary at last season. Moments after Sunday’s dramatic win, Popp said Ray needs to take time to savour his accomplishment, but added he believes Ray will be return in 2018.

“I know he’s coming back, I mean he’s had too good a year,” a jubilant Popp said following his fifth career Cup win. “He needs to take a step back, enjoy himself with his family, take a month off.

“Every person at that stage of his career needs to do that. We’ll talk someday.”

Just not now.

“We’re going to celebrate, I hope, for two weeks,” Popp said. “Then we’ll start talking about other stuff.

“For now, we’re going to party for two weeks. We’re coming back to Toronto to party.”

The team will celebrate its victory at a city hall rally Tuesday afternoon.

Following Sunday’s win, Ray was predictably much more intent on savouring the Grey Cup victory with teammates than discussing his football future.

“Man, I don’t know,” Ray said. “This one just feels so good right now, we’ll see what happens.

“I love the guys on this team.”

Ray finished 19-of-32 passing for 297 yards with a TD, which came on a record-breaking 100-yard, first-half completion to DeVier Posey. That earned Posey, who finished with seven receptions for 175 yards, MVP honours.

Ray enjoyed a resurgent 2017 campaign, his first under Argos head coach Marc Trestman.

Ray entered the season with a reputation for being injury prone after he appeared in just 12 games over the previous two years due to an assortment of ailments. But that didn’t bother Trestman, who named Ray his starter the day he officially took the coaching helm.

Ray rewarded Trestman’s faith by registering his first 5,000-yard passing season since ’08 and the fourth of his career. That earned Ray the East Division’s outstanding player nomination, finishing second to eventual winner Mike Reilly of the Edmonton Eskimos, the league’s passing leader.

“I think he could play two, three more years,” veteran Argos receiver S.J. Green said Sunday. “Four, five, whatever he wants to do.

“It’s just a matter of what’s going on in his head. I’d love to have Ricky here again, this has been a magical season.”

A record-setting Grey Cup win further solidifies Ray as one of the best quarterbacks in CFL history. This season, he became just the fourth quarterback to surpass 60,000 career passing yards, with the previous three _ Anthony Calvillo, Damon Allen and Burris – all members of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

“Ricky Ray is a Hall of Famer even without this Grey Cup,” said defensive back Cassius Vaughn. “Ricky Ray, he’s a staple.

“I’d take him any day of the week. He’s the best quarterback in the league, he’s the only champion in the league right now.”

Sunday’s win was also important for a Toronto franchise still looking to secure a spot in the city’s sports market. But after averaging roughly 14,000 fans during the regular season at BMO Field, the Argos attracted 24,929 spectators _ their most ever at the venue _ for their come-from-behind 25-21 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the East Division final.

“They’re coming, it’s been coming all year,” Popp said. “We have an unbelievable fan base, it’s just showing them.”