Argos leaving door open for James Wilder Jr. to have change of heart

The Toronto Argonauts are leaving the door open for running back James Wilder Jr. to have a change of heart.

On Wednesday, Wilder announced he was skipping the upcoming season after Toronto refused to re-negotiate his present contract or release him outright to pursue NFL opportunities. The Argos responded Thursday by stating they have not spoken to Wilder Jr. nor his agent about extending or restructuring his deal.

Wilder Jr., 25, said he earned $56,000 with Toronto last year. He remains under contract with the Argos through 2018 but wouldn’t play to safeguard against a potential “career-ending injury.”

“As per league rules, all players entering the CFL must sign a minimum two-year contract,” the Argos said in a statement. “James Wilder Jr. is currently entering the second year of that entry contract.

“League rules also state that teams, whether in the CFL or NFL, are prohibited from contacting any player currently under contract. We certainly hope he changes his stance and would welcome his return.”

The six-foot-three, 232-pound Wilder Jr. enjoyed a stellar first season with Toronto. After starting the year playing primarily special teams, Wilder Jr. became the Argos’ starting running back and in 10 starts ran for 872 yards (7.2-yard average) and five TDs while adding 51 catches for 533 yards.

That earned Wilder Jr. the CFL’s top rookie award. He capped his season by helping Toronto beat Calgary 27-24 in the Grey Cup game at TD Place in Ottawa.

After helping the Seminoles win an American college football title, Wilder Jr. entered the ’14 NFL draft as a junior but was bypassed. He spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals (2014-15) and Buffalo Bills (2016) before signing with Toronto.

Wilder Jr.’s father, James, was a former NFL running back with Tampa Bay (1981-89), Washington (1990) and Detroit (1990). He remains the Buccaneers all-time rushing leader (5,957 yards).