Ex Argos GM Barker: ‘I understand where James Wilder is coming from’

The long-time CFL executive Jim Barker has plenty of experience in dealing with CFL players who attract NFL interest.

For example, after the Argos won the Grey Cup in 2012, Barker released Armond Armstead to sign with the New England Patriots, just one of a number of examples from his time as the team’s general manager from 2011 until Jan. 2017.

“You make a deal with a player, come in, play – I’ve done that numerous times with a player and say ‘listen if you have an opportunity to go we’ll let you go.’ And you do that, but if you don’t have that kind of deal and then you let a guy go it you’re going to have a line-up of players and it creates a lot of problems,” Barker told Jock Wilson on 770 CHQR in Calgary.

The issue came up after James Wilder Jr. announced he would sit out the 2018 season if the Argos didn’t let him explore NFL opportunities.

“I understand where James Wilder is coming from also in that he’s talking about playing in 18 plus two pre-season plus the playoffs, it can turn into a 22 game season which the risk of injury is so high for basically $45,000 U.S.,” Barker said.

“The whole James Wilder thing is shedding light on the whole option year that first-year players have to sign to get in there. I don’t think he’s approached it negatively. If I was a GM I would probably try to make sure it was taken care of privately. But the bottom line is he signed a contract and if you go and renegotiate one guy you’re going to have a line-up of players who want to renegotiate their deal. That’s something that at the CBA level has to happen, whether they’re going to care about the first-year guys. The way it’s always been, the players union is concerned with guys who are veterans and not rookies.”

The current collective bargaining agreement runs out May 15, 2019.

“The Canadian Football League is going through a CBA here in the next year and they’re going to have to take a real look, especially with the way James Wilder has approached what he’s doing with the whole one-year plus an option,” Barker said.

“I think the league is going to become a one-year contract league. And I don’t think that’s created an environment where there’s a ton of moving around of free agents. People understand what free agency is and for the most part teams try to sign the players that are the best players and those players that think they can go get more usually don’t and end up back where they were. Being a one-year contract league is not necessarily a bad thing.”