What the Argos are offering James Wilder Jr.

The Toronto Argonauts are reportedly offering running back James Wilder Jr. a contract extension that would make him “one of the highest paid running backs” in the CFL.

That phrasing seems ambiguous, so we’ll do the work.

Canadian Andrew Harris is set to make just under $200,000 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2018, making him the highest paid ball-carrier in the CFL. Given his status as a ratio-breaker and his consistently excellent production, that makes sense. Alouettes running back Tyrell Sutton checks in at $120,000, Jerome Messam $110,000 and C.J. Gable just under $100,000.

Let’s have a look at how Wilder Jr’s numbers compare.

2017 stats Yds per carry Yds per touch 20+ yd runs 100 yd games
Wilder 7.1 8.1 9 4
Gable 5.7 6.0 2 3
Harris 5.5 6.4 5 2
Sutton 5.5 5.9 6 2
Messam 4.7 4.8 4 2

Wilder’s new contract offer from the Argos is around $100,000 but it does not include a signing bonus. By comparison, Harris is due $60,000 in off-season money, Sutton received a $36,000 signing bonus while a number of the others have a roster payment or got upfront money when they signed their new deals including Gable ($30,000) Messam ($20,000) Jeremiah Johnson ($18,000) and William Powell ($15,000.) That signing bonus is beneficial for American players because it is taxed at a lower rate, which is why Gable took a larger payment upon signing than hard money elsewhere.

2017 stats Rush yds Rec yds TDs Starts
A. Harris 1,035 857 7 18
W. Powell 1,026 242 6 12
J. Messam 1,016 183 9 17
J. Johnson 913 542 12 17
J. Wilder Jr. 872 533 5 10
T. Sutton 843 312 6 14
C.J. Gable 833 285 8 13
A. Green 447 47 5 6
T. Williams 187 88 3 1

Most players coming into their second CFL contracts with production like Wilder Jr. – especially ones coming off an award-winning season – would expect both a pay raise and a signing bonus. Wilder is due to make just over $60,000, plus possible playtime incentives, on the second and final year of his entry-level deal. Toronto’s offer adds another year, putting Wilder Jr. under contract with Toronto through the 2019 season. Meaning Wilder Jr. would be 28 by the time he’d be free to try the NFL again.

The offer from Toronto would put him mid-pack among starting backs in the CFL after Harris, Sutton and Messam. Stefan Logan ($145,000) and Chris Rainey ($132,000) are listed as running backs but it’s their return skills that they’re primarily compensated for.

The Argos have offered Wilder Jr. a deal that would put him among the highest paid American running backs in the CFL but it’s nowhere near Andrew Harris money. If agreed upon the contract would provide him with more salary but it doesn’t include a signing bonus and requires him to forego a shot at the NFL for another year.

It’s worth mentioning that the Argos don’t have to offer an extension at all and could sit back and see if Wilder Jr. does indeed sit out the 2018 season as he’s stated. From that sense, it does seem like a good-faith move by the Argos. Either way, the team probably wants a final decision in the near future to know how to proceed at the running back position.

The other well-paid running backs were pending free agents or hit the open market when they signed their deals – something Wilder Jr. is not. However, any player signing an extension going into the last year of their deal would get upfront money, even backend roster players: that’s part of the incentive to ink a longer pact.

There is a lot to consider if you’re Wilder Jr. but at least the choices and the numbers are crystal clear and ambiguity-free.