Derel Walker remains on the CFL free agent due largely to the salary cap squeeze.
The base minimum money jumped $11,000 from $54,000 to $65,000 in the collective bargaining agreement. It raised the floor with the ceiling moving up just $50,000 which has created a jam for teams managing their financials.
Walker signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Argonauts for the 2019 season which was worth $280,000 — the highest paid non-quarterback in the league. The 28-year-old made 65 catches for 1,040 yards — 16 yards per reception — and six touchdowns during his first year as an Argo in 15 games. He was named an East Division all-star for being a consistent go-to target for Toronto quarterbacks McLeod Bethel-Thompson and James Franklin.
The production was there for Walker last year, but the open market has changed. Former Toronto general manager Jim Popp was flush with cash after offering a boatload to Bo Levi Mitchell. Popp needed a sexy player for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to market. Walker did his part, recording 1,000-yard season number three, but the Argos were the second-worst team in the CFL finishing the season 4-14.
Double blue general manager Pinball Clemons loves the demeanour and ability of Walker, however, the Argos paid $200,000 each for DaVaris Daniels and ratio-breaking Canadian T.J. Jones to lead the receiving core along with national Juwan Brescacin. If Walker accepted $150,000 — that was his signing bonus last February — Toronto could be a match again.
Personnel men around the league believe B.C. is the favourite to get Walker’s signature on a contract due to the connection with quarterback Mike Reilly and offensive coordinator Jordan Maksymic. Although, nearly any deal Walker signs will come at a smaller number than his earnings a year ago — as much as $100,000 less — because of the cap crunch.
There is an outside chance an NFL team comes calling, Walker worked out for the Dallas Cowboys in January. But Walker’s CFL reality could be playing for a contender and keeping his value high for another large pay day in 2021.