Toronto Argonauts vice president of player personnel John Murphy is selling the benefits of playing in Canada’s largest city.
“There are a lot of guys around the league who know you can’t sit court side at a Raptors game if you’re in any other city in the CFL. You don’t have the off field opportunities that you have here, TSN is right here in our backyard — the opportunities are endless if this is where you want to be,” Murphy said on The Rod Pedersen Show.
That pitch played a role in the Argos free agent overhaul as the boatmen signed more than 15 new players to their roster. Canadian offensive lineman Jamal Campbell stayed in his home city while fellow offensive lineman Philip Blake, receiver Juwan Brescacin and defensive lineman Fabion Foote returned to The Six after growing up in and around Toronto.
“Having that open window was quite exciting and very unique. Something the CFL tried and it definitely got like hot stove CFL. It was an exciting 24-48 hours for all of the teams in the league to see so much movement,” Murphy said.
“Anytime you can consistently have the CFL in the news for an entire week while the Raptors are on a 15-game winning streak and the Leafs are in the middle of their season, for any CFL talk to be going on in the city of Toronto makes it a good thing.”
The Argos put the full court press on then-free agent Willie Jefferson. Jefferson, wife Holly and daughter Kelley B. stayed at Hotel X, the upscale Lakefront hotel. And the Jefferson’s watched the reigning NBA champion Raptors beat the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, February 8.
“At the end of the day, if his choice and decision was to go for back-to-back Grey Cups with his teammates and that he would prefer to raise his family not in a big city atmosphere, No. 1 we respect it and No. 2 we wouldn’t have changed anything we did in order to bring him here or recruit him here,” Murphy said.
MLSE wants stars on the field and Jefferson could have provided the Argos the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player with an NFL background. That’s why the Argos are willing to pay the freakishly athletic defensive lineman up to $300,000.
“Never was it to make him the highest paid player in the league. It was more shared as you tell me what it would take for you to feel comfortable coming here. For this to be where you want to be to make this your home,” Murphy said.
“Also, at the same exact time when they were here, half of the time that Willie and his family were here was spent not engaging them and allowing them the time to just be here, look around the city for themselves. See that if you live in downtown Toronto it’s also 15 or 20 minutes from living in the suburbs as much as there is stuff to do downtown.”
Even though Jefferson decided to come on down to Winnipeg in order to run it back with the Bombers, a number of star calibre players signed deals with the double blue.