Argos violated $5.25 million CFL salary cap in 2019

The Toronto Argonauts violated the salary cap in 2019, per sources.

The Boatmen went over the $5.25 million allotment for player salaries with general manager Jim Popp being replaced late in the season by Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons. It was a campaign the club would rather forget on the field, managing just four wins — three of which came against Ottawa (3-15).

Quarterback James Franklin was the Argos’ highest-paid player, earning over $350,000. Superstar receiver Derel Walker earned $280,000, which made him the league’s top compensated non-quarterback of 2019. Other big-ticket salaries were paid to slotback S.J. Green, defensive tackle Cleyon Laing, and offensive linemen Sean McEwen, Ryan Bomben, and Tyler Holmes.

It’s worth noting, Popp presented a monster offer for quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell during free agency in February 2019. The starting salary was in the $750,000 range and stepped up over the years with the the potential to reach nearly $900,000. However, Mitchell decided to stay in Calgary and keep playing for the Stampeders.

Popp was hired by the Argos in February 2017 and Toronto won the Grey Cup that November. The 55-year-old signed a three-year contract, which ran out at the end of the 2019 season and paid him $600,000 annually. Since capturing a CFL championship in year one of his tenure, Popp’s Argos went 6-26 prior to his firing in October last year.

It’s the second time in Popp’s long, illustrious football career that his team breached the salary cap. Back in 2007, his Montreal Alouettes went more than $108,285 over the $4.05 million amount. The Als were fined dollar-for-dollar for the first $100,000 and double that for the final $8,285, bringing the total to $116,570. The club also forfeited its first-round draft pick.

Normally the league announces the fine in April of the following year, however Randy Ambrosie decided there won’t be any discipline due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although opposing teams were upset with the decision, Ambrosie wants to ensure the competitive balance of the league remains intact.

Statement from the league office:

The league made the decision not to impose penalties to any team that may be over the salary cap in light of the pandemic and the financial crisis it has created for clubs.

The last team to go over the salary cap was the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2014. The Ticats spent $8,939 over the $5 million cap and were fined the same amount.

Teams must provide updates on salary cap at the six, 12 and 18-game mark of the season. The CFL introduced the salary cap management system in 2007 to help ensure league-wide competitive balance.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.