CFL fans are already buzzing about a new-look Toronto Argonauts team loaded with big name talent, but some around the league are wondering just when and where the executioner’s axe will fall to make it all work.
TSN insider Farhan Lalji joined Derek Taylor on The SportsCage in Regina Wednesday to talk about the Argos’ latest high profile additions and while he says rumours the Boatmen are exceeding the cap are overblown, it will be some deep cuts that stop that from happening.
“When I look at that receiving corps, I would be shocked if one of them didn’t get cut between now and the first game of the regular season,” Lalji said. “I look at the way they’ve signed defensive ends and all of those guys aren’t going to be there on opening day.”
In addition to holding on to many of their key pieces from the 2020, the Argos have amassed a slew of notable names in recent weeks. A once suspect defensive line now boasts star CFL veterans in Charleston Hughes, Cordarro Law and Odell Willis, along with NFL first round pick Shane Ray, third rounder Eli Harold and controversial internet meme Shawn Oakman.
The receiving corps is equally improved, with Eric Rogers brought over from Calgary and former Pittsburgh star Martavis Bryant in the fold, along with first round pick Kendall Wright. The backfield features new quarterback Nick Arbuckle and a trio of veteran NFL runners in Karlos Williams, Bishop Sankey and Kenneth Dixon.
Not all those players will be sporting the boat logo come the season opener, but the Argos don’t have to rush those decisions.
“You’ve got Hughes and Law, Shane Ray and other guys with NFL pedigree that probably don’t come at the minimum, though if you hear them tell it they all want to be part of the family,” Lalji said.
“I certainly think that guys are going to get cut at this point. I just don’t think that all of those guys are going to be there but you don’t have to be cap compliant until day one.”
While some fans and league insiders have speculated that the Argos may be in trouble with the salary cap, particularly in a year where the CFL had previously advised teams to spend only to the salary cap floor, general manager Pinball Clemons has insisted the team is not the league’s biggest spender.
Lalji agrees, telling listeners that the team has actually done a exceptional job in managing costs.
“They’ve done a good job of holding everyone at bay on the front-end signing bonuses. In the beginning, that was the story coming out of Toronto ‘we simply refuse to give out signing bonuses, they won’t let us up above,’” he explained.
A few chunks of guaranteed money did slip out the door however.
“They had to give one to Arbuckle when he came across from Ottawa and from that you saw Hughes, Rogers and now Cam Judge get signing bonuses,” Lalji says.
Judge, the ratio-changing Canadian linebacker signed by the Argos on Wednesday, is one player you can guarantee will be with the team in 2021. The reigning West Division Most Outstanding Canadian departed from Saskatchewan and got big money to take his talents to Toronto.
“It’s $137,000 in hard money, which make him the highest paid linebacker in the league,” Lalji reported. “He got a $45,000 dollar signing bonus and fairly makeable incentives. It’s a lot of playtime so, barring injury, if he plays most of the year he’ll be in the $155,000 range.”
That’s a hefty chunk of change but it won’t be enough to put the team in salary cap jeopardy. Just don’t expect every other tantalizing acquisition to stick around.
“Overall, they’ve done a pretty good job keeping that number down, but in terms of their overall salary there is going to be some guys that get released when all is said and done.”