Ricky Ray Derby on

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

The "Ricky Ray Derby" is officially under way.

Three CFL teams have made a pitch for the former Edmonton Eskimos quarterback, while two others have expressed an interest in the 25-year-old.

Ray's agent Ken Staninger would not confirm Edmonton, Toronto and Hamilton as the trio of teams to table contract offers. Staninger declined to finger Winnipeg and Saskatchewan as the tire kickers.

"I'm talking to teams and teams are kind of inching along," said Staninger late yesterday. "We've not come to any agreement with anybody. I'm a little bit surprised that it's moving as slow as it is."

Two of the teams are interested in long-term deals, while the third would favour a shorter-term contract. The Esks are a solid bet to be one of the teams looking at a four- or five-year deal.

Edmonton president and CEO, Hugh Campbell, tried unsuccessfully to lock Ray up long-term before the start of the 2003 season--the year in which the six-foot-three, 210-pound pivot led the Esks to a Grey Cup title.

Word is Hamilton's brass would also like to have the former Frito Lay snack salesman under wraps for a minimum of four years.

Despite ongoing talks with CFL teams, Staninger hasn't yet thrown in the towel on landing his client work with an NFL club.

"I would have to say at this point we're giving serious consideration to the Canadian league," Staninger said. "I've talked to NFL teams. In fact, I've had a number of conversations.

"The reason we requested to get out of the deal (with the New York Jets) is so Rick could play again. We're not getting anxious. Nor do we want to be sitting here the Fourth of July lighting firecrackers.

"That's the reason he wanted out. If he was just going to sit and be a camp guy, he would have stayed in New York."

After Ray led the Esks to their first Grey Cup in a decade, Staninger negotiated a multimillion dollar deal with the New York Jets that included a $185,000 signing bonus.

Clearly any deal Staninger hammers out north of the border will be akin to those he's negotiated for his other CFL clients, Henry Burris and Dave Dickenson.

The agent says the complexity of those pacts is what's slowing the negotiation process.

"There's an awful lot to talk about," Staninger said.

"You don't put those deals together with a phone call. There's a lot of things to consider. He had great success when he was there.

"Some could argue he didn't make it in the NFL. I guess I'd argue differently because he was on (New York's) active roster for an accrued season."

Ray cleared NFL waivers on Tuesday.

After triggering a media feeding frenzy when their interest in Doug Flutie became public, Hamilton is tight-lipped about Ray.

"When we tried to do the Doug Flutie thing, it got to be a joke dealing with the media," said Tiger-Cats' general manager Ron Lancaster yesterday.

"We were getting calls from all over the country every day, every day. We decided this time we're not going to talk about anything in the media. We're just going to do our business."

One media report yesterday tabbed the Tabbies as favourites to land Ray.

Lancaster was unaware Hamilton had been handicapped to win the Ray derby. Moreover, Lancaster was surprised at the No. 1-ranking.

Particularly since neither Lancaster or Ticats head coach Greg Marshall suggested that was the case in their dealings with the media.

"That's the only thing people are calling us about," Lancaster said. "We're kind of playing it close to the vest as far as Greg tells me and I'll tell him. We make sure everybody knows what's going on. I don't know where that information would come from."

Toronto head coach Michael Clemons isn't concerned by the perception arch-rival Hamilton could have a leg up in the race for Ray.

"I think we have to make the decisions that are best for our team and not Hamilton or any other team," Clemons said during a conference call yesterday.


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