Maas might stay in Edmonton

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

The better Jason Maas plays in the playoffs, the more bizarre his future seems.

Maas, who quarterbacked the Edmonton Eskimos to victory in Sunday's Western semi-final by relieving ineffective starter Ricky Ray in the second half, supposedly is headed to Hamilton soon in an off-season trade.

According to the recent rumours, the Eskimos would trade Maas to Hamilton for quarterback Danny McManus, offensive lineman Tim Bakker and the Ticats' first pick overall in the 2006 draft.

The Eskimos and Tiger-Cats made an interesting trade in October, in which Hamilton sent running back Troy Davis and offensive lineman Dan Comiskey to the Eskimos for Canadian receiver Brock Ralph, who is entering free agency, defensive back Tay Cody and a first-round pick.

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The deal seemed strange at the time, because if you believe in the theory the team that receives the best player wins the swap, Edmonton won handily. Davis led the league in rushing the year before, but couldn't come to an agreement with the Tiger-Cats, who were in danger of losing him outright, hence the deal.

He made an immediate impact in his first game, totalling 112 yards on 19 carries and catching two passes for 21 yards in leading the Eskimos to a 17-13 win over the Argos. He helped in Sunday's final, carrying the ball 19 times for 100 yards.

Then there's the Comiskey aspect. He asked the Eskimos to trade him because his wife had delivered premature twins and he wanted to be closer to his hometown of Windsor. The Esks honoured his wishes, doing a deal with Hamilton and acquiring star defensive end Joe Montford, who was embroiled in a contract dispute with the Ticats.

Comiskey provided the Eskimos' physically battered offensive line with some important depth on his return.

As for the Tiger-Cats, neither Ralph nor Cody made much of an impression. The talk is that Ralph, who is from Alberta, may want to play closer to home and will sign in the off-season with Calgary. He would be reunited with his brother, Brett, also a receiver. Theoretically, the two would be battling for the same starting job, which is bizarre.

But back to Maas.

He came off the bench in the second half of the Eskimos' game against Calgary two days ago and engineered a thrilling 33-26 come-from-behind win. He completed 15 of 18 passes, including the winning touchdown.

Maas relieved Ray, who had not thrown a touchdown in the past six games.

Ray supplanted Maas as the Eskimos' starter midway through the 2002 season and led the team to a Grey Cup appearance that year and a Grey Cup championship in 2003. He signed with the New York Jets thereafter, but never played a down in the 2004 regular season and barely made it into the lineup as the third-stringer.

All Maas did last year was throw for more than 5,000 yards, but developed a shoulder injury that required off-season surgery. When Ray decided he had had enough of the National Football League, the Esks won the CFL bidding war to re-sign him.

Throughout this season, Maas has been the consummate professional, refusing to balk at being the backup, even during Ray's struggles in recent weeks.

Eskimos' rookie head coach Danny Maciocia, who also is the team's offensive co-ordinator, faces the task of choosing Maas or Ricky in Sunday's West Division final in B.C.

Logic would suggest Ray start, but if so he would be on a short leash.

If Maas lights it up, either in a starting role or off the bench, it will be interesting.

Even more interesting would be if he later is traded to Hamilton, or if the deal falls through and Ray is traded to the Tiger-Cats.

Or, in the end, there is no deal at all.


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