Line forming for Tucker

'We're going to do everything we can to try to keep him where he is. We think a lot of Jason and he...

'We're going to do everything we can to try to keep him where he is. We think a lot of Jason and he means a lot to the organization.' - Esks GM Paul Jones on Jason Tucker. (Edmonton Sun File/Walter Tychnowicz)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

The clock is ticking on the Edmonton Eskimos.

Jason Tucker - the team's star receiver - will become a free agent in about a month if the Eskimos can't entice him to sign a new contract.

The good news for the Green and Gold: the two sides are talking.

The bad news: Tucker would be highly coveted if he reaches the open market on Feb. 15.

"There are a lot of teams that would like him," said Joe Coletta, who is Tucker's Chicago-based agent.

"Jason is coming off four really good years. He has gotten better every year he has been there."

Every team in the league would be interested in Tucker after he led the CFL in receiving in 2005 with 1,411 yards on 89 catches.

CAREER HIGH

The 29-year-old California product also matched a career high with 11 touchdowns in the regular season.

Amazingly, he had more TD receptions than Mookie Mitchell, Trevor Gaylor and Ed Hervey - Edmonton's other starting receivers - combined over 18 regular-season games.

"We're going to do everything we can to try to keep him where he is," said the Esks' general manager Paul Jones, from his Louisiana office. "We think a lot of Jason and he means a lot to the organization."

After spending two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, Tucker signed in Edmonton in March 2002 - and has been nothing short of steady and stellar.

Averaging more than 1,100 yards per year, he has been the club's leading receiver in back-to-back seasons.

"And he doesn't show any signs of slowing down," said Coletta.

WAITED PATIENTLY

Although Edmonton was able to sign running back Troy Davis and defensive end Joe Montford - two key potential free agents - within a week of winning the Grey Cup last fall, Jones wasn't able to negotiate with Tucker's agent during the 2005 season and had to patiently wait in December.

"Jason and his agent didn't want to talk until after the season and then you roll into the Christmas holidays," explained Jones. "They wanted to wait until it was all over before they sat down with negotiations, so we granted their wish."

Now the Eskimos are hoping to get their wish: Tucker signing another contract.

EXTRA POINT: Contrary to some media speculation, offensive lineman Sandy Annunziata has no desire to retire.

"There's no doubt I would love to come back," said the 36-year-old guard-centre, who started 10 games last year for Edmonton and served as the lone backup during the playoffs. "I will play until they drag me off the field."

Annunziata is still waiting for an Esk offer.

After coming from Toronto last spring and playing out the option on his contract, he can become a free agent next month. Even though he has played on back-to-back Grey Cup winners, he believes the acquisition of offensive lineman Tim Bakker in the trade for Jason Maas could impact his future.

"Tim is the same player I am, playing inside and centre," said Annunziata. "He's a good player, but I don't think he carries the same resume I have."


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