Esks eager to tie up Tucker

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos are one week away from a rather big headache.

If the Green and Gold can't convince Jason Tucker to sign a new contract by 10 p.m. (MT) on Feb. 15, the CFL's leading receiver will become a free agent and can begin to negotiate with any team in the league.

Needless to say, watching Tucker reach the open market will be anything but an appealing sight for Edmonton general manager Paul Jones and the rest of the organization.

"We are doing everything we can to keep him in green and gold," said Jones from his Louisiana office yesterday.

"We are talking daily with Jason and his agent, trying to get things worked out."

Tucker definitely has the desire to get a deal done.

"I'd love to come back (to Edmonton)," said Tucker from his winter home in Texas.

"But (the contract negotiations) have been a long and drawn out process.

"Hopefully it will be done (by Feb. 15) or I will be testing the market."

Tucker's phone will practically ring off the hook next Thursday morning if he doesn't resign with the defending Grey Cup champions.

Although the 29-year-old import wide receiver will likely command a salary in the neighbourhood of $175,000-$200,000, there will be no shortage of teams lining up to talk.

In fact, rumours have already begun to circulate suggesting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will try to throw bags of money at the Eskimo standout.

Considering Tucker enjoyed the best statistical season of his four-year Eskimo career with quarterback Jason Maas in 2004 - recording a whopping 1,632 receiving yards - that rumour isn't a surprise.

However, while running routes for current Eskimo pivot Ricky Ray in 2003 and 2005, Tucker won two Grey Cup rings.

In the 2003 championship tilt, Tucker put on a receiving clinic, grabbing seven balls for 132 yards and two touchdowns to earn Grey Cup MVP honours.

And in Vancouver last fall, Tucker nabbed a two-point conversion toss late in the fourth quarter and scored a major in overtime to keep Edmonton's hopes alive.

That came on the heels of a brilliant regular season campaign that featured a league high 1,411 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, more than Edmonton's three other starting receivers combined.


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