Nothing is free

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

Don't expect the Edmonton Eskimos to conduct a major raid on talent in the CFL free-agent market.

And for that matter, don't expect the Green and Gold to sign all-star receiver Jason Tucker before he becomes eligible for the open market at 10 p.m. (MT) tonight.

It's all quiet on the western front, as the Eskimos could lose as many as five players to free agency when the shopping season starts tomorrow.

"We're going to be hard-pressed to get anyone done (and under contract) before (today's deadline)," said Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia.

"But just because it doesn't happen doesn't necessarily mean they won't be in Edmonton (to start the season)."

Although things can change over the course of today, if the current situation remains constant, Tucker will become the highest profile player in the CFL free-agent pool.

And based on the status quo, he'll be joined by teammates Shannon Garrett, Malcolm Frank, Sandy Annunziata and Randy Spencer.

Joe Coletta - Tucker's agent - wasn't available for comment yesterday.

But as of midday yesterday, Garrett hadn't heard from the Eskimos since last week.

"They're supposed to be calling me," said Garrett, who doesn't use an agent.

And Annunziata's phone isn't ringing.

"It looks like I am headed to free agency," said the 10-year CFL veteran.

There could be almost 80 players - including several big names - available across the league tomorrow, but Maciocia doesn't believe he'll be stockpiling new talent.

"My number one concern is the people that are free agents that played here last year," said the head coach.

In fact, he doesn't believe the club will make many major changes through other avenues - trades or outside CFL signings - before training camp.

"I think we have a good base," said Maciocia.

"We went through it last year when we wanted to make wholesale changes...and it took a while for us to come together.

"We had 19 new guys on the opening day roster last year."

The defending Grey Cup champions could lose as many as three offensive line starters. Bruce Beaton has retired - and Chris Morris and Kevin Lefsrud could join the list.

But it doesn't appear the Esks will be desperately hunting for replacements through free agency.

"We feel like we have a good foundation," continued the coach.

"We have Rhett McLane, who we have invested two years in.

"We traded for Tim Bakker and we think Glen Carson will bounce back and be the player he was two years ago.

"And the (salary) cap is something you have to look at."

George Hudson (Ottawa), Bobby Singh (B.C.) and Jude St. John (Toronto) are the big name linemen who could be on the market tomorrow, but they'll likely come at a big price against the cap.

Hudson could receive close to $150,000.


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