Barnes released after career year

Edmonton's Jason Barnes avoids being hit by Calgary's Brandon Smith during the Edmonton Eskimos CFL...

Edmonton's Jason Barnes avoids being hit by Calgary's Brandon Smith during the Edmonton Eskimos CFL football western semifinal game against the Calgary Stampeders at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Sunday, November 13, 2011. (CODIE MCLACHLAN/QMI Agency)

Con Griwkowsky, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:38 PM ET

EDMONTON - If nothing else, the Edmonton Eskimos are starting to build up a pretty hefty free-agency war chest.

Their off-season moves signal that this team intends to be an active player when the free-agent market opens up Feb. 16.

“If you’re going to go to the casino, you better have enough money to put on the table,” said head coach Kavis Reed. “We have to make certain we’re ready for free agency so that if we’re going to be a player, we’re going to be a player, so we can get the pieces we’ve targeted.”

In their latest move on Friday, the Eskimos “released” receiver Jason Barnes for the second straight year.

That follows on the heels of Patrick Kabongo, Chris Bauman and Wopamo Osaisai getting their walking papers on Thursday.

Not to mention the huge amount of money available when Ricky Ray was traded to the Toronto Argos.

The Barnes situation is not quite a case of deja vu all over again, though.

Right after team medicals leading up to the team’s 2011 training camp, some medical concerns came up.

Barnes had been injured in Hamilton the previous season and there was some concern about whether he would be ready to go for the season.

After a testy and tense period in which the nature of the recovery became more apparent, Barnes was signed to a new one year, plus an option contract 10 days after he’d initially been released.

That contract gave Barnes the option and control on whether he wanted to return to the Eskimos or pursue other opportunities.

After posting the best year of his three-year sting in Edmonton Barnes chose the latter.

“That’s a decision we made last year in training camp,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed, in explaining the unusual situation where the team gave control of the option to a player.

“Jason was soon to be a free agent. That was his last year based on a medical situation that we felt was necessary prior to training camp.”

Barnes was understandably upset with the way the situation had been explained to him and agreed to return on the understanding he would be able to control his own destiny.

“That was something that Jason, through his agent, was able to secure,” said Reed. “You only get the opportunity to shop yourself in this league so many times.”

The Eskimos did offer a contract to Barnes, who made the most of his chance to showcase his talents during the 2011 season.

Barnes had a career year with the Eskimos, catching 50 balls for 869 yards despite missing five games with injury. That ranked him No. 3 on the team in terms of yardage production and his seven TD catches was second-best on the team.

“It puts the ball in his court,” said Reed. “As an organization, we’ve made an offer to Jason, but we have to be fair to the player. The fact that had we not released him prior to that medical red flag, he would have been a free agent any how.”

Even though the team is leaving the door open for Barnes, their moves this week give them some of the ammo they needed.

“Before the season was out, we went through the free-agent wish list,” said Reed. “That process has been done and we know which guys we want.”

con.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca


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