Tiger-Cats expected to pass on Ray

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

It looks as if the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are about to drop out of the Ricky Ray sweepstakes.

Word has it that the Tiger-Cats have lost interest in pursuing the free-agent quarterback because of the cost -- likely $400,000-$450,000 a season -- and concerns about inflating their payroll.

According to sources, the Tiger-Cats were willing to pay Doug Flutie $250,000, with another $250,000-$500,000 coming from sponsors or companies. Flutie ended up signing with the New England Patriots.

It is believed only Toronto and Edmonton will make serious bids to sign Ray, who played with the Eskimos in 2002 and 2003. He led the Eskimos to a Grey Cup win in 2003.

If the Esks sign Ray -- they are considered the front-runner -- expect the Esks to trade Jason Maas most likely to Hamilton or Toronto. The Esks might prefer dealing with Hamilton to spite Toronto.

SHOULDER SURGERY

Maas lost his job to Ray because of a back injury that subsequently required surgery. He started all of the Eskimos games last year but required off-season shoulder surgery. He reportedly is fully recovered.

The Ticats are looking at upgrading their quarterbacking but are trying to be low-key lest it damage the reputation of incumbent starting quarterback Danny McManus.

The Argos are looking for help at quarterback, partially because Damon Allen is 41 and has been hurt the past two years and there is uncertainty about his backup, Michael Bishop. He may not report for his option year because his current team, the Arena league's Grand Rapids Rampage, has offered a four-year deal.

"We'll be happy to have him back," coach Pinball Clemons said this week. "If that isn't the case, we're going to be happy for Michael Bishop because ultimately that's going to make us a better team as well. If being here isn't best for him, it's not best for us, either."


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