Hey, big spenders

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

In the sometimes upside down world of the CFL, the salary cap isn't what it seems.

The mechanism designed to create a level playing field and ensure the league's nine member clubs remain solvent really isn't having the desired effect.

But arriving at a consensus on a workable salary cap won't be easy or quick.

"It's more important in going forward in this that we work at a viable financial model that fits everybody," offered Edmonton Eskimos COO Rick LeLacheur when queried about the cap last week.

"To me, common sense would suggest nothing will be happening this year. Maybe by next year. But there's no firm date set."

Diversity of ownership is one of the hurdles to overcome on the road to a salary cap model which has mass appeal. Still, sorting out who counts against the cap is one of the bigger stumbling blocks.

"Right now, the 40th player doesn't count (against the cap) and the third quarterback doesn't count," LeLacheur said. "Players on the nine-game injured don't count against the cap but players on the 30-day and one-game injured do. Then there's the various aspects of cost of living in various cities and the different tax rates."

ALL NINE OVERSPENT

On paper, CFL teams can spend up to $2.60 million on players this season. Last year the maximum was $2.55 million per club.

CFL commissioner Tom Wright admits all nine clubs overspent in 2004 but won't say by how much. However, published reports suggest teams all spent in excess of $3 million.

No sanctions were imposed following the '04 audit and there are no penalties in place for teams that overspend this season.

Wright continues to suggest the ceiling is - for all intent and purpose - now the floor. With that in mind, some teams spend lavishly in an effort to build a winner.

SIGNIFICANT COIN

Calgary shelled out significant coin for Henry Burris. The Esks are clearly intent on paying Davis Sanchez a good buck.

Sanchez and Burris are but two of the highly compensated CFLers who turn the term free agent into an oxymoron.

With arguably the deepest pockets in the league, the Esks are routinely accused of flouting the salary cap.

Despite spending big bucks to upgrade their Canadian talent this off-season, LeLacheur says the Green and Gold didn't budget to spend more than $2.60 million.

"In regard to the football operations budget, I think we're in the area of everybody else," LeLacheur said. "We work within our operating budget. The weird thing about this business is you don't know what your final numbers will be until you put your roster together for Game 18 because of injuries and that type of thing. All you can do is make provisions for it."

A number of models have been kicked around by members of the President's Council. One of them involves adopting a salary range rather than a hard-and-fast cap.

"If that's a spread, then that's a spread but a reasonable spread," LeLacheur said.

"I think it's premature as we're going through our work on this to determine what (the spread) is. All I know is all of us are working very hard to make sure that we get the right system rather than a quick fix that doesn't work in the long run."


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