Top pick 'blessing or burden'

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:51 AM ET

The Canadian Football League's decision to suspend the Ottawa franchise for at least the 2006 season allows the other eight teams to pick away at the Renegades' carcass.

The CFL will conduct a dispersal draft today of the Renegades' roster and draft picks.

Hamilton has the first pick overall based on the worst record last year and have received calls from three teams inquiring about trading up. General manager Rob Katz wouldn't reveal the teams, but it's believed to be the Argos, Saskatchewan Roughriders and B.C. Lions.

"It's a bit of a challenge having the first pick," Katz said. "It's either going to be a blessing or another burden."

This could turn out to be a crazy draft because most teams have set their rosters or are close to the maximum 65-player limit they can take to training camp, beginning May 21. Moreover, some of the Renegades players have exorbitant contracts because the management and/or ownership tried to lock up personnel with four- or five-year deals and gave them whopping salaries, including major signing bonuses.

"There's a reason why Ottawa got into trouble," one league source said in reference to the contracts. "Some of their top players may not even get drafted. They'll let them clear waivers and then become free agents."

Among the players in the high-priced category are: Quarterback Kerry Joseph; receiver/return specialist Jason Armstead; linebacker Kyries Hebert and defensive back Korey Banks.

The Argos have stocked up at quarterback, signing Spergon Wynn and Eric Crouch to battle for the backup job behind Damon Allen. A source said the Argos have no interest in Joseph, but may try to move up to take a Canadian offensive or defensive lineman.

Joseph has been the Renegades starter since early into his rookie year in 2003 and has shown flickering signs of being an elite player. Saskatchewan reportedly is interested in getting him and are offering some prime players, likely an offensive lineman, possibly Andrew Greene, which Hamilton needs, and a defensive back or cornerback, likely safety Scott Gordon.

Winnipeg publicly has been lukewarm about Joseph, even though the Bombers are spotty at quarterback.

Hamilton acquired quarterback Jason Maas from Edmonton after the season and liked the work of rookie Kevin Eiken last year.

"People are asking us if we're seriously looking at Kerry? We are," Katz said. "We have to evaluate Kerry Joseph and what our other needs are and how it fits into our financial equation. With Jason and Kevin, we're very content with our quarterback situation."

Most people are guessing Hamilton will go after Armstead, but his contract may impede that move.


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