'Gades show Ray of hope

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

The Renegades were one of six teams that made "exploratory" calls to the representative of Ricky Ray, who yesterday became the CFL's highest paid player.

Pleased with the 1-2 quarterbacking punch provided by Kerry Joseph and Brad Banks, Ottawa's passing interest in Ray suggests the team's new ownership will be willing to compete with the league's high-rollers when marquee-type players become available -- which wasn't the case under a previous regime determined to abide by a salary cap or guideline pretty much ignored by most teams in the CFL.

Ray signed a three-year (plus an option) contract yesterday with his old team, the Edmonton Eskimos, believed to be worth $460,000 annually -- which is close to $300,000 more than Ottawa pays its top player, Joseph.

"If there's a salary cap, we would adhere to it," said Lonie Glieberman, whose father Bernie is set to take over controlling interest in the Renegades. "If there is no salary cap, we'd do what makes best sense for the team, to make it successful.

"(The Renegades) didn't stay under the ($2.65-million) salary cap last year, and the team will be over it again this year.

"We wouldn't throw money around like drunken fools, but if the football operations decided that a player would make an impact, and if it made sense, we'd go after him," added Glieberman. "The organization will be committed to winning ... having said that, we would streamline so that the nonessential stuff will likely fall by the wayside. The idea is to keep the organization focused on what really matters and to put the best players on the field. We're here to win a championship."

WON CUP IN EDMONTON

Ray was sensational in leading the Eskimos to a championship in 2003 before bolting to the New York Jets, with whom he signed a four- year contract Feb. 27, 2004. He was cut by the Jets last week, and when no other NFL team claimed him, he returned to Canada.

It's believed the Argos, Ticats and Blue Bombers were also hot for Ray, a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder who is just 25.

"I am excited to be back in Edmonton," Ray said yesterday. "I've missed the city and the fans and I know I've come back to a great team."

The Eskimos, who open their 2005 season at home against Ottawa June 24, now also have one quarterback too many. Last year's starter, Jason Maas, is recovering from shoulder surgery but is expected to be ready for training camp. Also in Edmonton is Khari Jones, who was signed as a free agent in March.

Speculation is either Maas or Jones will wind up in Toronto or Hamilton, but for now, the Eskimos are prepared to start camp with a three-way competition at the premier position.


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