After making running back John Avery the highest-paid non-quarterback in the Canadian Football League, the Argos have asked the running back to take a reduction in pay.
Avery, who reportedly was signed to a four-year deal last year worth at least $1 million, has been asked by the club to take a 50% pay cut according to two sources.
Neither Avery nor Argos vice-president of operations Adam Rita wanted to comment about the situation when asked about it yesterday.
The request comes at a time when the Argos, similar to all CFL teams, are trying to sign their players prior to the commencement of free agency on Feb. 16. The Argos have eight players scheduled to become free agents, in particular quarterback Damon Allen, linebacker Kevin Eiben, cornerback Adrion Smith, defensive backs Kenny Wheaton and Clifford Ivory as well as rush end Eric England. Because money has to be freed up, the primary source at this point is Avery's contract.
There have been rumours for some time the Argos planned to reduce Avery's contract, partly because of his production last year. Avery totalled 974 rushing yards -- seventh-best in the league -- from 202 carries and had 1,338 combined yards from scrimmage. In 2002 with Edmonton, where he started off in a backup role, Avery finished as the league leader in rushing with 1,448 yards. He also caught 45 passes for 387 yards and had 661 yards on 26 kickoff returns. Collectively his production earned him a contract with the Minnesota Vikings, but his season was cut short by a left knee problem that required radical surgery.
Avery battled problems with his knee throughout the 2004 season. He missed almost all of the Argos' training camp and the two pre-season games while undergoing extensive rehabilitation to be ready for the season opener.
While spending countless time in therapy and often requiring painkillers just to make it through practice, Avery struggled physically throughout the season and was hampered by the Argos' schedule that included several instances of playing three games in a span of 10 or 11 days.
Avery played one of his best games of the season in the team's 27-19 Grey Cup win over the B.C. Lions.