Money troubles

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:40 AM ET

The Argos could be heading toward a showdown with running back John Avery in their attempt to restructure his contract with a significant reduction in pay. According to sources, the Argos are about to present Avery with a take-it-or-leave-it offer that includes a 50% pay cut. Avery is heading into the second year of a four-year deal worth $250,000 a season, making him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the CFL.

So far, the team has been dealing with his agent. The normally talkative Avery has declined to comment on the situation.

With the CFL's free-agency period scheduled to begin Feb. 16 and the Argos looking to re-sign as many of their remaining eight free agents, Avery's contract has been targeted as a means to free up some cash.

A source also said the Argos are trying to be more budget-conscious. There were rampant rumours the Argos paid little attention to the CFL-mandated $2.55 million salary cap, highlighted by their signings of free agents such as Avery and receiver Arland Bruce, who had several teams interested in his services.

Playing on principally one leg because he was not fully recovered from knee surgery, Avery totalled 974 rushing yards -- seventh-best in the league -- on 202 carries. Avery recorded 1,338 combined yards from scrimmage.

In 2002 with Edmonton, where he started off in a backup role for the first few games, Avery finished as the CFL leader in rushing with 1,448 yards. He also caught 45 passes for 387 yards and had 661 yards on 26 kickoffs.

While Avery could be faced with having to accept a huge pay cut, one of his teammates could be in line for a pay raise and a possible off-season job with the Argos.

Linebacker Kevin Eiben, who was voted the East Division's top Canadian last year, is expected to be re-signed before the free-agency period.

Eiben emerged as a full-time starter last year. It's expected the Argos will try to sweeten their deal by offering Eiben a job with the team in a business/marketing capacity because that's what he studied at Bucknell College in Pennsylvania.

There also appears to be positive movement toward the re-signing of quarterback Damon Allen, who reportedly has been offered a revised contract from the first one tabled by the team. Head coach Pinball Clemons has already gone on record saying he expects Allen to be back, likely for another two seasons.


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