Money talks, but it may not be enough to keep the Argos intact.
Pending last-minute signings, defensive end Eric England, linebacker Kevin Eiben and defensive back Clifford Ivory are expected to shop their services on the open market when it commences at midnight tonight. Backup defensive lineman Chuck Walsh also may become a free agent.
"The guys have to find how they're going to price themselves on our team," Argos vice-president of football operations Adam Rita said. "It's always the big challenge how you divide up the pie. The only piece they're looking at is their own piece. I've got to look at all the pieces. That's where the juggling act comes in.
"If a guy goes to free agency I've got to move on to sign somebody else. I've got some guys in the weeds. Our priority is to get everybody back, but with the budget I have."
Argos president Keith Pelley said if some players from last year's team elect to sign elsewhere, the Argos will survive.
"I'm confident we have one of the premier scouting systems in the league as evidenced by the talent we picked up last year -- (receiver) Robert Baker, (receiver) R.J. Soward, (defensive lineman) Jonathon Brown and (cornerback) Jordan Younger," Pelley said. "It is Adam's final call. I would suspect if an Argonaut goes to free agency they will not be back in a Double Blue uniform. But I'd never close the door."
Because Eiben is a Canadian starter, he has added value in a league which has an import/non-import ratio. He led the league in tackles last year in his first full season as a starter and has additional value as the regular holder for field-goal kicker Noel Prefontaine. He reportedly is hoping to at least triple his salary from about $35,000 a season, but the Argos are offering $80,000 to $90,000 a season.
If Eiben signs with another team, his backup, Ray Mariuz, would be given a shot at starting.
England is one of the Argos' leaders in sacks, but they like Arnold Miller, who spent much of last year on the practice roster.
Ivory said after last year's Grey Cup parade he is "an Argo for life," but may change that pending free agency. Backup Chuck Winters could be moved into a starting role if Ivory signs elsewhere.
Riall Johnson, whom the Argos selected in the supplemental draft last year for players who had never gone through the Canadian Football League draft, may be interested in playing here following four years in the National Football League. The 26-year-old native of White Rock, B.C., who has dual citizenship, played three years for the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted him in 2000 out of Stanford, and one year with Denver. Johnson is 6-foot-3, weighs 250 pounds and has the potential to play either defensive end or linebacker.
WHEATON COMING BACK
Defensive back Kenny Wheaton, who had been eligible for free agency, has re-signed. An official announcement is expected this week.