Real team player

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

John Avery has signed a new deal with the Argos and the player he forced off the team -- Michael Jenkins -- is back in the Canadian Football League. Avery, signed last April to a four-year deal worth more than $1 million, officially agreed to a new deal, which effectively forced him to take about a 50% pay cut. His new deal, which is for two years plus an option, will still make him the highest-paid running back in the Canadian Football League, but the new contract will include performance bonuses that could escalate the overall sum.

"He has been a gentleman and a professional," Argos co-owner David Cynamon said. "What he has done with his contract is allow us to sign four or five other guys."

It was Avery's original signing that contributed to the release last May of Jenkins, who had led the CFL in 2001 with 1,484 rushing yards. He had a disappointing season in 2003, in the first year of a four-year deal that totalled $600,000, because of a wonky right ankle. He underwent surgery and had been preparing to return to the Argos.

But when the Argos signed Avery, who led the CFL with 1,448 rushing yards in 2003, Jenkins was deemed expendable. He spent last year rehabbing.

"Michael Jenkins is a dominant running back who brings a new dimension to our offence," Als general manager Jim Popp said. "He brings an explosive running style and can also catch the ball. He will be an asset to our already potent offence."

Jenkins' signing led to the release of Autry Denson, who fell into disfavour with the Als late last season and lost his to starting job.

TALKS CONTINUE

The Argos are still negotiating with defensive back Clifford Ivory, the only starter from last year's squad who has not been re-signed, although Cynamon said the team has a little bit of wiggle room and there's a chance a deal could get done in the next few days.

The Argos are also talking to free agent defensive back Bo Lewis, whom B.C. has opted not to re-sign.

"In a rose-coloured world we'd like to have Ivory, Bo and (Kenny) Wheaton," player-personnel director Greg Mohns said. "We'll find out when all the chips fall."

Winnipeg is also interested in Lewis and Ivory, who ideally would like to stay with the Argos.

ENGLAND SIGNS UP

Defensive end Eric England, who had been a free agent, officially re-signed with the team yesterday, although he had actually given his word in advance of the league-wide free agency period starting on Wednesday.

"I can't complain," he said. "I understand it's a business and they have to do what they have to do but everything worked out for the best. I'm just looking forward to (repeating as Grey Cup champions)."


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