Argos eyeing QB Ray

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

Barring a claim by another National Football League team, quarterback Ricky Ray could be the subject of a bidding war in the Canadian Football League.

If the 25-year-old clears NFL waivers today, as expected -- the New York Jets released him on Friday at his request, after which the remaining teams had three business days to claim him -- any team can talk to him.

It's believed the Argos, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Edmonton Eskimos, for whom he played for two seasons and led the team to a Grey Cup win in 2003, will have an interest.

He potentially could become the highest-paid CFL player, a distinction held by the B.C. Lions' Dave Dickenson, who earns about $450,000 a season. His agent, Ken Staninger, also represents Ray, and has indicated he will explore the NFL market before committing to the CFL.

Ray spent a year as a practice-roster player with the Jets, which has probably diminished his NFL value. His CFL stock is still high.

"We haven't had serious discussions (about an interest in Ricky Ray)," Argos president Keith Pelley said yesterday. "We've discussed it, but not serious."

The Argos are looking for an heir apparent to 41-year-old Damon Allen, coupled with the fact his backup the past two seasons, Michael Bishop, has indicated he may want to stay in the Arena League. He is with the Grand Rapids Rampage, who reportedly have offered him a four-year contract that will make him the marquee player and pay him well in excess of what he is scheduled to earn with the Argos. Even if he returns to fulfil the option year of his contract with the Argos, Bishop is not expected to be happy as a backup.

Hamilton general manager Ron Lancaster said as of yesterday he and coach Greg Marshall hadn't had a chance to sit down and formally talk about Ray because of conflicting schedules, but added: "I think we'd be crazy not to be interested."

Given that the Tiger-Cats made a huge pitch to try to sign Doug Flutie before that option was removed when the New England Patriots signed him, it is reasonable to think Hamilton will be taking a run at Ray. Hamilton also may be looking for a quarterback of the future because veteran Danny McManus turns 40 this year, but the fact the Tiger-Cats attempted to sign a high-profile player older than McManus indicates their interest may be more about marquee value and proven performance than age.

"We haven't sat down (as an organization) and discussed our quarterback situation since Flutie decided to stay (in the NFL)," Lancaster said.

The Eskimos, who failed to make it to the division final last year, clearly would be interested in Ray. Jason Maas played well in parts of last season, but had off-season shoulder surgery and has a history of back problems. The Esks signed Calgary castoff Khari Jones in the off-season as insurance.


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