An Argo ultimatum

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

Argos star returner Bashir Levingston may not be returning to the team unless the two sides can agree on a contract restructuring.

The Argos informed Levingston a week ago he had to take a pay cut because of budget reasons. Argo general manager Adam Rita said yesterday the situation could come to a head by March 1 when the player is due a bonus.

"We want him back," Rita said. "We want to give him some space and let him see what's going on. We just don't want to throw him on the street. We want to give him a choice, just like Mookie."

That was a reference to receiver Derrell (Mookie) Mitchell, who declined a pay cut two years ago when the option was presented to him and was released in a move that ruffled many Argo fans. He signed a couple days later with Edmonton.

Levingston has been with the team for four years and has accomplished plenty, including being named the Canadian Football League's Outstanding Special Teams Award winner in 2003.

He set a league record for most kick-return touchdowns that year. He also had two costly fumbles in last year's Eastern final, but took responsibility for it.

It's believed Levingston is the highest-paid returner in the league, earning about $130,000. But he has only been a bit player on offence and defence since 2003, despite publicly expressing his wishes.

The Argos have several starters who can also return punts and kicks, including receivers Arland Bruce and Tony Miles and cornerback Adrion Smith, but would prefer not to expose them to a possible injury.

The possible availability of Winnipeg's Keith Stokes, who is set to explore free agency on Thursday, may be an option. He has been given more opportunities than Levingston to showcase his versatility as more than just a returner.

Levingston said yesterday he wished the club would have presented him with its restructuring demands a month or two ago instead of so close to the start of free agency.

He's currently weighing his options and talking to other teams.

"I'd love to be back here," he said. "We'll see how everything goes with money and everything else. I should know in a week or two. But I'll be alright."

Notes: The Argos have re-signed receiver Michael Palmer, and extended the contract of defensive halfback Clifford Ivory ... Quarterback Eric Crouch still hasn't been signed but he's scheduled to be in town later this week.


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