St. John, Bonner staying put

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:22 AM ET

Let the bidding begin.

The Canadian Football League free-agency market opened early this morning, but the Argos were able to re-sign two key players just before the deadline.

Offensive lineman Jude St. John and linebacker Antonious Bonner agreed in principle to new long-term deals.

St. John, who has been with the Argos as a starting offensive lineman since 1998, agonized over what to do before deciding late last night to stay put.

"I'm happy to be back," he said. "To be honest, there wasn't one single thing. As the day wore on, you think about who your teammates are, where your family is going to live. You do think of the financial issue and (the Argos) came up part of the way."

The 33-year-old St. John, who regularly commutes to Toronto from his home in London, had indicated earlier in the day that the whole process of whether or not to re-sign had become a mental and emotional strain.

Bonner, who signed for two years plus an option, has been with the Argos since 1997. He has showed his versatility as a linebacker and a defensive back. He had his season shortened last year by knee surgery in late September and underwent surgery.

Team president Keith Pelley welcomed the signings.

"We're not only pleased we were able to sign our guys for 2006, we've also followed a strategy to extend even some of the contracts well beyond that," he said.

Linebacker Ray Mariuz, who has played his first three seasons with the Argos and has established himself as a solid special teams player, is going to test the free-agent market. He wants to be a starter after proving himself in some games last year filling in for Bonner.

"I don't want to be a backup my whole life," Mariuz said.

"I'd like to stay here. Whether that's going to be the best for everyone and me has yet to be determined."

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Hamilton is expected to finalize today an agreement on a deal with centre George Hudson, formerly of Ottawa ... It appears that middle linebacker Barrin Simpson, who has played the past four years in B.C., is bound for Winnipeg, which is willing to pay him a salary of some $200,000 a year. He received $125,000 last year. The Tiger-Cats and Argos made offers ... Edmonton announced the re-signing of cornerback Malcolm Frank and likely will announce the re-signing of receiver Jason Tucker, whom Hamilton wanted ... The Argos have made an offer to returner/receiver Keith Stokes, who has spent the past two seasons in Winnipeg.


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