|The Argos signed Kerry Joseph (right) following a trade from the Riders and extended Michael Bishop's contract through 2010. SUN MEDIA/Craig Robertson
As Michael Bishop addressed the media yesterday, a fidgety Kerry Joseph was counting his fingers or more likely, keeping track of all the Argonauts quarterbacks.
As of today, there are four: Bishop, Joseph, Damon Allen and Rocky Butler, and though Allen likely is retiring to another job in the organization and Butler is still learning the ropes, the remaining two still could be too many when there is only one football.
The Argos, who just came through two years of trying to keep Allen and Bishop healthy and happy, now have a No. 1 and 1A quarterback. It is conceivable both could play in the same game, as part of a pre-arranged strategy which hasn't been deployed since Condredge Holloway and Joe Barnes shared the job in the 1980s, or Joe Theismann and Greg Barton alternated series in the '70s.
"I'm going to be pragmatic about using both of them," head coach Rich Stubler said.
The winners could be the Argos fans, who now can cheer for Joseph, the CFL's outstanding player last season, or Bishop, a starter with an 11-1 record who, at 31, is four years younger.
Stubler certainly liked the view yesterday, seated between both men at the Rogers Centre after the Argos completed a blockbuster trade for Joseph with the Grey Cup-champion Saskatchewan Roughriders. The club also announced a contract extension for Bishop through 2010.
Toronto gave up offensive tackle Glenn January, defensive lineman Ronald Flemons and a first-round pick this year, a bill that behooves the Argos to give Joseph every chance to start on opening day. But Stubler left that door wide open.
"I've got two quarterbacks who won 26 CFL games last year," Stubler said. "That's two first-place finishes. Mike and I have talked, Kerry and I have talked and we'll let the cards fall (at camp)."
Stubler and general manager Adam Rita hinted that the high risk of injury at QB -- Bishop broke his right wrist last year and Allen broke a finger during the season opener in 2006 -- is ample reason to overload at the position. Joseph played 18 games last year in Regina.
Stubler, meanwhile, said he was ready for a daily dose of 'who's No. 1?' queries from the media.
"For whatever reason, the second guy is always perceived to be having the better year," Stubler said. "When I coached in Hamilton, we had Tom Clements and David (Marler). That was Clements' team, but everyone wanted to talk about when Dave was going to play."
Rita said he made the dual announcement about Bishop's contract, estimated around $125,000 a season, and the Joseph trade to show that the incumbent was on board with sharing the workload.
"I'm happy about the extension and ready to go to war with it," Bishop said. "We're going to take this team to another level."
The Argos also inherit the Roughriders dilemma of finding the funds under a $4.2-million CFL salary cap to sign Joseph to a new deal as he enters his option year. Joseph's MVP status and Grey Cup ring should translate to between $300,000-$350,000 a year, closer to a level that Edmonton's Ricky Ray and B.C.'s Casey Printers enjoy.
"I'm not talking about that today, I'm just enjoying the moment," Joseph said. "I'm confident a new contract will get done, but this is not about personal issues, it's about winning a championship. It takes quarterbacking to win one."
Butler is under contract for 2008 and though Allen won't publicly concede that his playing days are over at age 44, he'd be welcomed in some other capacity with the team.
"Damon's situation will soon be resolved in a positive way," Rita said.