The Argonauts have tossed defensive back Khalil Carter overboard.
In a significant and somewhat surprising move, Argos head coach Rich Stubler announced yesterday that defensive back Carter, a four-year veteran with the team, was waived and will be replaced by Willie Middlebrooks as the starting short-side cornerback.
"I make football decisions, and this was a football decision. Everybody else that we keep are backups now, or young kids," said Stubler, adding that age had a part in Carter's release.
"Khalil's 31, he'll be 32 in September and we want a guy who's 24 or 25 that can get better as time goes by."
It's expected that 25-year-old Jason Shivers will come back and play with the Argos this season, playing backup at the defensive back position.
That made Carter, who dressed in all 18 games with the Argos last season but started only six, was the odd man out.
"You want to keep younger players who have that big upside," Stubler said.
Carter, a gregarious former University of Arkansas star, who was known in professional football as "The People's Champ," first signed with the Argos in 2005, but never established himself as a regular starter at the DB or cornerback positions, although he did earn CFL Defensive Player of the Week honours in Week 10 last season.
Middlebrooks, 29, was a first-round draft pick (24th overall) by the Denver Broncos in 2001 and played in Denver until 2005, when he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers, where he dressed for five games before being released.
He has basically been out of football since then, before signing as a free agent with the Argos on April 28.
"I still worked out a bunch," Middlebrooks said of his hiatus. "I didn't let myself get out of shape and get a beer belly or nothing like that.
"At one point (though) I got real frustrated with it and thought about not playing and prayed a bunch about it, but kept getting all the signs to keep playing," the Miami native added.
Middlebrooks is looking forward to showing what he has on big CFL fields.
"It's a fun league, I feel a lot younger, my body's good. I'm 29 going on 12," he said. "That's how I feel right now."
And while Carter wasn't a firm starter with the team, his release was felt inside the locker room before practice yesterday.
"That's my boy," veteran defensive back Chuck Winters said of Carter. "I don't know how it happened or what happened, but I'm sorry to hear about it. I pray for him and hope everything works out for him. He's a good player, but it's the coach's decision and it's a business."
Winters is a big fan, though, of what the 6-foot-2, 196 pound Middlebrooks brings to the table.
"He's solid," Winters said. "He's got some football savvy, he clears up a lot of things for you -- good speed, good size, he adds a different dimension to the weak side, especially when we play a bigger receiver. I think he's ready."
The Argos open up the regular season on Friday in Winnipeg and Stubler is keeping it close to the vest as to whether Kerry Joseph or Michael Bishop will be his starting quarterback.
The Argos will stage a pep rally this afternoon at Dundas Square starting at 4 p.m.