Defence could take hit if Pile opts for NFL

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

The Argonauts' defence could be in a bigger heap of trouble in 2009 than initially thought.

Willie Pile, the Argos' leading tackler last season and one of the few bright spots on the roster, could be done with the club after two seasons.

Eligible for free agency on Feb. 16, the 28-year-old linebacker wants to return to his old stamping grounds -- the National Football League.

"That's his No. 1 goal right now," Argos general manager Adam Rita said. "I don't know what is going to happen. Our conversations have been good."

In an e-mail, Pile said there "is nothing new to report."

"Dates on the calendar have no bearing on the important decisions facing my family," Pile said. "We are in a period of transition ... and we are discussing all of our options."

Collectively, the Argos' defence was awful in 2008, giving up an average of 414 yards a game, fewer than only the 440 allowed on average by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

But Pile was an exception, and in his sophomore season in the Canadian Football League, was sixth with 75 tackles. At 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds, Pile was quick and kept offences guessing. He also snared three interceptions.

If he is not successful in landing an NFL job, Pile could take a look at what offers might come from other CFL teams before making a decision. Drafted in 2003 by the Kansas City Chiefs, Pile spent the 2004 season with the Chiefs before joining the Dallas Cowboys for 2005. If Pile remains in Toronto, he undoubtedly will be one of the defensive catalysts.

Aside from Pile, Rita has three other potential free agents -- special teams master/running back Dominique Dorsey and linebackers Michael Fletcher and Adrian Mayes -- to deal with. Dorsey probably will be back as his choices "are either us or the NFL," Rita said.

Rita got one potential free agent signed yesterday, keeping defensive lineman Ronald Flemons through 2010. Flemons will play either defensive end or tackle in a backup role.

"Last year (4-14 and no playoffs for the Argos) left a bad taste in my mouth and I can't wait to help change that," Flemons said. "Winning is a whole lot better than losing, and I expect to win."

Meanwhile, Rita said that he does not expect new head coach Bart Andrus to necessarily fill out his coaching staff with men who have extensive CFL experience. Since being hired on Jan. 16, Andrus has added defensive co-ordinator Peter Kuharchek and offensive line coach Ron Heller, neither of whom has experience north of the border in abundance.

One rumoured hiring was that of former CFL coach Dave Ritchie, but that won't be happening.

"We had plenty of CFL experience last year (with the staff in the front office) and that didn't help all that much," Rita said, only half-joking.


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