Argos seek linemen

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

Don't expect a quick fix for the Argonauts when free agency starts on Monday.

General manager Adam Rita has been around the Canadian Football League long enough to know that a club's fortunes rarely are turned around simply by signing free agents.

The Argos missed the playoffs last season and with a $4.2 million league salary cap, don't have enough cash to fill all of their holes.

"You're lucky if you can add one player who will make an impact on your team," Rita said. "But we are going to be a player in the market."

On Rita's shopping list when he goes to the market will be offensive linemen. Among those in whom the Argos undoubtedly will have an interest include Alexandre Gauthier of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (some think the Argos' signing of Gauthier is a slam dunk), centre Dominic Picard of the Bombers and Rob Murphy of the B.C. Lions. The Argos had their eye on Murphy, who would be a big-time addition at left tackle, two years ago before he returned to Vancouver.

In the past two years, the biggest name the Argos signed via free agency in February was tackle Adriano Belli, who came aboard in 2007.

Among the best players who are due to be available in three days are running back Jesse Lumsden, Murphy, defensive back Willie Pile, and receiver Brian Bratton.

If he could guarantee his health, Lumsden would get the biggest contract, but shoulder troubles have set him back. Still, Lumsden is a large fish, and speculation has him bound for the Edmonton Eskimos if he does not re-sign with the Tiger-Cats. Injuries or not, the Argos would be foolish not to give Lumsden a long look if he is affordable. The Argos' running game puts a scare in no one.

"If you're going to put money out for a guy, you would like for him to play (18) games," Rita said, discussing the idea of signing oft-injured players in general. "That's why you pay him."

Two men who have been key members of the Argos' offensive line for years -- guard Jude St. John and centre Chad Folk -- have uncertain futures. There have been whispers that Folk will retire, and St. John might as well. Ditto for linebacker Mike O'Shea, who has yet to announce his intentions.

Argos quarterbacks were sacked a total of 48 times in 2008. Only the Ticats gave their quarterbacks less protection, allowing 67 sacks. Stopping the rush has been a sore point for the Argos for several years.

Pile is one guy the Argos dearly want back but Rita was not sure he could get his signature on a contract this weekend.

"We would like to, but that may not happen," Rita said.

Pile has become a defensive stalwart in his two seasons in the CFL and emerged as a player to build around. Already gone are three of the better Argos, running back/kick returner Dominique Dorsey (Washington Redskins) and cornerback Byron Parker (Philadelphia Eagles), as well as receiver P.K. Sam (Buffalo Bills).

The Argos' other two pending free agents are linebacker Michael Fletcher and defensive back Adrian Mayes.


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