Boatmen land prized lineman

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

Rob Murphy once set a state record for penalty minutes on his high school hockey team.

Not so fast, Brian Burke. Murphy is taken.

The Argonauts made a major splash when the Canadian Football League free agency doors swung open yesterday, signing Murphy, a two-time CFL most outstanding lineman with the B.C. Lions, to a contract that reportedly will pay him $195,000 plus incentives in each of the next two seasons. That's a large chunk of change for an offensive lineman, but the Argos needed plenty of help on the front wall.

The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Murphy, a native of Cincinnati, will get assistance on the O-line from another Argos signing in centre Dominic Picard, who had been with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

And the club retained linebacker Willie Pile, one of the few emerging stars on defence. Pile led the Argos with 75 tackles last year, his second in the CFL.

The signings will be announced today, once the players pass physicals, and the Argos have called a news conference for this afternoon.

The Argos also were in the Jesse Lumsden sweepstakes, and the running back probably would have signed with a team immediately had he not been injury-prone the past two seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Edmonton, Winnipeg and Hamilton also were thought to be interested in Lumsden.

Toronto did announce one move -- a trade of backup linebacker Aaron Wagner to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for future considerations.

The Argos' offensive line gave up 48 quarterback sacks last year, second-most in the CFL, and its 347.3 yards a game on offence was last in the league.

Furthermore, veteran linemen Jude St. John and Chad Folk are expected to be lost to retirement.

The retirement route also is expected to be taken by linebacker Mike O'Shea.

Picard will turn 27 on June 22, just more than a week before the Argos' 2009 season opener. A third-round pick by the Bombers in 2006, the 6-foot-2, 302-pound Picard spent three seasons with the Bombers after a standout university career at Laval.

The Tiger-Cats got their hands on offensive tackle Alexandre Gauthier, who was coveted by the Argos.

Though there was no official confirmation from the Argos, Lions general manager/head coach Wally Buono told TSN he was not surprised to lose Murphy to Toronto.

"When Rob came into my office and said he wanted to look at other options for family reasons, I had pretty much resigned myself that he wouldn't be back," Buono said. "He got a big raise and I'm glad he's closer to his family."

Murphy and his wife, Amy, became parents of triplets last year and make their off-season home in Florida.

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NEW IN TOWN

A rundown of yesterday's moves from the first day of free agency in the Canadian Football League:

TORONTO ARGONAUTS

OT Rob Murphy (BC)

C Dominic Picard (Wpg)

LB Willie Pile (Re-sign)

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

OT Alexandre Gauthier (Wpg)

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

DB Richard Estelle (Re-sign)

WR Brian Bratton (Re-sign)

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

OL Glenn January (Sask)

OL Steve Morley (Sask)

DB James Johnson (Sask)*

LB Siddeeq Shabazz (Edm)*

EDMONTON ESKIMOS

LB Maurice Lloyd (Sask)

OG Kyle Koch (Wpg)

RB Graeme Bell (Wpg)

DE Kai Ellis (Wpg)*

S Scott Gordon (Sask)

BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS

LB Anton McKenzie (Sask)

SASK. ROUGHRIDERS

OL Joe McGrath (Edm)

K Jamie Boreham (Re-sign)

LB M. McCullough (Re-sign)

LB Aaron Wagner (Tor)*

* -- ACQUIRED IN A TRADE

REMAINING NOTABLE

FREE AGENTS

RB JESSE LUMSDEN (HAM)

WR D.J. FLICK (SASK)

DE TOM CANADA (WPG)


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