The Argonauts have said goodbye to one of their former defensive stalwarts.
But could they be about to re-open the door to Argoland for another?
With free agency looming at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Argos general manager Adam Rita confirmed on Monday afternoon the Canadian Football League club will not re-sign defensive end Jonathan Brown.
“We’ve moved on,” Rita said. “He was fantastic for us, a good guy, but we have Claude (Harriott) and Ronald (Flemons) under contract and we like them. I’m sure JB will get a contract somewhere.”
Brown was an integral member of the Argos for six years, but missed half of the 2009 season with a back injury.
There does appear to be an Argos interest in re-acquiring cornerback Byron Parker, who was traded to the Edmonton Eskimos last season.
Consider that the Argos, under new head coach Jim Barker, plan to make a full shift to man-to-man coverage from zone defence. At his introductory news conference last week, Barker said he wants his team to be more aggressive, and few would fit that bill better than Parker. His eye for reading offences and ability to make interceptions aren’t paralleled by many. And when the Argos released cornerback Jordan Younger last week, it appeared to be another sign that Parker could be on their wishlist.
Montreal Alouettes receiver Kerry Watkins also interests the Argos, but Rita does not expect to make a big splash.
“We believe we have a lot of pieces here,” Rita said. “We’re not going after a lot of people. I don’t see a big puzzle piece on the radar right now.”
The Argos were trying hard to re-sign return specialist Dominique Dorsey, also slated to be a free agent, but were not close with running back Jamal Robertson.
Robertson was said to be asking for too much money, and though he rushed for 1,000 yards in 2009, so did running backs for six other CFL teams. The lone starting back who fell short was the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Wes Cates, and he came in at 932 yards.
If not the Argos, Robertson might interest the B.C. Lions, who lost their 1,000-yard rusher when Martell Mallett signed with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in January.
Of the seven men who gained more than 1,000 yards on the ground last year, Robertson’s average carry of 4.9 yards was the lowest.
All told, the Argos have 10 potential free agents — Brown, Raymond Fontaine, Willie Middlebrooks, Will Poole and Jason Shivers on defence and Dorsey, Robertson, Reggie McNeal, P.K. Sam and Obed Cetoute on offence.
Fontaine and Cetoute, the two non-imports on the list, are expected to re-sign with Toronto. Shivers and Poole probably will not return, while McNeal and Sam might have a better chance.
Rita said no decision has yet to be made on quarterback Kerry Joseph. But it sounds like the Argos are ready to hire a new quarterback, though the only one available in free agency, Saskatchewan’s Steven Jyles, would not be the answer.
“We want more production out of our quarterback and out of everybody on offence,” Rita said. “We need to find some receivers who will make big plays for us. And we will have Chad Lucas and Jason Carter from the beginning of training camp, when we did not last year.”
Meanwhile, Rita was not surprised that kicker/punter Justin Medlock signed on Friday with the Washington Redskins.
“We kind of knew that (Medlock would find work in the NFL),” Rita said. “He loved his time here. He is not locked in yet, but I think he chose a team that is a good fit for him.”
The Argos will turn to Eddie Johnson to be their No. 1 guy, and are thought to have no interest in Sandro DeAngelis, who is unlikely to re-sign with the Calgary Stampeders.
Also, the CFL announced on Monday that the 2010 Canadian draft will be on May 2. Rookies will report to training camps across the CFL on June 2, with main camps opening on June 6.