|The Argonauts have re-signed kicked Noel Prefontaine. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - The Argonauts have locked up veteran kicker Noel Prefontaine through the 2013 Canadian Football League season and the club is confident that kick returner extraordinaire Chad Owens will return to the fold as well.
Prefontaine said his willingness to extend his current deal is based on the fact that he thinks he can add more Grey Cup rings to the one he won with Toronto in 2004.
The 37-year-old California native, who has adopted the Toronto area as his home after 11 seasons in the CFL, also admitted it feels good to be welcomed back to an organization that jettisoned him to the Edmonton Eskimos in a 2008 trade.
Prefontaine noted the architects of that deal — general manager Adam Rita and coach Don Matthews — are no longer with the club.
“I never wanted to be traded,” Prefontaine said. “The thing is that now the whole makeup (of the front office) is different from what it was when I was traded. I just like what (GM/coach Jim) Barker and his staff are trying to accomplish here.”
One of the things that Prefontaine would like to see accomplished is an end to the dominance of the Argos by the Montreal Alouettes — who have won the CFL East final six of the past seven seasons.
“I can’t count on one hand the number of times that I have lost to Montreal in the East final,” he said. “You have to respect what they do.”
Where Prefontaine feels the Argos may have the upper hand going into the 2011 season is youth.
“We are such a young team and their star guys are getting a little older,” he said. “Maybe there is some reason for optimism.”
Barker, in a statement released by the team, said he is also happy to get Prefontaine’s autograph on a new contract.
“Toronto is where he belongs,” Barker said. “His punting has always been outstanding and he understands how to kick under every different playing condition. His longevity speaks for itself and I believe he still has many good years left in his leg.
“He is a great mentor and team player. Most importantly, Noel Prefontaine isn’t just a kicker; he’s a football player first. This is what distinguishes him from others in his position and is why he is what we need on this team.”
As for Owens, reports that the super special teams kick returner may be on the cusp of inking a National Football League deal with the New York Jets now appear to be premature.
While his CFL stats are impressive: 2,701 return yards last season with an average 22.9 yards on kickoffs and 12.6 yards on punts — negotiations with the Jets have not resulted in any concrete offers as of late Friday.
ESPN, however, is reporting that the Miami Dolphins may also be interested in Owens as an alternative to rookie Nolan Carroll, but that interest may not be enough for them to offer a sizable signing bonus, something that is said to be paramount in any discussion with Owens and his agent Richard Burnoski.
One of the stumbling blocks Burnoski and Owens face is the pending lockout of NFL players expected in the coming off-season.
Neither the Jets or the Dolphins would risk tendering a major contract offer under such circumstances.
A source in the Argos front office said the team is confident that with no firm NFL deal on the table, Owens — who is in his option year with the team that leaves him free to sign an NFL deal before Feb. 16 — will return to the Boatmen when training camp opens.