Argos' Barker re-iterates possibility of standing pat

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:03 PM ET

TORONTO - If the Argonauts go through the free agency period without signing a new player, Jim Barker will be okay with that.

“Absolutely,” the Argos general manager/head coach said on Tuesday morning. “I’m ecstatic with what we have done so far in getting our own (potential free agents) back, and that’s the biggest priority, not overpaying free agents.”

Free agency in the Canadian Football League hits at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday. Barker and his right-hand man, director of player personnel Mike Hagen, were trying to get the team’s remaining potential free agents — defensive tackle Kevin Huntley, defensive back Lin-J Shell, defensive lineman Eric Taylor and offensive lineman Jeff Keeping — signed to new deals.

The Argo’s fifth free-agent-to-be, defensive tackle Adriano Belli, likely will use the rest of the month to decide whether to keep playing or retire. Belli and Barker are slated to meet around March 1 to discuss Belli’s future.

Huntley had shoulder surgery on Jan. 18 and might not be healthy in time for training camp, so that’s one factor the Argos are taking into account in negotiations.

The Argos have re-signed five players who would have been eligible for free agency — slotback Jeremaine Copeland, running back Bryan Crawford, offensive lineman Shannon Boatman, defensive end Ronald Flemons and receiver Chad Rempel.

Special teams whiz Chad Owens was signed to a contract extension.

A CFL source told the Toronto Sun that he does not expect the Argos to be overly active. There is almost zero interest from the Boatmen in the two quarterbacks, Jarious Jackson of the B.C. Lions and Chris Leak of the Montreal Alouettes, who will be available.

If the Argos do decide to make some moves, players of interest could include Calgary Stampeders safety Wes Lysack and defensive lineman Tearrius George. Some depth on the offensive line would help, and among those available are centre George Hudson of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, lineman Wayne Smith of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and lineman Ibrahim Khan of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The Argos were active in free agency last year, signing cornerback Byron Parker and offensive lineman Cedric Gagne-Marcoux.

But that could change in 2011.

“There are some players that could help us, sure, but it’s the age-old question,” Barker said. “You only have so much money to throw around, and a lot of these players want (a chunk) up front.”

The two big names who appear as though they will be available are running back Avon Cobourne of the Montreal Alouettes and cornerback Dwight Anderson of the Stampeders. The Edmonton Eskimos could use a running back, while there are whispers the Ticats will make a pitch for Anderson. This, of course, is considering the two do not sign with their respective teams.

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