Trade talks between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts regarding kick returner Bashir Levingston appear to be dead.
"It's not going anywhere right now," Argos general manager Adam Rita said yesterday.
The Argos are still trying to deal Levingston, who became expendable when the team signed Keith Stokes away from the Bombers, even though he is likely to be released by tomorrow if no trade goes through.
Takes a pay cut
The Bombers expressed interest in Levingston, who is scheduled to make $125,000 this season despite the fact that Toronto coaches don't believe he's good enough to play a position, but only if the player takes a pay cut and the Argos are willing to eat part of his remaining salary.
In an e-mail from Tampa, Fla., where he is attending NFL Europe training camp, Bombers GM Brendan Taman acknowledged it was fair to say a trade was unlikely at this point.
"Affirmative ... I thought that all along," he said.
The Argos would rather trade Levingston to a West Division team than release him, especially since the Eastern rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats are interested in his services.
"We're talking to other teams, and preferably we'll send him out west," Rita said, adding that the team is willing to eat some salary, to a point.
"If it's too much, we might as well just keep him."
Levingston, who has 12 return touchdowns the last three seasons, is due a $20,000 bonus tomorrow and could be released as early as today.
Levingston recently told the Sun that he would like to come to Winnipeg and added: "Nobody who is a primary kick returner in this league is a better position player than me."
Rita laughed at that comment.
"We would have loved to have him play another position," he said, and left it at that.
Taman said all else is quiet at the moment, although he continues to pursue free agent safety Richard Karikari, who is exploring NFL possibilities, while also talking to free- agent receivers Elijah Thurmon and Gilles Colon.
AROUND THE CFL: The Saskatchewan Roughriders signed three key non-imports yesterday, including middle linebacker Mike McCullough, who started a playoff game last year, running back Neal Hughes and Rob Pikula, a place-kicker/punter who immediately becomes the front-runner to replace the departed Paul McCallum. Pikula was the top kicker in the CIS last year with the University of Western Ontario Mustangs. The 'Riders are also expected to sign running back Corey Holmes, the West Division's most outstanding player last year, to a long-term contract extension in the near future ... The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have signed import running back Anthony Davis, who was on the practice roster of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts last year ... Reggie Durden, who was traded from the Montreal Alouettes to the Edmonton Eskimos last week, was unhappy with the deal but managed to see a bright side. "I'm not on a sorry team," he told the Montreal Gazette. "They could have traded me to Saskatchewan."