TORONTO – It did not take very long for Toronto Argonauts GM Jim Barker to begin re-tooling his 100th Grey Cup Championship roster. The Boatmen have already made substantial changes just two months removed from their Grey Cup triumph at the Rogers Centre. Following the Argonauts’ Championship parade on November 27, Jim Barker was back to work and changes were nearly immediate. Just three days removed from their historic Championship parade through Downtown Toronto, DB Ahmad Carroll announced his retirement from professional football. Carroll spent just one season in the CFL as a member of the Argonauts’ and provided stability to a fairly inexperienced Argos’ secondary. Carroll recorded twenty-two total tackles during the 2012 regular season and snagged three interceptions including an emphatic pick-six against Hamilton on Labour Day.
On December 4, the Argonauts’ continued to adjust their championship roster as Jim Barker announced that the club would be parting ways with veteran LB Ejiro Kuale. The 29-year-old spent three seasons in Toronto where he recorded one hundred total tackles and served as a starter during the Argonauts’ 2011 campaign. Two weeks following the release of Kuale, Barker announced the departure of long-time Argonaut K/P, Noel Prefontaine. The fifteen-year veteran spent thirteen seasons as a member of the Argonauts’ and captured two Grey Cup Championships in 2004 and 2012. Shortly after the release of Prefontaine, Barker announced that S Etienne Boulay would not be returning to the Boatmen in 2013. The Argonauts’ signed Boulay on July 15, 2012 after the Montreal Alouettes had released the veteran a month earlier. Boulay recorded six total tackles during the regular season and has captured three Grey Cup titles in his seven-year CFL career.
The Argonauts’ have experienced a significant change on the defensive side of the football. Jim Barker kicked off 2013 with the release of DL Armond Armstead. The 22-year-old had a breakout season with the Argonauts’ in 2012, earning CFL all-star honours. Armstead was released in order to allow him to pursue an NFL opportunity. On January 22, 2013, Armstead signed with the New England Patriots of the National Football League. Armstead recorded forty-five total tackles, six sacks, and two forced fumbles during the 2012 regular season. The Boatmen also released seven-year veteran DL Ronald Flemons, a move that sparked a response from fellow DL Ricky Foley. The soon to be unrestricted free agent took to twitter moments after the release of his former teammate to voice his displeasure with the move. “I love this game and owe it so much but hearing Ron Flemons, one of my best friends and teammates ever get cut? … I don’t know, no loyalty.” Flemons recorded 186 total tackles and 26 sacks in his six-year tenure with the Argonauts’.
Despite parting ways with many of their veteran leaders, Jim Barker has added a plethora of young talent on both the offensive and defensive side of the football. As some fans question the off-season decisions made thus far, Barker is confident that his young talent is prepared to make their presence felt in 2013.
With the departure of five players from the Argonauts’ Grey Cup Championship defence, there are certainly big shoes to fill but Jim Barker believes that he has added enough grit and toughness to excel on the defensive end.
Replacing the likes of Flemons, Kuale, and Armstead is certainly a difficult task but a group of young DL are prepared to pick up where the trio left off last season. The youngest member of the Toronto Argonauts is DL Donte Paige-Moss. At the age of twenty-one, Paige-Moss joined the Argonauts’ on October 5, 2012 and appeared in two regular season games recording two total tackles. Paige-Moss will likely have an increased role in the Argonauts’ defence in 2013. The six-foot and 260-pound defensive lineman played three seasons at the University of North Carolina, recording eighty-three tackles and eleven sacks.
DE David Lee is a large, fast, and physical lineman that appeared in thirteen regular season games for the Boatmen in 2012. The 22-year-old recorded eleven total tackles in his rookie season. Lee played four seasons at the University of Western Ontario from 2008-2011 prior to being signed as a free agent by the Argonauts’ on May 30, 2012. Lee was spectacular at the 2012 CFL Evaluation Camp as he ran an impressive 4.93 in the forty-yard dash, the second-fastest time amongst defensive lineman.
2011 third-round draft selection (22nd) Alexander Robinson has recorded nineteen total tackles in his first two seasons with the Argonauts’. The 23-year-old played four seasons at the University of Western Ontario where his Mustangs’ reached the Yates Cup on four consecutive occasions.
This dynamic and young trio of defensive lineman figures to be an intricate part of the Toronto Argonauts’ defence heading into 2013.
The Argonauts’ entered the 2012 season with a revamped secondary and a new Defensive Coordinator. Chris Jones and his defensive staff produced a stifling Argonauts’ secondary that recorded the second-most interceptions in the Canadian Football League during the 2012 regular season. The Boatmen also added CB Patrick Watkins to the CFL all-star team and when Watkins went down due to a lower-body injury during the Argonauts’ playoff run, DB Jalil Carter stepped up to provide the Double Blue with consistent play on the back-end. The departure of Ahmad Carroll also presents an opportunity for Carter to become a full-time starter for the Argonauts’. The 23-year-old made nineteen total tackles during the regular season and was a standout performer en route to the Argos’ 100th Grey Cup victory at the Rogers Centre.
The Boatmen have also added an influx of young talent to an already magnificent offensive attack. The Double Blue posses one of the most lethal aerial attacks in the Canadian Football League, headlined by the leagues Most Outstanding Player Chad Owens.
The most surprising CFL breakout star in 2012 was Argonauts’ WR Dontrelle Inman, who recorded a sensational 803 yards receiving and five touchdowns during his rookie campaign. The 23-year-old developed tremendous chemistry with QB Ricky Ray and appears to be a significant part of Jim Barker’s long-term plan for the Double Blue.
The Argonauts’ also have Canadian draft picks Julian Feoli-Gudino and Quincy Hurst as members of their stellar receiving core. Gudino played four seasons at the University of Laval as a member of the historic Rouge et Or football program. The Argonauts’ drafted Gudino in the fifth round, 38th overall, in the 2011 CFL draft. Gudino suited up in seven regular season games in 2012 but failed to record a reception. Gudino captured two Vanier Cup titles with Laval and was named the MVP of the 2008 Vanier Cup game.
The Argonauts’ drafted Quincy Hurst in the fourth round, 28th overall, in the 2012 Canadian Football League draft. Hurst missed a majority of the 2012 season due to injury and failed to suit up in any games for the Double Blue. Hurst attended the University of Manitoba prior to entering the 2012 CFL draft. Hurst is known for his speed and tremendous ball skills, which made him a lethal weapon at the University of Manitoba.
The most recent addition to the Argonauts’ stout receiving core is NCAA standout Darvin Adams. The 23-year-old played three seasons at Auburn University from 2008-2010 prior to being signed as a free agent by the Carolina Panthers. Adams played all three seasons at Auburn alongside Panthers’ QB Cam Newton. In 2010, Adams set a SEC Championship game record with 217 yards receiving and two touchdown receptions. Auburn advanced to the BCS National Title game where they defeated Oregon 22-19 to claim the school’s second National title.
With CFL free agency set to begin on February 15, the Argonauts’ have six players that have yet to re-sign with the club. Maurice Mann, Evan McCollough, Ricky Foley, Tristan Black, Cedric Gagne-Marcoux, and Chad Kackert are set to hit the open market come February 15. While Argonauts’ fans would certainly like to see these players back in 2013, it is apparent that Jim Barker has assembled an abundance of young talent that is prepared to shine in 2013. Barker has laid a solid foundation that will allow this Argonauts’ team to continue to perform at a high level while still developing a tremendous young core that will assist in the long-term future of the franchise.
– Daniele Franceschi