Toronto Argonaut GM Jim Barker on numerous occasions has stated that you don’t build a team around unrestricted free agents. Barker insists that Grey Cups are won by teams who draft and develop their young players. Free Agency is then used as a tool to fill in whatever missing pieces there may be.
With February 9 approaching the Double Blue currently have 27 players set to become unrestricted free agents should a deal not be reached before then. Currently only 3 players have to terms. National Defensive End Rickey Foley and National Linebacker Thomas Miles have been extended for 2016 and beyond. Also International Quarterback Ricky Ray has also been resigned.
That does, however, leave many intriguing names potentially looking for a new home once the free agency period opens. Should we be surprised that Chad Owens has still not been resigned? Is Trevor Harris still in the mix given that Toronto has already signed Ray?
Outside of Foley the entire starting defensive line for 2015 doesn’t have a contract for 2016. The most notable name of that group is third year National Defensive Lineman Cleyon Laing. Bringing back key National players is a crucial element in building a roster. it can also be an expensive element too. Do the Argos maybe let Laing explore free agency and let Daryl Waud, last years 2nd round selection compete for a starting role?
Key Linebackers like Gregory Jones and National Linebacker Corey Greenwood are also looking to get their name on a contract. Is Toronto looking to revamp their entire roster or is Barker a patient executive who will not rush into signing a bad contract that can limit his flexibility down the road?
The answer to all of those questions is probably yes and no. Make no mistake about it this all comes down to money. Barker is sifting through every player on his roster and deciding how much it will cost to retain the player and what other cheaper options may exist. Under a salary cap system the bottom line is that when you sign player A, you likely don’t have much money left for players B, C and D.
It’s that reality that reinforces Barkers belief that Free Agency is an expensive endeavor and that an organizations overall depth is the more prudent way in building a competitive team.
That doesn’t mean the Argos are running things on the cheap. No doubt Toronto will be right at the $5 million salary cap limit for player salaries (although financial terms will not be officially disclosed). And there will be significant high profile signings in the not too distant future. There will also be some difficult unpopular and scrutinized decisions too. All of that is the necessary evil that comes with a salary cap.
2016 is perhaps the most important season in Toronto football history in decades. With the move to BMO Field and a Grey Cup game in Toronto 2016 represents the first year the Double Blue attempt to regain a footprint in the sporting landscape. It’s not necessarily of make or break season for the franchise but putting out a winning team is paramount. And as free agency looms the narrative turn to General Manager Jim Barker and how he along with is staff believe is the best way to accomplish that.
Written by: Anthony Ciardulli
Follow Anthony on Twitter: @comicanthony