East Division Toronto – When dust settled on day one of CFL Free Agency the Argonauts made to it clear their focus was protecting their future hall of fame QB, who Barker inked to a 2 year deal back in December. In addition to brining in a kicker, they slid in an extension to LB Cory Greenwood just before the noon eastern start.
Signed Sealed and Delivered
Jim Barker made a splash today, bringing in 2 of the top National Offensive Lineman available in Josh Bourke from Montreal and Corey Watman from Saskatchewan. He also brought in National Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu from Winnipeg in addition to re-signing another National, LB Cory Greenwood.
Josh Bourke comes to Toronto after spending 9 seasons on Montreal and winning 2 Grey Cups with then Alouettes Offensive Coordinator, now Argonauts Head Coach Scott Milanovich. In Montreal the 6 foot 7 315 lbs tackle had the responsibility of protecting the blind side of footballs most prolific passer, Anthony Calvillo.
Milanovich heaped hefty praise on the Windsor Ontario native saying “On the field he is one of the most talented and consistent offensive lineman to play in our league.”
At 33, Bourke has the hardware to back up that statement.
CFL Most Outstanding Lineman: 2011
CFL All-Star: 2011, 2012
East Division Most Outstanding Lineman: 2011, 2012
East Division All-Star: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Grey Cup Champion: 2009, 2010
Corey Watman grew up cheering for the Toronto Argonauts, so joining the Double Blue after 3 seasons in Saskatchewan is somewhat of a home coming.
— Corey Watman (@69_watman) February 10, 2016
The 26 year old Queensville Ontario native brings versatility on the offensive line having played multiple positions for the Riders including centre. The 6 foot 2, 294 lbs Watman was selected fourth overall in the 2013 CFL drat and looks to have a long career ahead of him if Barker has his way, “He’s a young centre, who we expect to come in and compete right away and become a mainstay in our offensive line”
Lirim Hajrullahu makes the move back east on a 1 year deal with the boatmen. The St. Catherine’s native had what can be considered an off year in 2015. In 2014 he was the Western nominee for Most Outstanding Special Teams Player for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
With a career field goal percentage of 79.5% and a punting average of 44.3 yards the University of Western Ontario product has proven he can handle all kicking duties. GM Jim Barker hopes to see a rejuvenated Lirim at BMO Field next season, “Last year was hopefully a great learning experience for him and we expect him to come back this year in the form he showed as a rookie.”
You can’t gain players without losing a few in the process. With 21 players hitting the open market, there was no way to keep them all. One of the most sought after of the Argos Free Agents, QB Trevor Harris found his way to Ottawa. Brendan Gilanders chose to return home to the Nation’s capital as well, joining Harris in RNation.
Long-time Argos centre Jeff Keeping signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after spending 10 years in Toronto. Also headed to Winnipeg is DL Euclid Cummings.
One day in, you can’t expect all questions to be answered. 17 Argos from the 2015 squad have yet land a new team. Although many are garnering lots of attention.
Cleyon Laing – No reports have connected him to any team thus far, however cfl.ca’s Justin Dunk speculated in twitter Q and A that Laing might have interest south of the border in the NFL.
Natey Adjey – Has an offer on the table from the Argos but is also in discussions with multiple other teams according to TSN and Argos Play by Play announcer Mike Hogan.
Swayze Waters – Has been rumored to be on his way out of Toronto. The signing on Lirim Hajrullahu may be a precursor to the end of the goat era in Argoland.
Chad Owens – According to Mike Hogan, prior to the opening of Free Agency, the Argos and the Flyin’ Hawaiian were far apart when it came to contract terms. The 6 year Argo has expressed his desire to stay in Toronto, but has also said he will do what’s best for his family.
That was just day one. Tomorrow is another day and June is still 4 months away. Nobody ever said this was going to be easy.