CFL Pass

Report: Chris Ackie not quite holding out on Alouettes, but…

Things were appearing to go swimmingly for the Montreal Alouettes this offseason. The team’s nice performance in the CFL draft was augmented with some nice PR provided by their Michael Sam pickup. Abstractions aside, the Alouettes certainly looked primed to improve on the wonky 9-9 turned in in 2014.

And then this strange, inclusive story of first-round draft pick Chris Ackie’s not-exactly-holdout hit the newswires yesterday evening.

Ackie has not put in an appearance during the entire Als’ rookie camp, despite a reported warning from coaching staff and/or front office to “make sure you don’t make it late for rookie camp.” Montreal Gazette writer Herb Zurkowsky cautions that “Ackie is not holding out and this has not become a controversy, at least not yet. Eventually, the matter should be resolved.”

Maybe so, but that “eventually” isn’t exactly promising news, as what follows is the telling of a tug-of-war between agent and team over less than $30,000 which sounds quite a bit like a holdout situation. More discouragingly, the tone of Alouettes GM Jim Popp in the same report reeks of resignation on the matter: “We’ve pretty much gone as far as we can from our end. Either he shows up or whatever they want to do. We can’t do any more.”

And then there’s this stop-me-if-you’ve-heard-it-before sentiment: “[It’s always] money. They want more than what we can do. We’ve gone back and forth. We’ve done what we can. We’re trying to be fair.”

After the reworking of the CFL’s collective bargaining agreement in ’14, which has resulted in $650,000 worth of increases to each team’s salary cap, it’s almost surprising Ackie is nearly alone in holding out this spring.

Of course, some franchises are clearly readier to hand out top dollar than Montreal: As the Gazette notes, no. 5 overall CFL draft pick DL Ese Mrabure-Ajufo stands to earn $71,000 in 2015 atop an $18,000 bonus with BC Lions, whereas OG Danny Groulx (no. 7 overall) can earn $95,000 total with the Edmonton Eskimos, including a $20,000 signing bonus.

Thanks to a healthy depth chart in the secondary, Montreal’s path to legitimate contention in ’15 is hardly destroyed – CFLpass reckons things would be a lot sloppier and pessimistic among the Alouettes faithful if that no-show were, say, Daryl Waud. However, the Ackie situation will certainly be a story to follow, potentially precedent-setting for future CFL first-rounders as it has.

As Popp put it in the Gazette, “all of a sudden rookies are getting paid crazy money they’ve never been paid before. ... The agents want everything.”