CFL Pass

Talks continue as Argos hold out hope NFL's T.J. Jones suits up

The back and forth between the CFL and the players association continue as T.J. Jones remains in football limbo.

At stake is whether the veteran NFL receiver will get a chance to follow in his dad Andre’s footsteps by playing three-down football.

The Argos are certainly keen on a resolution, having come to terms with Jones on a deal that will reportedly pay him $200,000, pocket change when compared to what established receivers earn in the NFL.

In the case of Jones, the amount represents market value in the CFL, with more than a handful of teams expressing interest in his services when the league’s free-agent window opened last month.

No contract has been filed because the current collective bargaining agreement limits the 27-year-old Winnipeg native to what is essentially a rookie scale, despite the fact he has been on an NFL roster the past six years, five with the Detroit Lions and 2019 with the New York Giants, while earning a full pension.

The union held a conference call Wednesday featuring executive director Brian Ramsay, whose CFL career involved a stop in Toronto, and newly appointed president Solomon Elimimian.

Not surprisingly, the Jones issue was front and centre.

“We’re trying to find a solution to it right now,’’ said Ramsay. “Discussions are very active. I’m always hesitant to say that something is imminent, but we are engaged with the league. We anticipate more discussions (Wednesday).”

Ramsay did acknowledge how the union and league have exchanged proposals on how to best deal with the situation.

Perhaps the whole affair can be chalked up to one of those unintended circumstances when a new collective bargaining agreement gets hashed out between a league such as the CFL and its players association.

The current language doesn’t apply to many, but it has impacted Jones and the Argos, who are said to be optimistic that a resolution will soon be reached.

Ramsay is looking for fairness by maintaining the integrity of the CBA and the fact that the two sides continue to talk must be viewed as a positive.

“I’m confident that we’ll get somewhere,’’ said Ramsay.

For obvious reasons, he wasn’t about to get into the specifics. But suffice to say Jones is hoping for clarity as he weighs his options.

There’s no way he’ll be donning an Argos jersey if the current language remains and an exception isn’t made that properly takes into account his service time in the NFL and the compensation he merits.

If he does line up for the Argos, Jones is ineligible for rookie honors and yet, at least based on the current language, he’ll have to play under a rookie salary.

In other words, it makes no sense.

On the surface, it seems the new CBA was intended for Canadian university players who attend an NFL camp only to return to Canada.

Even though the thought of playing in the CFL and being reunited with former Notre Dame teammate and cousin DaVaris Daniels — the former Stampeders wide receiver who was one of the Boatmen’s key off-season signings — is appealing, Jones has to take care of his family.

From what can be gleaned, NFL offers have been forwarded, but it’s unclear how much longer teams down south will covet him. In other words, Jones has been forced to play the waiting game, which is unfortunate.

Jones’ godfather is former Argos receiver/returner Rocket Ismail, who left Notre Dame to sign his first pro contract in Toronto in 1991.

TWO LITTLE, TOO LATE

Two years ago, the Argos selected offensive lineman Ryan Hunter with their first-round pick in the CFL draft knowing full well the native of North Bay would likely join an NFL team.

He signed with Kansas City and was on the active roster when the Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in 50 years last month, beating the San Francisco 49ers.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is said to be a big fan of Hunter and it’s unlikely the Argos will ever get their hands on the versatile lineman.

But he, too, assuming he suddenly becomes available, will be subject to the new CBA, and its salary limitations, as it currently stands.

Under then-GM Jim Popp, the Argos had seven picks in the 2018 draft. Nelkas Kwemo (18th overall) and Regis Cibasu (20th overall) are the only players on Toronto’s active roster.

For those fans of football history, the late great Greg Mohns used Toronto’s ninth overall pick to select offensive lineman Nick Kaczur in 2005, a Brantford native who would play for the New England Patriots and appear in a Super Bowl.

GOODBYE DEREL

By agreeing to terms with both Jones and Daniels, the Argos effectively closed the door on bringing back wide receiver Derel Walker, whom they signed last year in free agency.

Walker has been linked this off-season to both the B.C. Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but no deal has been negotiated.

Many in the CFL believe Walker will eventually land with a team when all is said and done.

FOOTBALL DARBY

Veteran defensive back Alden Darby Jr. has returned to his native California after spending most of the off-season in Toronto.

Darby joined the Argos in 2017 and has experienced the highs of a Grey Cup championship and the lows of back-to-back four-win seasons.

When he returns for training camp in May, the entire defence, schematically and personnel, will be completely different.

Darby is hoping to shed weight by adopting a vegan diet.

One of his off-season training partners is Pittsburgh Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Source: winnipegsun.com




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