But things have quieted down considerably in recent weeks. The calm before the tides rise in the ocean. It’s hard to believe, but the 2022 CFL season is just three months away. And with the return of preseason games in Late May, minicamps and training camps will be starting before you know it.
There’s been quite a bit of turnover in the Argonauts’ front office and coaching staff. And Toronto has added some huge names to their roster. Starting with three future CFL Hall Of Famers in RB Andrew Harris, WR Brandon Banks, and DE Ja’Gared Davis. Toronto’s trio of superstar pickups have a chance to make a significant impact on the field and in the locker room.
The Argos mantra since losing the East Final in 2021 is ‘Unfinished Business.’ The question is, Are the Argos finished doing business this offseason?
Let’s take an in-depth look at the business the Argos have conducted this offseason and Toronto’s options moving forward.
ARGOS UPDATED 2022 OFFSEASON TRACKER
* Front Office: General Manager, Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons, Assistant General Manager, Vince Magri, Director of Football Ops & National Scout, Alex Russell, Senior Advisor, Jim Barker
As reported months ago here at CFLNewsHub. Jim Barker is back with the Double Blue as a senior advisor, and the Argonauts made that official in a press release today. The ascension of Vince Magri is long overdue, and he is one of the best young executives and talent evaluators in Canada and abroad. Alex Russell has also been promoted. Clemons is the leader and pitchman. His value in both areas is immense, and he’s got a great team working with him.
* Coaching Staff: Head Coach & Offensive Coordinator, Ryan Dinwiddie, Defensive Coordinator & Defensive Line Coach, Corey Mace, Special Teams Coordinator, Mickey Donovan, Pass Game Coordinator & Receivers Coach, Pete Costanza, Offensive Line Coach, Kris Sweet, Quarterbacks Coach, Mike Miller, Running Backs Coach & Quality Control, Edwin Harrison, Linebackers Coach & Special Teams Assistant, Kevin Eiben, Defensive Backs Coach, Joshua Bell, Secondary Coach, William Fields
2021 CFL Coach of the Year candidate Ryan Dinwiddie has had to do a lot of reshuffling on his staff since taking the Argos head coaching job after the 2019 season. The new group finally feels like it has his official stamp on it. Mickey Donovan and Kris Sweet are critical hires for Toronto. But a year after bringing on board veteran mercenaries like Chris Jones, Rich Stubler, and others. Dinwiddie finally has his coaches on his staff that he has strong connections with, Corey Mace and Pete Costanza. The former Calgary allies are two of the best assistants in the CFL. Like Dinwiddie, they will get an opportunity to shine in their most prominent roles in Canada.
Argos Player Moves
* Extended: QB, McLeod Bethel-Thompson (A), K/P, Boris Bede (A), OL, Dariusz Bladek (N), OL, Shane Richards (N), WR, Juwan Brescasin (N), WR, DaVaris Daniels (A), DL, Robbie Smith (N), LB, Henoc Muamba (N), LB Alexandre Chevrier (N), DB, Chris Edwards (A), DB, Matthew Boateng (N), DB, Robertson Daniel (N)
The Argos extended eight starters from their 2021 East Division Championship squad. MBT is going into a season as the clear-cut leader on the pivot for the first time in his CFL career. The Boatmen made sure to bring back crucial contributors from last season to assist Bethel-Thompson. In Dariusz Bladek, Juwan Brescasin, and DaVaris Daniels.
The quarterback of Toronto’s defence, Henoc Muamba, stays home in the Six. Another pivotal return is that of first-team CFL All-Star Strongside linebacker Chris Edwards. Barring a reduction in his suspension from last year’s East Final incident with fans, Edwards will miss the first six games next season. But there’s no way the Argonauts could have afforded losing someone as valuable as Edwards.
Kicking specialist Boris Bede is coming off of a team MOP-like season in 2021, and the Argos don’t win nine games without Bede a year ago.
* Re-signed: WR, Cam Phillips (A), WR, Sam Baker (N), DL, Fabian Foote (N), DL, Dewayne Hendrix (A), DB, Tarvarus McFadden (A), DB, Cam Glenn (A)
Some general housekeeping was done in this area. The Argos currently have 86 players on their roster. Except for Fabian Foote, who should be a key contributor in the defensive line rotation. And perhaps, Sam Baker, who has breakout potential down the road. Every player on this list will have an uphill battle to make Toronto’s active roster because of the team’s overall depth.
* Retired: LB, Dexter McCoil (A), LB Bear Woods (A)
Both Bear Woods and Dexter McCoil have transitioned into coaching, to no one’s surprise. McCoil, who had a phenomenal 2021 season as a jack of all trades player for Toronto, has joined the University of Incarnate Word in Texas as a Safeties coach. The University also lists his position as NFL/CFL liaison. The heady McCoil would be a fantastic coach in Canada, especially for American players who attempt to transition to playing in the CFL. As an in-the-box type player who can also play in the secondary. McCoil would serve as a terrific defensive coach in the CFL.
Bear Woods is now the head coach at Wetumpka High School in Alabama. The transition to being a leader on the sidelines is a natural progression for Woods, who was one of the most colorful and beloved leaders as a player in Canada. Both Woods and McCoil will be missed in the locker room. I am still not convinced that McCoil doesn’t have one more left in him. But coaching is something that he should excel at.
* Traded: LB Cameron Judge (N) to Calgary. The Argos pulled off a sign and trade by sending pending free agent Cameron Judge to Calgary for emerging star DB Royce Metchie. Cameron Judge, partly because of injury, didn’t live up to expectations in 2021, and the change of scenery should benefit him. The trade itself was a win-win for both sides.
* Released: DE, Charleston Hughes (A)
The signing of Hughes in Toronto didn’t live up to the lofty expectations. It appeared that father time finally caught up to the megastar pass rusher. It will be interesting to see if Hughes laces it up again for one last season of play. Coaching could be in the first ballot Hall Of Famer’s future.
* Unsigned Free Agents: RB, John White (A), WR, Ricky Collins (A), WR, Josh Huff (A), FB, Patrick LaVoie (N), C, Cody Speller (N), DL, Drake Nevis (A), DE, Cordarro Law (A), DL, Justin Tuggle (A), DL, Junior Turner (N), LB, Nelkas Kwemo (N), LB, Nick Shortill (N), DB, Adam Thibault (N)
It’s challenging to see a scenario where RB John White returns to Toronto. He should land on his feet somewhere because of his versatility as a runner, receiver, and pass blocker. Durability and now age are question marks for him.
Ricky Collins is another player who should be on a CFL roster as a starter, and the numbers game with the Argos ruled him out of the equation. But Collins can be an asset for any team in the league because of his run after the catch ability.
Toronto is already loaded with former Stampeders receivers who know Ryan Dinwiddie and Pete Costanza’s offence. Still, it wouldn’t shock me if veteran Josh Huff is on the team’s shortlist if he doesn’t land somewhere else.
Cordarrro Law still had some stuff left in the basement and played well when healthy in 2021. Like the WR position with the Boatmen, it isn’t easy to find an opening for Law to return to the Argos roster on the defensive line. Drake Nevis, who couldn’t get on the field last year, would be the ideal role player as a top-shelf run stopper in a perfect world.
* Additions: QB, Chad Kelly (A), QB, Austin Simmons (A), RB, Andrew Harris (N), FB, Joe Carbone (N), WR, Brandon Banks (A), WR, Markeith Ambles (A), WR, Earnest Edwards (A), WR, Damonte Coxie (A), WR, Darece Roberson Jr. (A), WR, Jamari Hester (A), OL, Justin Lawrence (N), DE Ja’Gared Davis (A), DE, Adrian Tracy (A), DE, Alani Pututau (A), DE, Jachai Polite (A), LB, Wynton McManis (A), LB, Solomon Ajayi (A), LB, Tony Jones (A), DB, DaShaun Amos (A), DB, DeAngelo Amos (A), DB, Royce Metchie (N) (via trade with Calgary)
The Argos added two of the most clutch big-game performers in the CFL in Andrew Harris and Ja’Gared Davis. Despite their advanced ages, they could be difference-makers in pivotal games and the locker room. Brandon Banks, like Andrew Harris, both have massive chips on their shoulders. Their teams effectively moved on without them, sending a clear message that they feel that their best days are behind them. An angry and motivated Andrew Harris is a scary thought. Brandon Banks doesn’t have to be the guy with Toronto, and if he can stay healthy, he can keep defenses honest and open up the Argos passing game.
Because of the heavy activity and some of the more high-profile signings, the additions of Markeith Ambles, Wynton McManis, and DaShaun Amos were somewhat overlooked. But all three players could be significant contributors in 2022. The Argos did the full-court press recruiting McManis back to the CFL, and they sent their entire office and coaching staff virtually out to recruit McManis to the Argos. With Cameron Judge now in Calgary, and Dexter McCoil retired. McManis, who spent the last two years in the NFL, could be an essential part of Corey Mace’s defence, lined up next to Henoc Muamba.
The Argos also aggressively signed two high-profile American players in QB Chad Kelly and DE Jachai Polite. The two former SEC standouts haven’t panned out in the NFL. But both are still young and were highly touted in college and when they turned pro.
Chad Kelly has a chance if he can exercise patience and dedicate himself fully to embracing the CFL game to be a superstar in Canada. Chad Kelly has all the tools, and it would not be shocking to see him as the backup to McLeod Bethel-Thompson when the season starts. Kelly can learn a lot from MBT, who took time to transition towards becoming a viable starter on the pivot in the CFL. The Argos might’ve found their QB of the future in Kelly.
What’s Next For The Boatmen?
The 2022 CFL National Draft takes place on May 3rd. Up to 74 prospects can be chosen from Canadian Universities and Canadian players playing in the NCAA. The CFL Draft is unique in that teams are mostly taking lottery tickets for the future.
But the Argos, thanks to the tremendous work of people like Assistant GM Vince Magri, has seen instant dividends paid off in recent draft classes. Look no further than 2001 rookie standout C Peter Nicastro and emerging star wide receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr.
The formal draft order hasn’t been revealed yet by the league. But the Argonauts are slated to select sixth overall in the first round as of press time. And by virtue of their Nick Arbuckle trade late last season. Toronto has two second-round picks. It will be interesting to see what positions the Boatmen target in the upcoming draft.
With National player Andrew Harris at halfback, it’s possible that Toronto could select a National player at RB to groom for the future. Perhaps, in an attempt to keep the position Canadian down the road.
The quarterback position could also be a position Toronto takes a flyer on. Waterloo’s Tre Ford stands out as a two-dimensional threat on the pivot.
Offensive linemen Ontario’s own OL Zack Fry and Saskatchewan’s Noah Zerr are two highly coveted players coming out of this class. Toronto can go All-Canada on their offensive line by selecting one of the two and slotting them in at left tackle. Toronto has a chance to build for the future properly if they can continue their recent run of success through the draft.
More Argos Acquisitions?
Toronto’s substantial depth on their roster makes you wonder how active they will be in the trade market or free agency in the coming weeks.
Ben Grant over at Xs and Argos did a phenomenal job breaking down the Argos early projected depth chart for 2022. You can check out the article here.
One of the key players returning in 2022 is left tackle Isiah Cage. The projected starter in 2021 went down to injury before the season started. Staying healthy has always been Cage’s Achilles heel in Canada. But he has shown flashes of being a top-shelf pass protector on the blindside.
Last season, American rookie Dejon Allen did a commendable job at left tackle, but in crucial moments against elite pass rushers, Allen had his struggles as a CFL newcomer. A year under his belt playing in Canada should help him. But Toronto needs to hedge their bets at the position. Some veteran OT options are still on the market, like Nolan MacMillan and Ryker Matthews.
Toronto needs to improve at the line of scrimmage on both offence and defence. Particularly in the ground game. A run-stopping specialist on the interior of their defence would help. But the market has dried up at DT.
Toronto needs to stay healthy on the offensive line. Something they struggled with in 2021. But they have quality depth on the interior. The team quietly added C/GJonathan Zamora late last year and signed Justin Lawrence. So they should be fine at guard and centre. The offensive tackle spot opposite Jamal Campbell is the Argos’ most significant question mark.
In the CFL, players on teams’ negotiation lists are typically ignored. And American rookie players are often seen as longshots. But Toronto has had a lot of success recently getting elite play from rookies from the United States. See Shawn Oakman, Treston Decoud, Jalen Collins, and DJ Foster.
After being negotiation list players, Toronto’s brass has convinced Chad Kelly and Jachai Polite to try their hands in the CFL.
Two players who are currently on the Boatmen’s neg. list to keep an eye on are Northwestern State’s OT Johnathan Hubbard and Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough.
Jonathan Hubbard is a small-school standout who was considered undersized by NFL standards to play tackle at 6’3 and a half. But he is very similar to Dejon Allen, and Hubbard has excellent athletic ability and plays with a nasty demeanor.
With Andrew Harris, up in age, and DJ Foster being more of a tweener type at tailback. Bo Scarbrough could be an elite battering ram power back in the CFL if he were to come to Canada. He was productive at Alabama in a crowded and talented backfield and has shined when given an opportunity in the NFL.
The 6’1 235lb bruising halfback is only 25-years old and has plenty of gas in the tank with very little wear on his tires. With the CFL regular season back to its standard 21-week length. Toronto could use as many viable options as possible at RB to carry the load.
The Toronto Argonauts are all-in this season. It’s Grey Cup or bust for them. The road back to the top of the CFL mountain for them has already begun.
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