The Argos’ front office continues to reel in promising American free-agent players this offseason, less than a month before the start of CFL Free Agency. On Monday, the 2022 Grey Cup Champions announced the signing of All-SEC and Texas A&M Defensive End Tyree Johnson.
ARGOS SIGN TEXAS A&M STANDOUT EDGE RUSHER TYREE JOHNSON
Tyree Johnson is a big get for the Boatmen, especially considering the competitive landscape that now exists for American talent. That stretches beyond competing for talents with other CFL teams in Canada.
The pro football landscape has more company. With the United States Football League ramping up for season two in April. And the XFL is set to return next month on ABC and ESPN.
Over 800 players will play spring pro football this year in the United States as the CFL prepares for its 2023 season. Coincidentally, former CFL legend and Argonauts GM Jim Popp is heading up the USFL as one of their top personnel executives as Director of Player Administration. It’s something to monitor as CFL players become unrestricted free agents in mid-February.
The added options for players in the states make the Argonauts’ signing of Tyree Johnson much more impressive. Johnson, a former three-year recruit out of D.C., was a late bloomer at A&M who came into his own playing in arguably the most competitive conference in all of college football.
Johnson, 23, signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in May of 2022 before a release this past August. The 6’4, 240lb lineman attended Texas A&M from 2018-2021, where he played in 47 games and recorded 100 tackles, 23.5 for loss, 18 sacks, and three forced fumbles. The Washington, D.C. native was named Second-Team All-SEC after a breakout senior campaign saw him tally 8.5 sacks, 26 pressures, and nine tackles for loss.
Despite his success as a senior, Tyree Johnson went undrafted last spring. Despite some NFL draft experts like Lance Zierlein giving him a sixth-round grade.,
During the NFL draft process, the knocks on Johnson were his thin frame, limited overall skillset, and arm length, and NFL teams saw him as strictly a rotational pass-rusher. Similar to the scouting profile of Argos DE Ali Fayad, the 2022 CFL rookie was the defensive player of the year at Western Michigan in the Mid-American Conference.
Tyree Johnson became a victim of the numbers game with the Steelers because of his inexperience dropping back in coverage at linebacker. But in the Six, with Corey Mace as his defensive coordinator, Johnson’s role could be simplified to what he does best, pass rushing on the edge.
The Argonauts Stable Of Pass Rushers
The Argonauts have two high-profile veteran pass rushers, JaGared Davis and Shane Ray, who are set to become free agents on February 14th. Ray has NFL interest from the Kansas City Chiefs, and the former first-round NFL draft pick could be headed back down south in the coming weeks.
Toronto, late last season, signed NFL veteran DE Damontre Moore, another Texas A&M alum. But unfortunately, he was injured early in his debut CFL campaign, and the veteran could potentially stick around for an encore in 2023.
The pressing matter is also attempting to retain emerging star and Grey Cup hero Robbie Smith. The Wilfred-Laurier product should have multiple suitors in free agency, and an argument can be made that Smith has more value than Davis or Ray because of his age (25) and national status.
If any or all of the Argos’ top three free-agent defensive ends jump ship. Suddenly, the team’s influx of American imports takes on more importance.
Notwithstanding Northern Iowa defensive tackle Jared Brinkman, who could also factor into the lineup up front.
At the defensive end, the Argos have some promising young prospects for 2023. Boston College standout Brandon Barlow was another rookie, like Ali Fayad, who showed promise in limited playing time for Toronto last season. Depending on how things shake out in free agency. The Double Blue 2022 newbies might pair up with Tyree Johnson in more than just sub-packages in 2023.
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