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Toronto Argonauts Winter Negotiation List Highlighted By 5 Intriguing Quarterbacks

The annual year-end negotiation lists unveiled by the Toronto Argonauts and eight other CFL teams can be categorized as wishlists. A fitting exercise during the winter holiday season. Often, players on these lists never make their way up north. But once in a while, a select few are lured to Canada and become difference-makers in the Canadian Football League.

In recent years, the Argos, in particular, have garnered great rewards from the CFL’s negotiation list. Toronto has utilized the hopeful CFL player process to land superstars like quarterback Chad Kelly through trade and dynamic kick returner Javon Leake.

Sometimes negotiation lists for CFL teams can be very revealing. Especially as it pertains to the number of players clubs plan to or are already courting at a particular position. Toronto’s ten-player list submitted to the league office has some intriguing tells.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS 2023 WINTER NEGOTIATION LIST

  • Jason Bean | QB | Kansas
  • Isaiah Bowser | RB | Central Florida
  • Nolan Henderson | QB | Delaware
  • Leonard Johnson | DB | Duke
  • Xavier Malone | WR | Henderson State
  • John Matocha | QB | Colorado School of Mines
  • Derek Parish | DL | Houston
  • John Rhys Plumlee | QB | Central Florida
  • Jason Poe | OL | Mercer
  • Matt Sluka | QB | Holy Cross

The Argos have targeted five specific quarterbacks on their winter negotiation list. Jason Bean (Kansas), Nolan Henderson (Delaware), John Matocha (Colorado School of Mines), John Rhys Plumlee (UCF), and Matt Sluka (Holy Cross).

Although Toronto saw growth last season from an inexperienced signal-caller in Cameron Dukes (Lindsey Wilson College), who saw plenty of action, the football club is still in search mode for competition behind Chad Kelly on the pivot.

CFL teams, especially the Argonauts in recent times, have had a ton of success finding small-school standouts. The team has even hit on players with no college experience, such as 2023 CFL Rookie of the Year DB Qwan’tez Stiggers.

So it should not be surprising to see a collection of hidden gems from all walks of football life on Toronto’s negotiation list. The Boatmen are going back into the clear creek of the Colorado School Of Mines with D2 Harlon Hill Trophy winner QB John Matocha. And you can’t blame them after undrafted rookie defensive back Mason Pierce was Pro Football Focus’s second highest graded player at his position this past season.

The 5’11, 180-pound Matocha from the Colorado Mines Orediggers’ program was named first-team All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) and the conference’s Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2019 after passing for 2,825 yards with 29 touchdown passes and five interceptions while also rushing for 598 yards and 11 touchdowns.

After his sophomore season was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, In 2021, the Texas native Matocha passed for 3,105 yards and 38 touchdowns and was named the RMAC Offensive Player of the Year. He repeated as the RMAC Offensive Player of the Year and won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the best player in NCAA Division II in 2022. John Matocha finished the season with 4,778 passing yards and 52 touchdown passes.

Nolan Henderson is another undersized yet productive collegiate quarterback at 5’11. However, unlike John Matocha, Henderson experienced quite a bit of adversity at the start and end of his five-year college career, which began back in 2017. It took a while for Henderson to break through as an All-CAA player in 2020 and 2021.

The small-town Delaware product, Henderson became a full-time starter in the 2020–21 season, being named team captain and throwing for 1,482 yards and ten touchdowns in eight games. He led the Blue Hens to a 7–1 mark and set the school record with a 70.7 completion percentage helping them reach the NCAA semifinals. His completion percentage ranked first in the CAA and third in the FCS.

In 2021, Henderson started the first four games before suffering a season-ending abdominal injury. In four games, he went 47-of-80 passing for 646 yards and four touchdowns.

 He posted his best year as a senior in 2022, setting the single-season school record for passing touchdowns set by Delaware legend Joe Flacco, with 32 while completing 285-of-442 passes for 3,216 yards, the latter of which was the third-best mark in school history. Henderson was named second-team All-CAA and led Delaware to the playoffs, where they lost to eventual national champion South Dakota State 42–6 in a game that saw Henderson break his fibula.

Although Henderson had one year of eligibility remaining coming into 2023, he opted to declare for the NFL Draft. He finished his college career second all-time in Delaware history for touchdown passes (56) and completed 550-of-850 pass attempts for 6,429 yards. Additionally, he ran for 418 yards, scoring eight times. At his pro day, Henderson ran a 4.55 in the 40-yard dash, which landed him a brief roster spot with the Baltimore Ravens this past spring.

North Texas/Kansas QB Jason Bean has also had a unique playing journey. The Mansfield, Texas native spent two years in his home state before entering the transfer portal and starting 22 games for the Jayhawks. The 6’3 dual-threat signal-caller spent six years in college as an infrequent starter. But when given the opportunity, showed the skillset that made him a three-star recruit coming out of high school. While there was inconsistent play from Bean in 2023, he did a commendable job coming off the bench to lead Kansas when they lost starting quarterback Jalon Daniels.

The Boatmen are banking on Bean’s upside if he doesn’t get any looks in the pros down south.

Central Florida’s John Rhys Plumlee is another quarterback on the Argos negotiation list who is a college transfer, originally from Chad Kelly’s former stomping ground of Ole Miss.

Although nothing about Plumlee is ordinary, the two-sport athlete also excelled in baseball on the collegiate level. The centerfielder/quarterback/former wide receiver for the Rebels and Knights has a very unique player profile.

The dual-threat signal-caller was a versatile part-time starter/backup quarterback while at Ole Miss, JRP set Ole Miss records for rushing yards (1,058), rushing touchdowns (12), and total touchdowns (16) by a freshman and the most rushing yards in a season by a quarterback.

After being transitioned to the wide receiver position as a junior, Plumlee announced his commitment to transfer to UCF in 2022.  He also committed to play for the UCF baseball team, but his waiver to play in the 2022 season was denied by the NCAA. He was named the Knights starting quarterback going into the 2022 season. Plumlee tied a school record with seven total touchdowns after he completed 18 of 22 pass attempts for 373 yards and four touchdowns and rushed seven times for 37 yards and three touchdowns in a 70-13 win over Temple. Plumlee finished the season with 218 completions on 346 pass attempts for 2,586 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions while also rushing for 862 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was named AAC offensive player of the week (3 times) and 2nd-team All-AAC by Phil Steele.

Plumlee entered the 2023 UCF baseball season as a starting outfielder. Plumlee went viral on April 14 for participating in a baseball and football game on the same day. He was caught leaving to change into a different uniform mid-game to play in the spring football game. In the 12-3 baseball victory over Memphis, he went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBI. At the football game, he threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns, including a 70-yarder. Plumlee finished the season batting .286 with 11 doubles, one triple, ten home runs, 43 runs scored, 32 RBIs, and led the team in stolen bases with 18. 


It remains to be seen what unique path John Rhys Plumlee takes in his pro career. But the Boatmen have a spot saved for him if he wants to make the journey up north. Maybe he can play for the Blue Jays too.

The Argos have another multi-sport star on their negotiation list in Holy Cross quarterback Matt Sluka. The football/lacrosse/basketball product out of New York took the Patriot League by storm, showing off his dynamic all-purpose skills as a 6’3, 220-pound running quarterback.

Sluka was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Year after passing for 187 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 268 yards and four touchdowns in only four games. During his sophomore campaign, Sluka was named second-team All-Patriot League after passing 1,512 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushing for 868 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Sluka was named first-team All-Patriot League as a junior after he completed 153 of 266 pass attempts for 2,489 yards with 26 touchdowns and four interceptions and rushed 203 times for 1,234 yards, which was the most among FCS quarterbacks and 11 touchdowns and was a finalist for the prestigious Walter Payton Award.

In his Holy Cross career, Sluka has 5,916 passing yards and 59 touchdowns compared to just 15 interceptions. He’s also added 3,583 rushing yards and 38 rushing touchdowns. On November 20th, Sluka entered the transfer portal. He has drawn interest from Power Five programs and might seek a lucrative NIL deal attached to a more high-profile school. So it remains to be seen what the future holds for him. But the Boatmen are taking a future flyer nonetheless.

 Not everyone on the Argonauts’ latest negotiation list is directly out of or still in college. For example, there’s two-year NFL player Jason Poe.

The athletic 25-year-old offensive lineman has spent the last two NFL seasons on the fringe of rosters in the big league down south. The undersized Poe, at 6’1, 300 pounds, has spent time with the San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets practice squads since going undrafted in 2022.

He was most recently released by New York off their PS on November 6th. Poe is a former fullback who transitioned to the offensive line. A late bloomer who made his ascent from community college to eventually the revived Mercer football program and then into the NFL. He got there through perseverance and by displaying elite physical tools on his pro day in 2022, running a 4.9 and an elite bench press of 34 reps. The fact that he has made it this far is an accomplishment. Poe not only has a small school background but less than favorable measurables with very short arms for his position. (32″).

Toronto has a great history of banking on players who don’t have traditional NFL size characteristics. See Dejon Allen. They are letting Poe know that they are in the room if the door closes for him in the NFL.

Central Florida RB Isaiah Bowser had a productive 2022 campaign after struggling to be featured at Northwestern before transferring to UCF. In his final year, the team captain, Bowser, accounted for 984 yards from scrimmage with 16 touchdowns in 14 games — rushing for 799 yards and catching 14 passes for 185 yards. He signed with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent but was released this past summer.

The 6’1, 220-pound power back has very good vision and can provide added value as a pass protector. Andrew Harris is likely transitioning to his post-playing career. The Argonauts could be looking for a young complimentary runner who brings added physicality.

Henderson State WR Xavier Malone brings a skill set that is largely missing from the Argonaut’s receiving corps. Although only 5’8, Malone has recorded 4.3 speed.

After two seasons at Northeast Mississippi Community College, He transferred to Division 2 Henderson State, where he played from 2021-2022. In just 22 games for the ‘Reddies’, Malone recorded 135 receptions for 2,352 yards and 18 touchdowns. It was enough to rank him third all-time at Henderson State in career receiving yards, fourth in touchdowns, and fifth in receptions.

Xavier Malone signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2023.

Despite having an impressive preseason where Pro Football Focus graded Malone as the Falcons’ highest-graded offensive player. He just missed the final cut this summer but has spent time on and off Atlanta’s practice squad, even being elevated to the active roster in October.

If he doesn’t end up back in the NFL cycle. Malone could benefit from a trip to Toronto for more extended playing time.

There are only two defensive players on the Argonauts’ latest negotiation list. Duke defensive back Leonard Johnson and University of Houston linebacker/edge rusher Derek Parish. However, the latter is a hybrid player who has played on offense at fullback and tight end. Parish showed enough elite intangibles to warrant being drafted in the seventh round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2023.

Predictably, because of his unique and raw two-way skill set, Parish has spent time on the Jags practice squad and was most recently released in October. The barely 6 foot 240-pound Parish doesn’t have the prototypical size to play on the line of scrimmage in the NFL. But his toughness and versatility are what got him in the door.

Notably, The Argos have Derek Parish listed as a defensive lineman. The knock on him, despite a productive college career with the Cougars, was his inability to shed blocks at the line of scrimmage. However, in the CFL, with one yard of separation at the line, that might not be a deterrent for Parish.

Whenever the Argonauts front office and coaching staff show interest in any defensive back, it’s something to take note of. Toronto has had a ton of success recently, with American imports at the position. Duke’s Leonard Johnson has a similar profile to Argos top cornerback Jamal Peters. He is a long-limbed press corner who plays with physicality. He has some safety experience; he could transition to playing some halfback in the CFL if called upon.

The 6-foot, 194-pound corner tore his ACL while training for the 2022 NFL Draft. He went undrafted and then unsigned as he recovered from the knee injury. Johnson missed only one game during his time at Duke, playing 47 career contests with 39 starts. He finished his collegiate career with 165 total tackles, ten tackles for loss, two sacks, six interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 17 pass breakups and two quarterback hurries.

Prior to his injury, Johnson participated at Duke’s pro day, where he ran a 4.54 40-yard dash and registered a vertical jump of 33.0 and a broad jump of 10.5. The New York Giants signed him as an undrafted free agent. Johnson would eventually be let go with an injury settlement. But there’s no doubt that New York didn’t see him at his best because of the short recovery time frame after his ACL injury.

Perhaps it will be Toronto that gets to see one or two or more of these negotiation list players at their very best in Double Blue.

CFL 2023 WINTER NEGOTIATION LISTS UNVEILED

The nine Canadian Football League (CFL) teams have each unveiled ten players from their negotiation lists. Clubs are required to do so on two occasions each year – in September and December – following a measure approved at the 2018 CFL winter meetings.

CFL by-laws state that teams can claim exclusive rights for up to 45 players by placing them on their negotiation lists. Players can be added, removed, or traded from the lists at any time.

Notable players previously unveiled on negotiation lists include:

  • Dustin Crum
  • Tevin Jones
  • Chad Kelly
  • Javon Leake
  • Jake Maier
  • Jamal Morrow
  • Deatrick Nichols
  • Tim White
  • Lucky Whitehead

2023 WINTER NEGOTIATION LISTS
​(Name | Position | College)

BC LIONS

  • Brennan Armstrong | QB | North Carolina State
  • Sean Chambers | RB | Montana State
  • Noah Fifita | QB | Arizona
  • Devron Harper | WR | Mercer
  • Frank Harris | QB | Texas-San Antonio
  • Smoke Harris | WR | Louisiana Tech
  • Jermaine Jackson | WR | Idaho
  • Mikey Keene | QB | Fresno State
  • Gevani McCoy | QB | Idaho
  • Kaidon Salter | QB | Liberty

EDMONTON ELKS

  • Holton Ahlers | QB | East Carolina
  • Isaiah Davis | RB | South Dakota State
  • Malik Flowers | WR | Montana
  • KJ Jefferson | QB | Arkansas
  • Cameron Rising | QB | Utah
  • Spencer Sanders | QB | Mississippi
  • Cody Schrader | RB | Missouri
  • Noah Taylor | DL | North Carolina
  • BJ Wilson | OL | Quincy
  • Dresser Winn | QB | Tennessee Martin

CALGARY STAMPEDERS

  • James Blackman | QB | Arkansas State
  • Davis Brin | QB | Georgia Southern
  • Theo Day | QB | Northern Iowa
  • Jadon Haselwood | WR | Arkansas
  • Jerome Kapp | WR | Kutztown
  • Marquel Lee | LB | Wake Forest
  • Josh Love | QB | San Jose State
  • Armani Marsh | DB | Washington State
  • Auden Tate | WR | Florida State
  • Dee Williams | DB | Tennessee

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS

  • Ryan Anderson | DL | Alabama
  • Jerrion Ealy | RB | Mississippi
  • Chase Garbers | QB | California
  • Thakarius Keyes | DB | Tulane
  • Josh Malone | WR | Tennessee
  • Jordan McCloud | QB | James Madison
  • George Moore | OL | Oregon
  • Aaron Patrick | DL | Eastern Kentucky
  • Jarrid Williams | OL | Miami
  • Zach Zebrowski | QB | Central Missouri

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

  • Praise Amaewhule | DL | Texas El Paso
  • Michael Ayers | LB | Ashland
  • Carter Bradley | QB | South Alabama
  • Kody Case | WR | Illinois
  • Darren Grainger | QB | Georgia State
  • Mark Gronowski | QB | South Dakota State
  • Penny Hart | WR | Georgia State
  • Gavin Holmes | WR | Baylor
  • Jalen Redmond | DL | Oklahoma
  • Anthony Witherstone | DB | Merrimack

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

  • Shemar Bridges | WR | Fort Valley State
  • Thomas Castellanos | QB | Boston College
  • DeQuan Finn | QB | Toledo
  • Ra’Shaun Henry | WR | Virginia
  • Jason Huntley | RB | New Mexico State
  • Andrew Peasley | QB | Wyoming
  • Adam Plant Jr. | DL | UNLV
  • Austin Reed | QB | Western Kentucky
  • Taulia Tagovailoa | QB | Maryland
  • Rejzohn Wright | DB | Oregon State

TORONTO ARGONAUTS

  • Jason Bean | QB | Kansas
  • Isaiah Bowser | RB | Central Florida
  • Nolan Henderson | QB | Delaware
  • Leonard Johnson | DB | Duke
  • Xavier Malone | WR | Henderson State
  • John Matocha | QB | Colorado School of Mines
  • Derek Parish | DL | Houston
  • John Rhys Plumlee | QB | Central Florida
  • Jason Poe | OL | Mercer
  • Matt Sluka | QB | Holy Cross

OTTAWA REDBLACKS

  • Tarik Black | WR | Texas
  • Ben Bryant | QB | Northwestern
  • Tim DeMorat | QB | Fordham
  • Mac Hippenhammer | WR | Miami (OH)
  • Will Howard | QB | Kansas State
  • Tyler Hudson | WR | Louisville
  • Cam Miller | QB | North Dakota State
  • David Perales | DL | Fresno State
  • Kalil Pimpleton | WR | Central Michigan
  • Kris Thornton | WR | James Madison

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

  • Davis Cheek | QB | Elon
  • Brett Gabbert | QB | Miami (OH)
  • Jaray Jenkins | WR | Louisiana State
  • Parker McKinney | QB | Eastern Kentucky
  • James Morgan | QB | Florida International
  • Daviyon Nixon | DL | Iowa
  • EJ Perry | QB | Brown
  • Lindsey Scott Jr. | QB | Incarnate Word
  • Marquez Stevenson | WR | Houston
  • Darwin Thompson | RB | Utah State

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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