Argos lose Watt and Rogers to free agency
Spencer Watt took the money and ran to the Hammer as free agency opened yesterday. The Argos also lost SirVincent Rogers, who went to the RedBlacks. (AFP)
Two starters decided to walk away from the Argos as the CFL opened its free-agent window on Tuesday, a process that normally begins with a flurry of activity.
The Argos weren’t expected to do much having already locked up some players, but the loss of SirVincent Rogers and Spencer Watt will hurt as the team moves forward.
Watt is a good kid, an emerging talent in the CFL whose biggest issue has been staying healthy.
Toronto drafted Watt five years ago, groomed him, allowed him to showcase his speed and would have wanted the North Vancouver native back in Double Blue, but money does strange things to people and Watt decided to take his act down the road to the Hammer, where he’ll essentially fill the void left by Sam Giguere.
In the coming days and perhaps even weeks, self-anointed pigskin pundits will debate the winners and losers in free agency, but at first glance the biggest winners were Canadian receivers such as Watt.
By extension, one of the biggest losers, for now, are the Argos, who were in the hunt for Watt’s services, but couldn’t quite match the offer made by the Ticats.
The economics of the three-down football are changing and teams, at least on the opening day of free agency, coveted Canucks.
Any team wants to build a strong Canadian base, the foundation of Grey Cup champions and contenders, but teams have thrown caution to the financial wind by throwing around money that’s unprecedented.
With all due respects to the likes of Watt and Brad Sinopoli, who was lured to Ottawa, there’s no Canadian, outside of Andy Fantuz, despite his recent spate of injuries, who is good enough to warrant a deal in excess of $100,000.
But that’s what the market bears and that’s the cost of business teams have decided to adhere to, which seems ludicrous by any standard.
The Redblacks were willing to spend like drunken sailors, signing Sinopoli away from Calgary for roughly $130,000 on the same day the franchise poached Rogers, who will earn north of $100,000.
It’s believed the Argos were in the financial ballpark for Watt, but the Ticats clearly wanted him more and were willing to play more than their rivals.
In Toronto, Watt showed flashes, at times playing at a level that indicated he was poised for a breakthrough, then regressing and then getting injured.
Watt was a very useful and effective option in the Argos’ passing offence from the wide-side slot, his ability to make plays made easier when the likes of Chad Owens and Andre Durie were at their best.
The Ticats can use a player to spread defences, but Watt isn’t exactly the second coming of Tony Champion.
What the Ticats got in Watt is a starting Canadian receiver who has some familiarity with quarterback Zach Collaros, a good pass catcher with the potential to be very good, but he’s not a game changer.
And neither is Sinopoli.
The CFL likes to shine the spotlight on its homegrown talent as it should, Watt and Sinopoli examples of the kind of talent this country can produce.
The money each will earn, though, now comes under scrutiny, even if the market dictated otherwise.
No one should and no one will begrudge either Watt or Sinopoli for cashing in, it’s their right as free agents, but fiscal prudence is a must in a league where every penny matters.
Maybe both Watt and Sinopoli will take that next step in their development, but it’s unlikely opposing defences will enter a kickoff having to account for either receiver knowing full well that each is a complementary piece.
And as of now, highly paid pieces.
Good on them, but at the same time it’s shocking how high their stock would soar, the amounts teams were prepared and willing to fork over for Watt and Sinopoli.
Given their history with Watt and Watt’s comfort level in Toronto’s offence, the Argos wanted he just like the team wanted to keep Rogers at left tackle as Ricky Ray’s blind-side protector.
But when a team, even if it is an Ottawa team coming off a two-win season, offers a six-figure salary, Rogers had to jump at it.
The Argos have options at left tackle, whether it’s Jarriel King, who avoided free agency, or second-year Canadian Matt Sewell.
Clearly, the Argos would have preferred to re-sign Rogers, but not at a price that would hamstring the club.
Another player the Argos wanted to keep was Darvin Adams, who battled back from a devastating knee injury.
Adams knows the system, but he knows the value of money, as any American watching the plight of the Canadian dollar can attest, electing to sign with Winnipeg, a team that went all in on the opening day of free agency.
ARGOS WON'T BUY IN
In one sentence, the Argos underscored exactly how they feel about free agency.
While the team did release a statement to trumpet the re-signing of Herve Tonye-Tonye, a nice special teams piece who may or may not turn into a depth piece at linebacker, the Argos quietly announced the release of offensive lineman Scott Mitchell.
One sentence was accorded Mitchell, who was a free-agent signing last year amid health concerns.
Shea Emry was the other player acquired in free agency last season, but he’s now in Saskatchewan.
GM Jim Barker doesn’t view free agency as a make-it or break-it exercise, as some teams do, refusing to overpay, which some teams clearly do and did do on opening day on Tuesday.
With Mitchell released and starting left tackle SirVincent Rogers following the money trail to Ottawa, the Argos aren’t as deep along the offensive line.
The receiving unit took a hit with Spencer Watt (Hamilton) and Darvin Adams (Winnipeg) signing elsewhere.
With Bakari Grant being linked with the Argos late Tuesday, it’s doubtful Jason Barnes will be back in Double Blue.
Curtis Steele has an offer on the table to return, but he’s looking at all options, including the NFL.