A mere two months after the BC Lions hoisted the Grey Cup, the rest of the league managed to make headlines with a few off kilter trades that have already shaped the 2012 CFL landscape.
On Dec. 12th the Edmonton Eskimos traded longtime starter Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts for quarterback Steven Jyles, plus a kicker and a first round selection in the 2012 draft. Ricky Ray had been the starter in Edmonton for nearly a decade — a tenure that included two Grey Cup championships and a handful of team passing records.
You have to believe Edmonton did not enter the offseason looking to part with the face of their franchise. Relatively young at the age of 32, Ray is still capable of playing at a “most outstanding player” level. The trade was more likely spurred by Ray’s hefty (by CFL standards) contract and the aggressive nature in which Toronto came after the veteran quarterback.
This leaves Edmonton with Jyles as their front-runner going into camp this spring. 38-year-old Kerry Joseph is the only other QB with game experience on the roster. Eskimo fans will have to dig deep for optimism over a team taking a big risk on a signal caller that has played for three different teams over the past three years.
Longtime Toronto fans must feel their team is headed in a familiar direction, as the Argos’ success has always hinged on acquiring a proven quarterbacks like Matt Dunigan or Doug Flutie. Most recently, the Argos struck gold when they signed a 40-year-old QB named Damon Allen in 2003. Allen led the Argos to a Grey Cup over the BC Lions in 2004. Fans and management are hoping that Ray is just what the Argos need to make Toronto a respectable CFL contender again.
On Jan. 2nd the Alberta–Ontario trade pipeline was opened again, as Calgary sent quarterback Henry Burris to Hamilton for quarterback Kevin Glenn and centre Mark Dewit.
Burris had lost the Calgary starting job late into the season, thanks to a lacking offence and the steady play of second-string quarterback Drew Tate. The 36-year-old Burris will now have a shot to regain his magic with an explosive and young Hamilton roster, while reuniting with the offensive coordinator he won a Grey Cup with in 2008 — Hamilton’s new head coach George Cortez.
Meanwhile, Glenn will compete with the aforementioned Tate in Calgary. Glenn is no stranger to competition. He backed up Khari Jones earlier in his career and spent some time behind Quinton Porter on the depth chart upon arrival in Hamilton. Glenn has overcome depth chart positioning before and will have a chance to do the same in Calgary.
Meanwhile, the CFL East Division just got much more compelling, especially for Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans. As if worrying about perennial CFL All-Star Anthony Calvillo wasn’t bad enough, now they have to hope that the Bombers can also tame a pair of pigskin slingers shipped in from the wild West. There should be plenty of fireworks — on and off the field — when the Bombers host their eastern rivals at the new stadium this season.