Argonauts busy making roster moves with final cuts, trade with Edmonton


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While some pieces to the puzzle that is a football roster have been released, much work awaits the Argonauts as they prepare for their season opener.

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The lights officially get turned on when Montreal comes to town on June 16 to help usher in Toronto’s season opener.

The CFL kicks off its long-awaited return to a normal 18-game schedule this Thursday night when the Alouettes travel to Calgary to play the Stampeders.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson will enter the season as Toronto’s incumbent No. 1 QB, a first for the itinerant signal-caller who helped lead the team to a first-place finish in the East during last year’s shortened 14-game schedule.

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MBT must take his game to the next level and he’ll be given that opportunity now that he has one year of experience under head coach Ryan Dinwiddie’s offence.

In the days before Friday night’s pre-season finale, Dinwiddie did acknowledge that roughly 75% of the roster had been finalized.

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Following his team’s walk-off victory over the Ticats — when Boris Bede kicked the Argos to their 18-17 win — Dinwiddie said that only four or five roster spots needed to be ironed out.

Technically, CFL teams had until 10 p.m., on Saturday night to release their opening-night roster. The Argos used every second of their allotted time to submit to the league offices — as did a handful of teams — but by late Sunday morning, they finally released their roster few, if any, surprises.

A total of 18 players were released, including two — Chase Arseneau and Michael Pezzuto — who will be returning to university, given that each has a year of eligibility remaining.

A dozen players were added to the practice roster, including global kicker Toshiki Sato, who had previously been released.

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The team had no backup for Bede, whose load will somewhat be lessened with the emergence of Australian punter John Haggerty, who can also handle the holding duties on field goals.

Again, no definitive roster makeup needs to be announced until the Argos actually play the Als. In theory, they have until the eve of their June 15 kickoff to announce their opening-night roster.

They have the luxury of a Week 1 bye, a time for several of the team’s many injured players to heal, and for Dinwiddie, his staff and the team’s front office to explore every option in deciding what roster is best suited to line up against Montreal.

Toronto did free up space by sending defensive back Jalen Collins and offensive lineman Martez Ivey to Edmonton in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2023 CFL draft.

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New Elks head coach/GM Chris Jones and assistant Stephen McAdoo were in Toronto last season and coached both Collins and Ivey.

The deal can be best described as minor for the Argos, who have a new defensive co-ordinator in Corey Mace and will welcome the return of offensive tackle Isiah Cage, who missed the entire 2021 season because of an ankle injury he suffered in training camp.

Until they actually appear in a game, practice roster players such as Sato, DB Eric Sutton, FB Joe Carbone, OL Braydon Noll, DL Julian McCleod, OL Kofi Appiah, WR Damonte Coxie, DB Caleb Holden, LB Jonathan Jones, LB Tony Jones, RB Javon Leake and DL Simeon Okonta-Wariso will have to bide their time.
Save for Sato, who made his debut in Toronto’s season meaningless finale last year against Edmonton, none of the above has ever taken a snap in the CFL.

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Players such as defensive lineman Kony Ealy, wideout Damion Jeanpiere and running back Dion Pellerin did play for the Argos, but all three were among the players released by the club.

Toronto’s Canadian depth seems to be strong and Pellerin simply got caught up in the game of numbers. The same can be said on both sides of the ball, which helps explain the release of imports Ealy, Jeanpiere.

CFL veteran Adrian Tracy was hoping to kick-start his return, but he didn’t make the grade either at defensive end.

Others such as DB Deion Harris, DB/LB D’Angelo Amos and receiver/returner Darece Roberson, who were ostensibly auditioning for the final time on Friday, were also part of the team’s final cuts.
Overall, no one should be losing any sleep over the players the Argos released.

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The Argos are a veteran team with ambitions of playing for a Grey Cup this season. At least on paper, they’ll contend, but it starts and ends at the quarterback position.

MBT’s pre-season amounted to playing just the first half on Friday.

CFL rookie Chad Kelly appeared in both games. He showed flashes, but also that he has a long way to go before he’s comfortable in his new surroundings.

At running back, Andrew Harris did not take a snap in the pre-season and will be on a pitch count this season as the Argos attempt to establish a downhill, physical style on offence with the two-time Grey Cup champion as their featured back.

The Argos did not release their injured list, which exceeds the team’s practice roster. But one of the most notable is second-year centre Peter Nicastro, who hurt his knee late last season and is likely to begin 2022 on the six-game injured list.

All-star linebacker Chris Edwards will begin the season on the CFL-imposed suspended list. His six-game sentence, stemming from last year’s East final loss is likely to be reduced, but nothing official has been made.

Shaq Richardson and Robertson Daniel are both capable of filling in for Edwards.

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