If Damon Allen is to be back with the Argonauts next season he may have to take a pay cut.
The 43-year-old quarterback was not among players who had their contracts extended before last Saturday’s CFL deadline, when any signing would not have counted toward next season’s $4.05 million salary cap.
Allen is eligible to become a free agent on Feb. 15, but he could still reach a new agreement with the Argos before then.
It is unlikely, however, that he would receive anything more than the approximately $250,000 he earned this season, after he proved ineffective in two playoff games and was benched in both contests in favour of backup Michael Bishop.
If Allen decides he wants to return for a 22nd CFL season and fifth year with the Argos, he could be asked to take a sizeable pay cut if he is not the team’s starter.
Argo GM Adam Rita yesterday would only say that his quarterback situation remains unresolved and may remain that way for several weeks.
“First of all, it’s up to Damon to decide if he wants to return,” said Rita. “Beyond that I can’t say too much at this time.”
Before dealing with the quarterback question, Rita has a few other tasks.
First, he must replace himself as the team’s offensive coordinator. He took on that responsibility after Kent Austin was fired in mid-season.
But he has said he doesn’t want to remain in that job “unless I have to.”
Rita confirmed he has spoken to Steve Burrato, who was recently fired by the Calgary Stampeders.
Montreal Alouettes running back and receivers coach Marcel Bellefeuille is also said to be a candidate, as is current Argo receivers coach Paul LaPolice.
Danny Barrett, who is no more than 50-50 to be retained by the Saskatchewan Roughriders as their head coach, could also be a candidate.
Once Rita has hired an offensive coordinator, head coach Mike Clemons, Rita and the new hire can discuss the quarterback situation. Among the issues to sort out: Do they want Allen back as the starter? Do they want him back as a backup? Does Allen want to come back as anything but the starter?
When asked that question the day after the Argos were eliminated in the East final by the Alouettes, Allen balked, saying he believes he can still be a No. 1 quarterback; he added he’d need time to ponder his future.
The new salary cap will play a significant role in how the Argos approach the situation.
If Bishop is deemed ready to take over the No. 1 job, he’d have to receive a substantial raise over his current salary — believed to be less than $70,000.
Then, the Argos would have to compensate him for not going to the Arena Football League this winter, where he could earn as much as $100,000 (U.S.) as a starting quarterback.
Pay Bishop that kind of money, along with Allen at his current salary, and third-stringer Eric Crouch would not fit under the cap.
The Argos extended the contracts of kicker/punter Noel Prefontaine, OG Jude St. John and CB Byron Parker during the season.
Before Saturday’s deadline they also signed RB Jeff Johnson, DE Riall Johnson, DB Khalil Carter, DB Ken Wheaton and OL Jon Landon.
Along with Allen, those who remain eligible for free agency if they have not re-signed by Feb. 15 are DB Chris Hardy, OT Jerome Davis, WR R.Jay Soward, DE Eric England, WR David Azzi and QB Spergon Wynn.
Soward and Wynn are unlikely to be offered new contracts.