Lowell Ullrich, The Province
Published: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
It is a league with bigger players and even larger salaries. There's no way, at least on form, the Lions could possibly compete with anything an NFL team could offer defensive end Cam Wake.
But, coach and general manager Wally Buono said Monday, that will not stop him from asking what it would take to work out a contract extension with the presumptive two-time CFL defensive player of the year.
And if Buono makes an offer prior to the formal opening of the option-year window, which would be contrary to his way of doing business in the past, Wake said he would be receptive.
The window of opportunity may have a crack that works both ways.
As he cleaned out his locker stall, Wake sounded as if he might be the one player who would be willing to look at all aspects of a CFL vs. NFL existence. "Oh yes, I would listen, without a doubt, I really would," he said at the Surrey practice facility.
If it's posturing, it's the same position taken by the Lions with other players heading into their option years. Buono has repeatedly stated players in the age bracket of Wake, 26, should first fulfil their NFL goals before planting roots, thus reducing their price.
For Wake, it's also no different from what tailback Joe Smith did last season. Smith signalled his intent to re-sign with the Lions while using his option-year window to determine the financial sincerity of an offer from the NFL's Houston Texans.
But upon hearing again that Wake is interested in talking about a new Lions deal, Buono said he'll break a rule. He'd also have no problem making Wake one of the highest-paid players on the team, a distinction that generally goes to offensive players.
"Of course, he's worth putting him near the top of the [pay] structure. We'll give him the whole salary cap," said Buono, who quickly made sure his questioners knew he was only speaking in jest. "That could cause pain when it comes to the salary cap. But we'll definitely sit down and talk soon."
There was a pronounced sense of resignation as the Lions said their farewells following a short team meeting.
"We all know changes are coming," said defensive lineman Tyrone Williams, who expressed his desire to play out his option year next season.
"This is going to be the hardest offseason in the history of the B.C. Lions," said defensive back Ryan Phillips. "I know there are guys who are always going to want to get paid. But what players have to realize is you can be the highest-paid player, but you may not be on a winning team."
B.C. can't match the non-guaranteed $310,000 US earned by NFL rookies who make an opening-day roster. The equation is whether the Lions can offer a six-figure signing bonus worked out within a long-term CFL contract.
"He's going to get no less than, like, an $80,000 bonus [from an NFL team]," predicted defensive back Korey Banks, who was offered $15,000 by the Minnesota Vikings before he signed an extension last season with the Lions.
"It's going to vary by position, and your age matters, but it makes no sense for [NFL teams] to bring you in for camp fodder at his age if they're not interested," said teammate Dante Marsh, who also worked out two years ago for the Kansas City Chiefs before settling down with the Lions.