A few years ago, it was the most controversial issue in the Canadian Football League.
How, wondered many, could the CFL allow players entering the option year of their contracts a window to jump to the National Football League? Criticism rained down from the fans, media and general managers, insisting the league reverse a policy they said would destroy efforts to build teams.
These days, however, the option window is hardly ever mentioned.
How many fans could name the only player from the 2004 CFL season to make the NFL by using the option window in his contract last winter? It was D.J. Johnson, the former Montreal Alouettes defensive back who suited up for seven games this season with the New York Jets.
How many recall that Nick Harper, a starting defensive back for the Indianapolis Colts, was a Hamilton Tiger-Cat before using the option window after the 2000 season?
Overall, the option window has attracted far more players to the CFL than it has caused it to lose and is a non-issue today.
That said, there are many CFL players hoping to earn a shot at an NFL roster next summer because their contracts have expired or through the option window. It's not exactly a bumper crop of NFL wannabes, but here are a few who will get at least a look:
Jon Ryan, punter, Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Winnipeg had Bob Cameron punting for nearly three decades, but it may lose Ryan after two seasons. The University of Regina product had a great sophomore year, with a record average of 50.6 yards a punt. Besides the big leg, he displayed tremendous accuracy and was responsible for tipping field position Winnipeg's way in some games. There are those who believe he needs to improve his speed getting the ball off, but that shouldn't keep him from getting to show what he can do somewhere next summer.
Casey Printers, quarterback, B.C. Lions: Printers wasted no time this month, booking workouts with the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs, and is sure to get looks from other teams. He seems to have all the mobility and playmaking skills to succeed in the NFL, and his age, 24, is another plus. He was the CFL's most outstanding player in 2004, but it's hard to know how NFL teams will view his 2005 season, which was plagued by injuries. Also, the Lions lost most of Printers's starts.
Jesse Lumsden, running back, Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Lumsden had his sights set on landing an NFL job, but was released last summer by the Seattle Seahawks after several weeks of training camp. He missed critical practice time and playing time in exhibition games because of an injury early in camp. The fact that Seattle cut him, however, without playing him in an exhibition game suggests he might never have been seriously in the mix. Still, he tests well enough to likely get a training-camp invitation somewhere else next summer.
Korey Banks, defensive back, Ottawa Renegades: Banks was Ottawa's best defensive back last season. He led the CFL with 10 interceptions, two for touchdowns. A true ball hawk, his biggest issue is size; he's 5 foot 11 and 190 pounds. Banks spent part of the 2003 season with Miami's practice squad, so he's not an unknown quantity in the NFL.
Jason Goss, defensive back, Tiger-Cats: Goss has drawn interest from the Dallas Cowboys, among others, but hasn't ruled out signing a new deal with Hamilton, which remains interested in signing him. The best player in Hamilton's secondary had six interceptions and was a strong contributor on special teams.
Tony Tompkins, kick returner, Edmonton Eskimos: An undersized player (5 foot 8 and 165 pounds) from a small school (Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Tex.), it's easy to see why Tompkins didn't get much NFL attention coming out of college. But after four returns for touchdowns in his rookie CFL season, he may get a look at the one position where size isn't as much of a concern, even in the NFL.