Ricky Williams is about to make a run for the border, and we're not talking about the border that will soon be patrolled by National Guardsmen.
According to a source, sometime soon, possibly as early as today, the Miami Dolphins will grant the suspended halfback permission to play for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, who open training camp on Sunday -- which happens to be Williams's 29th birthday.
The last sticking point on the Dolphins' end is a written assurance from the Argonauts that they'll release Williams from his obligation to the team when the season ends in November. In other words, as one person familiar with the negotiations put it on Wednesday, a declaration that Williams is being rented, not purchased.
The Argonauts are likely to agree to the Dolphins' terms, and though Miami coach Nick Saban remains resistant to the idea -- he's worried that Williams will get hurt in Canada, which might make Saban and the Dolphins look like fools -- he'll probably give the bushy-bearded runner his blessing. Then, assuming a face-to-face meeting between Williams and his new bosses doesn't go miserably, it will be up to Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg, to hammer out a one-season deal with the team.
At the very latest, look for Williams to be a member of the Argonauts by early next week. That means Williams will leave the friendly confines of Grass Valley, Calif., where he's holing up with his holistically correct buddies, and relocate to a cosmopolitan city with terrific entertainment and culture offerings.
And why, you ask, is Williams, one of my favorite people in football because of his individualism, so eager to go international?
Come to think of it, why is Saban letting him go in the first place?
The answer to both questions is the same: Williams needs the dough.
Because of his drug suspensions and sudden retirement before the 2004 season, according to a source familiar with Williams' finances, the running back has made just $285,000 since December 2003 -- with his next potential check from the Dolphins delayed until at least next summer. Throw in the absurd $8.6 million judgment against him in the wake of his short-lived retirement (the Dolphins kindly reduced his debt to $5.4 million after his impressive '05 campaign) and a history of sloppy financial decisions, and Williams might as well be mooching meals from Mike Tyson. Or maybe Evander Holyfield is a more apt comparison: Williams has three children with three different mothers.
Williams won't make all that much in Canada -- probably less than $200,000, with the potential for some substantial off-field income worked into the deal. But at least this will get him some cash. And if you look at the painful history of his time as a professional, you'll realize that few athletes have ever squandered more potential cash.