With their most important game of the season only days away, running-back Robert Edwards can't help but contemplate his future while wondering if the 2007 season will find him returning to the Alouettes.
"I mean, I've thought about it, but it's out of my control," he said.
Edwards is scheduled to become a free agent in February, and with the Canadian Football League season nearing its end, there has been virtually no dialogue regarding a new contract between the player and Montreal management. Edwards is hardly a financial liability, earning an estimated $80,000, and has produced two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, while scoring a league-leading 17 touchdowns this season.
But at 32, he knows there are many younger - and cheaper - tailbacks lurking around the corner hoping to take his job.
"I've had two good years and did everything correct," he said. "I've been productive. The rest is out of my hands. If that's the route they take (and make a change at the position), there's nothing I can do except find a home. If that doesn't happen, I guess I have to move on.
"There's nothing I can do to protect myself or fight it. I've been down this road before (in the NFL) because of injury and dealing with teams that didn't think I could hold up. But this is the first time I've had to deal with a contract up here."
The CFL is about to enter a brave new world next season, with the implementation of an enforceable salary-management system. Each team will have a $4.05-million salary cap, and penalties will be levied against teams whose payrolls exceed it.
It wouldn't be unreasonable to suggest the Als' payroll this season was close to $4.6 million.
One way to potentially circumvent the cap is to re-sign players before Nov. 19 - the day of the Grey Cup - to a low base salary, but huge signing bonus. Such bonuses don't count against a team's cap figure in 2007.
"I know the cap's coming and they've got to get their ducks in a row," Edwards said. "What I realize, once you get up in age, is that you want your salary to stay moderate, so you're not a cap casualty. I'm not looking to get rich."
Ben Cahoon is another potential free agent.
Although he's 34, Cahoon has said he's interested in playing two more years. The slotback has spent his entire nine-year career in Montreal and has recorded five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He perennially is the team's leading receiver, and one of its highest-paid players.
While it's hard to envision Cahoon playing somewhere other than Montreal, most teams - with Calgary and Edmonton leading the charge - are expected to make the sure-handed receiver an offer if he hasn't re-signed by Feb. 15. A Calgary newspaper reported this week that the Stampeders inquired about his availability during the season. It has been suggested the Stamps would like to jettison slotback
Jeremaine Copeland, an ex-Alouette, in favour of Cahoon.
Cahoon said the Als made him a contract offer this season, but it wasn't enough to entice him to re-sign. His next contract probably will be his last in professional football, which could lead Cahoon to test the market.
"That's a private question that, if I were to divulge, would possibly hurt my position," he said. "I seriously considered their offer and continue to."
With the Als preparing for Sunday's Eastern final against Toronto at Olympic Stadium, general manager and coach Jim Popp has refused to discuss any cap-related issues or potential free agents.
"I won't talk until the 2006 season is over," he said.