Even as Ricky Ray still contemplates his future, the Toronto Argonauts are already getting ready for life without the four-time Grey Cup winner.
Ever since last season finished, Toronto Argonauts fans have wondered if they’ve seen the last of Ricky Ray. As of today, he still hasn’t confirmed if he will retire or return for one last season.
Give the Argos credit though. They haven’t sat around waiting for him to make a decision; in fact, you get the feeling the organisation is ready to move on without him.
Consider the Double Blue’s attempts to sign Bo Levi Mitchell, when CFL free agency began last Tuesday. While they ultimately lost out on him, their reported four-year offer of more than $800,000 per season spoke volumes.
Prior to free agency, we suggested the Argonauts should attempt to re-sign one of their former quarterbacks, whether it be Trevor Harris or Zach Collaros. However, it’s tough to argue with them instead aiming for a player who is the best in the league at his position.
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After missing out on Mitchell, the Argos wasted little time confirming how they were going to move forward. And it didn’t involve waiting/hoping for Ray to advise if he would return in this year to once again be their starter.
Instead, Toronto Argonauts general manager Jim Popp advised the team is going with James Franklin. As reported by TSN last Wednesday, Popp told TSN 1050:
"“Moving into this season he is set up to be our number one guy…One year ago, when free agency was about to start, we got the hottest guy that everybody wanted in Franklin.”"
The problem is that Franklin didn’t do enough in 2018, to show why everybody wanted him. Playing in 12 games, he threw for 2,034 yards, eight scores and nine picks.
The Argos finished last year with the lowest yards per pass attempt in the CFL. No doubt this contributed to the team finished last in the overall standings.
Popp explained where he thinks things went wrong for Franklin last year. As per TSN, he said:
"“Marc (Trestman) and James just never clicked, unfortunately. Somewhere in there from the time we started in minicamp to training camp, it just did not click for whatever reason. It just wasn’t a mesh between them.”"
The hope is that a new offensive coordinator and system will help Franklin become the player the organisation believes he can be. The question is, if Ray comes out and declares his intention to play again, what do the Argos then do?
The four-time Grey Cup champion is still waiting for full clearance to continue playing football. We’ve already shared our opinion that he should play it smart and retire regardless.
However, even if Ray does get the all clear and decides to return, there is a very good chance he won’t be the starter. As reported by TSN, CFL Insider Dave Naylor said:
"“It would appear at this stage that (the Argonauts) are committed to James Franklin to be their number one quarterback at the start of the 2019 season. If Ricky Ray was to return, perhaps he comes back in a backup role…It would seem, at this stage, that his days as a number one quarterback are over.”"
If this were to be the case, Naylor went on to add that it might actually be acceptable to the 39-year-old. He has previously indicated an interest in moving over to the coaching side of football, and serving as the backup could help with this transition.
Having said that, Ray is currently a free agent. Would he be prepared to take a pay cut, because the likelihood is the Argonauts won’t offer him as much as he received on his previous deal.
One final factor to consider in all of this, is the Argonauts’ interest in Travis Lulay. Popp admits the team has been in conversation with Lulay and he would be a comparable alternative to Ray as the main backup to Franklin.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Ultimately though, it sure seems like the Argos are prepared for life after Ray.
If Ray does decide to return this year, should the Toronto Argonauts bring him back? And if so, would you let him start or relegate him to the main backup role? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.