Toronto Argonauts start free agency with a bang, by agreeing terms with five-time CFL All-Star running back Andrew Harris.
CFL free agency began on Tuesday and the Toronto Argonauts made headlines by signing Andrew Harris. After falling short last year, the Double Blue will now be hoping the star rusher can help them return to the Grey Cup.
As long as he remains healthy, Harris should provide a significant boost for a rushing attack which was third-worst in 2021, at just 80.4 yards per game. John White led the Argos with 450 yards on the ground.
There will conceivably be some concerns about Harris due to his age (35 in April) and after dealing with two injuries during last year, which limited him to seven regular season games. His rushing total of 623 yards was his lowest since 2011.
However, the five-time CFL All-Star returned for the playoffs and was as good as ever in helping propel the Blue Bombers to a second consecutive championship. He rushed for 136 yards during the Western Division final and followed this up with another 80 yards in the Grey Cup.
Harris has an extremely impressive resume, which includes three championship wins and being named Most Valuable Canadian for the 99th Grey Cup. He was also Most Valuable Canadian following the 107th Grey Cup along with being named overall MVP, to become the first player to win both awards in the same game.
The Winnipeg, Manitoba native was selected as the CFL Most Outstanding Player in 2017, when he led the league in rushing. He also set the all-time single season record for receptions by a running back, with 105.
Harris is the only player in CFL history to surpass 4,000 yards rushing with two teams. He is also the all-time league leader in yards from scrimmage by a Canadian.
The six-time CFL West All-Star will be aiming to enter the top five for all-time career rushing leaders in 2022. He sits 624 yards behind Canadian Football Hall of Famer Charles Roberts, who currently hold fifth place.
Harris only became available after being unable to agree on a new contract with his hometown team. As per Christian Aumell of Global News, Winnipeg general manger Kyle Walters was understandably sorry to see the running back leave:
"“It’s a sh—y part of the business,” Walters said. “This situation has been the most challenging as a GM, unquestionably. We’re talking about a Hall of Fame running back, the face of our franchise. It’s impossible not to be saddened by it. It’s a terrible situation, currently.”"
Of course, the Blue Bombers’ loss is the Argonauts’ gain. As per Toronto’s media relations department, GM Michael Clemons raved about Harris:
"“Respectfully, the best running back in the Canadian Football League,” said Clemons. “Homegrown through junior football, he is not defined by his birth certificate but refined by our Canadian game. His will to win is only paralleled by his love of the game. Andrew is a gift, a game-changer.”"
The Argos recently re-signed McLeod Bethel-Thompson to be their starting quarterback this coming season, but he still has plenty to prove. The addition of Harris should only help, with opposing defences now having to show more respect to the ground game.
The first day of CFL free agency proved to be a busy one in general for the Toronto Argonauts. They also signed defensive lineman Ja’Gared Davis, linebacker Wynton McManis, defensive back DeShaun Amos and offensive lineman Justin Lawrence.
Davis is the most significant addition out of the four players, coming over from the rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats. As per Argonauts.ca, he was a force during the playoffs last year, with seven tackles, five sacks and a forced fumble in three games.
The 2019 CFL East All-Star has been to the Grey Cup in each of his five seasons in the league, including winning it all in 2018. He has 42 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and three interceptions in 75 regular season games.
Davis will also get to reunite with Argos’ new defensive coordinator Corey Mace. The two worked closely together for three years in Calgary, where Mace was the Stampeders’ defensive line coach.
What impact do you expect Harris to have with the Toronto Argonauts? Is he the player who will make the difference in returning to the Grey Cup? Let us know in the comments section below.