To Release, or Not To Release
Published: Wednesday, Jan 31st 2018, 10:01pm
by Greg McCulloch (@GregOnSports)
“To release or not to release, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler to the players to give up their rights or take arms and make them play their contract out.” – Jim Popp wandering the Argos’ headquarters talking to a helmet… probably…
It has not been a good time to be Jim Popp, two of his best players have called him and the Argos out for backing out of supposed handshake deals.
Reigning Most Outstanding Rookie, James Wilder Jr. and second in sacks, Victor Butler both signed CFL “First Contracts” with the Argos last offseason. CFL First Contracts are minimum 1 year plus a team option, both Butler and Wilder believed they would be free to explore NFL interest if it was available.
Then when it was available the Argos decided to keep the contracts as executed. Which is their right to do, as that was the contract agreed upon between the club and the player. However, it doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do.
From 1997 until the 2014 Collective Bargaining Agreement, all CFL contracts, including veteran contracts, had a team option year attached to them. However, there was a clause that allowed players in their option year to explore NFL interest from January 1 to February 16. Some players took advantage of the option year window and stayed down in the NFL for a few years (see Logan, Stefan) and others were back in the CFL before the end of their first NFL season (see Fantuz, Andy).
Those players had a shot at making more money in the NFL and they rightfully took it. Any athlete that plays professional football deserves to make the most money they can in the very short time frame they have.
If you take all positions into consideration, the average professional football career is just over 3 years and the lowest paid players in the NFL are making $465,000. Which is substantially more than anyone in the CFL minus a couple of Quarterbacks. Even an NFL practice roster spot could be worth six figures to a player who can hang around.
Which is why you will see general managers like Wally Buono, Eric Tillman, and Chris Jones release players immediately if there is an opportunity down south. In fact, in some cases, they go out of their way to help the players gain NFL interest. They understand that if the player is happy, chances are if things do not work out for them in the NFL the first call made is to the former team.
Well if there isn’t already a contract signed in a locked drawer… Which never happens because that is against CFL rules… anyway…
You can believe the option window will be a discussion at the upcoming CBA talks, especially with the shadow of the XFL on the horizon in 2020. As the players will want to be able to make the most money they can while the league will need a way to ensure contract stability with another league looking for talent.
But in the meantime, to release or not to release… there really is no question.
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