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Wilder One and Done

Published: Thursday, Jan 25th 2018, 5:01am

by Greg McCulloch (@GregOnSports)

The CFL’s most outstanding rookie from last season declared himself a one and done yesterday. Electrifying running back James Wilder Jr. issued a statement saying that due to the Argos not allowing him to explore NFL interest, nor are they willing to renegotiate his contract to pay him more he would sit out the 2018 season till his contract expires.

While it is typical to frame the athlete as greedy in situations such as these, this would be an exception to that reasoning. CFL rookie contracts are usually 1 year plus a team option, and unless it is an exceptional athlete most Americans make close to the minimum $50,000.

Wilder’s contract was for 56k, by the time he paid rent in Toronto and living expenses, Canadian taxes, American taxes, plus sending money back home to the family. It wasn’t the luxurious “football star lifestyle” most envision.

Wilder in the meantime plans to work a construction job and train in his spare time waiting for his contract to clear so he can give the NFL another shot. At age 25, he is currently in his prime of his athletic career and is willing to burn a year of it for what he sees as a better future for his family. It is hard not to respect a guy sticking to his principles like that.

While I don’t fault the Argos for protecting their “investment,” this looks bad for the team. It has usually been common practice if a player has NFL interest the CFL team will let the player pursue them as the NFL can be more lucrative for a player. Usually, there is a handshake agreement, or a “contract in the drawer” if the NFL interest dries up and the player returns to the CFL club that released them, well unless you are Shawn Lemon.

Trent Richardson by his own admission could have been on the Riders roster much sooner this past season, but the prospect of being locked into a contract for 2 years made him change his mind initially. He eventually changed his mind and is hoping his very short stint with the Riders garnered some interest in the NFL, and if he does get a look safe to bet the Riders will do the opposite of the Argos and release him.

Even if the Argos didn’t want to lose him to the NFL, they could have renegotiated his contract as a show of good faith. Wilder led the league of rushers with 100 or more carries with an eye-popping 7.1 yards per carry. The last running back to his 7 yards per carry was Jon Cornish and he was the league MOP.

Fortunately, for both sides, there is plenty of time before camp opens and they can still come to terms for either a release or a new contract. But if there is no movement from either side, Wilder may unfortunately become a cautionary tale of those that have NFL dreams that the CFL may not be the way to do it.


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