Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: To Clermont Or Not To Clermont

For the past few years, it seemed as if the rules of the new salary cap didn’t apply to the BC Lions. While all the other teams were busy making painful cuts and trades to trim down their payrolls, the Leos were maintaining a roster full of all-stars with relative ease. While many were making allegations of creative accounting and doctoring of the books, I was offering a more likely explanation that turned out to be right (why haven’t you people learned to just accept that I am always right?).

Flashback to 2006, the CFL had just announced the impending implementation of a Salary Management System (SMS). Just prior to the cap taking affect the Lions signed a huge number of front loaded contracts to secure the core of their team without the bulk of those contracts counting towards the cap. It was a wonderful system and allowed BC to field arguably the best team in the CFL while still complying with the new salary system. But like all good things, it had to come to an end.

Here we are heading into 2009 and now all of those front loaded contracts are starting to expire. That means that BC’s payroll will soon reflect the number of all-stars on the roster and swell to well beyond the cap level. In order to continue abiding by the SMS, big changes are needed in Wally-world. Buono is wasting no time in getting those changes underway.

Last week, he released Charles Roberts, Otis Floyd and of course Jason Clermont (who I will get to in a minute). There is also word that Tyrone Williams and Barron Miles could also be on the chopping block. Now when a former all-star linebacker, a big bad defensive tackle, the best safety in the CFL bar none, and one the top Canadian receivers in the league suddenly become available, GM’s around the league are going to take notice (well except Hamilton, who seem to have no use for talented players). It’s clear however that Buono is indeed human and the rules that the rest of the league are following do indeed apply to him (he was just able to delay their effects longer than the other GMs). Let’s not forget that Buono is doing all this payroll cutting despite the fact that Cameron Wake is widely expected to be NFL bound. Can you imagine how many more cuts would be required if Wake decided to stay? I mean people have always joked that Wake’s talented enough to be a one man defensive line but that may have to become a reality if BC hopes to afford his contract.

While I think Williams and Miles would be worth a serious look should they shake free, all the talk this week in Saskatchewan has been about Jason Clermont. It seems like a perfect fit. Clermont is a Regina native, is beloved for his years as a Regina Ram and lives here year-round while peddling crappy condos in the offseason. Now that he’s available people are insisting Tillman do whatever it takes to sign him and create the super Canadian slot duo of Clermont and Fantuz. Unfortunately things aren’t that simple.

Clermont is a perennial all-star and 2 time Canadian of the Year, as such he will command a respectable salary and be highly coveted on the free agent market. Winnipeg, Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton are already expressing some interest (as I mentioned before, Hamilton, who should be making every effort to sign him, is currently not in the mix given that they have no use for talented players). As we all know, the term “fair” best describes the offers Eric Tillman makes as opposed to “lucrative”. Also, we are fairly deep when it comes to Canadian receivers and slots in particular. But in the words of ET, “We can always get better”.

The way I see this playing out is Tillman will make a very respectable offer to Clermont (as he should) and a couple other teams will make bigger offers. It will then be up Clermont to decide whether it’s actually worth the extra money to head out East and play for a crappy team as opposed to getting decent money and staying at home with a legitimate contender. For the record, my touch football team has offered to buy him a beer after every game if he’ll sign with us but as of yet we haven’t heard back from his agent. My gut tells me that the long awaited homecoming will indeed happen (but that is no more than a gut feeling at this point - let’s not forget that Tillman is the idiot that passed on him twice, and would have no problems doing it a third time). My only recommendation is that Clermont’s contract include a clause whereby my Rider shareholder discount would apply to any real estate I purchase from him.

As a regular feature during the offseason, I’ll be keeping you up to date with rosters moves across the CFL with Ins and Outs

In: Bryan Chui (re-signed), Etienne Boulay (re-signed), Keith Godding (free agent signing), Erik Galas (free agent signing)
Boulay has now managed to ride the coattails of winning an arbitrarily contrived award (Gibson’s Finest Canadian Player in 2007) into a stint with the NY Jets and a contract extension with the Alouettes (who apparently don’t even know what position he’ll play)… he must have one hell of an agent.

In: John Comiskey (re-signed)
As soon as I think of a humourous comment to make about this signing you’ll be the first to know.

One last note, Sunday marked the NFL’s regular season debut in Toronto. About the only good thing I can say about the game itself is at least Toronto fans were treated to a game of the quality they’ve come to expect from their local sports teams.

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