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Argos sign 2012 draft pick Laing to contract

The Canadian Press

5/15/2013 3:07:03 PM

Since their Grey Cup win, the Toronto Argonauts have worked hard to deepen their Canadian talent pool.

That continued Wednesday with the signing of Cleyon Laing. The defensive lineman was Toronto's first pick last year in the CFL draft.

General manager Jim Barker also pointed to the acquisition of defensive tackle Jermaine Reid, linebacker Akwasi Antwi, defensive back Jonathan Hood and linebacker James Yurichuk.

"We're excited about those additions to our Canadian contingent," he added, noting they locked up guard Joe Eppele right after last season ended.

"We think that his strongest years are these ones coming up."

Barker also had praise for receiver Spencer Watt, who he said has matured in his three years in the CFL.

"He's growing into his body and his professional self," he said. "We're excited to get those two guys extended."

On a CFL conference call, team CEO Chris Rudge kicked things off by talking dynasty after last year's Grey Cup win and a lot of marketing success.

Not that the Argos don't have challenges, such as occasionally looking for a place to play as they compete for space under the Rogers Centre dome. Their practice field and the site of their exhibition home game this season will be Varsity Stadium.

The Grey Cup theme is continuing this year with a celebration of the 1983 Argos, who ended a three-decade Grey Cup drought for the franchise. But coach Scott Milanovich is a lot more focused on the future as he prepares for the 2013 campaign.

"All this talk about last year makes me uncomfortable because I know it's an entirely new challenge this year and the quicker that we're able to turn the page as an organization I think the better," he said.

He said he's happy with the way quarterback Ricky Ray is continuing to play after seeing him throw in Florida at an evaluation camp. And now that Ray has become more comfortable with the Toronto offence, they expect a faster start from their star.

The trade with the Eskimos that brought Ray to Toronto (and probably ended up costing Eric Tillman his job as general manager in Edmonton) has certainly paid huge dividends.

But with a quarterback born in 1979, the future remains a concern.

Then there is what to do if he should get injured again. Last season he was sidelined by a mid-season knee injury, but it didn't require surgery and he was able to return fairly quickly.

Former B.C. quarterback Jarious Jackson was their short-term insurance policy last year and he has since moved on, leaving only Trevor Harris and Zach Collaros in the bullpen.

They both joined the Argos in 2012 and Barker is high on them but they have thrown a combined 15 completed passes in the CFL.

It seems this season's contingency plan may be former Blue Bomber backup Alex Brink, picked up April 30 after his release.

In three seasons with the Bombers he completed 225 of his 397 attempted passes for an average of 56.7 per cent and 13 touchdowns.

He was also used as the go-to-guy for short yardage situations and has a record of 462 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.

For much of last season he also shared the starter's duties with Joey Elliott (also released by the Bombers) when Buck Pierce was sidelined with a string of injuries.

The demands the Argos are placing on any potential backup aren't small.

"Our goal is to find that guy, if Ricky goes down, we can win a Grey Cup with, and that's what we're looking for, whether its Alex or Zach or Trevor," said Barker.