When a fan tweeted at BC Lions defensive back Korey Banks on Wednesday that he was looking forward to him suiting up for the team in 2004, the player himself wasn't so sure.
"@gjmarc: @24Banks hey man happy new year ... See you on the turf at BC Place in 2014!” (I don't know about that) we will see."
Banks hopes to return to the Lions for a ninth season, but is preparing for life after the Lions. The 34-year old believes the Lions want him back, but is growing frustrated at the lack of progress towards reaching a contract extension.
Banks is entering the option year of his deal, but like many CFL veteran players, has no intention of playing without an extension. The seven-time all-star, who doesn't use an agent, reached out repeatedly to the Lions front office, but isn't hearing much back. Lions GM Wally Buono is currently on his annual vacation in Hawaii, but has been known to regularly conduct business from there.
Buono plans to return to Vancouver on January 15th, at which time he will sit down with Benevides and new defensive coordinator, Mark Washington, and take recommendations from his coaches on which returning players are biggest priorities and where the team must upgrade.
"This will not be about money," said Buono. "If the coaches tell me that Korey is a player they must have to get this defense to play at a championship level then we'll get it (an extension) done. If their feeling is that there has been a loss of production that comes with age, or that he may not fit in as well with any potiential scheme changes, then we'll have to make a decision."
Banks is one of a number of thirty-somethings on the Lions defense, including fellow defensive backs, Dante Marsh and Ryan Phillips, both of whom are expected to return for 2014. Keron Williams, scheduled to become a free agent in February, plans to explore NFL possibilities.
Banks believes his value to the organization has been demonstrable.
"I've given a lot to this team. At least show me the respect of making a decision and letting me get on with things for my family," said Banks from his home in Atlanta. "I'm not like the other guys, who have never played anywhere but BC. I'm prepared to move on if I have to. I'm sure I won't have a problem finding work with another team."
Lions head coach Mike Benevides thinks the ball will rest in Banks's court.
"I still believe Korey can play the game at a high level," said Benevides. "He's a tremendous leader and provides value, but it's a case right now of how he sees himself at this stage [of his career] and where he wants to be."
Banks is also considering retirement. He has been approached about a number of coaching opportunities at the NCAA level, and says he could see himself going in that direction.
Ultimately though, Banks still hopes to play at least one more season, but only if the price is right. He won't be surprised if the Lions ask him to take a reduced salary for 2014 but says, "I won't go through what Geroy (Simon) went through last year," referring to the drastic reduction in salary and role the CFL's all-time leading receiver was asked to take last year. Simon would eventually be traded to Saskatchewan, where he won his third Grey Cup in November.
It's highly unlikely the Lions would ask Banks to take as drastic a pay cut as Simon was asked to, and given the makeup of CFL rosters, if he returns, he would almost certainly still be team's starting nickelback. But both Banks and Benevides acknowledge there are no guarantees and, as the Simon situation at this time last year showed, anything is possible.