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Four Argonauts players reach agreements in principle with other CFL clubs


It's shaping up to be a difficult off-season for the Toronto Argonauts.

On Tuesday, Argos running back A.J. Ouellette, special-teams dynamo Javon Leake, cornerback Jamal Peters and defensive lineman Brandon Barlow all agreed in principle to contracts with other CFL teams. This sets up a scenario where all four will be free to sign their respective deals when CFL free agency opens at noon ET next Tuesday.

According to CFL sources, Ouellette has reached an agreement with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Leake's contract is with the Edmonton Elks while both Peters and Barlow have deals with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The sources all spoke on the condition of anonymity as free-agent contracts can't be signed until after the free-agent period begins.

On Monday, Toronto agreed to release veteran linebacker Adarius Pickett after he agreed in principle to a one-year deal worth $170,000 with Ottawa. The Redblacks formally announced Tuesday the signing of Pickett, the East Division's top defensive player last year.

All four players helped Toronto (16-2) post the CFL's top regular-season record last season. The 16 wins were an Argos club record and tied the single-season league mark for victories.

However, Toronto's promising campaign ended with a disappointing 38-17 East Division final home loss to Montreal. The Alouettes went on to defeat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 28-24 in the Grey Cup game.

On Tuesday, the Bombers signed Winnipeg-born running back Brady Oliveira to a two-year contract extension and agree to terms on one-year deal with receiver Dalton Schoen. Oliveira was the CFL's top Canadian last season after rushing for a league-high 1,534 yards while Schoen, the league's top rookie in 2022, has registered 141 catches for 2,663 yards and 26 TDs over his two CFL seasons in Winnipeg.

Financial details of both agreements weren't divulged. TSN reports Oliveira will earn $230,000 this season and $240,000 in 2025 while Schoen will reportedly receive $230,000 this year

Both players were eligible to become free agents next Tuesday.

But Winnipeg cornerback Demerio Houston, who led the CFL in interceptions (seven) and defensive takeaways (10) last season, agreed in principle to a two-year contract with Calgary. According to an anonymous league source, Houston's deal is worth over $275,000 in hard money, making him one of the league's highest-paid defensive backs.

Defensive back Jalon Edwards-Cooper agreed in principle on a one-year deal with Saskatchewan. According to a source, the contract is worth $128,000 in hard money, which would make Edwards-Cooper one of the league's top-paid defensive backs.

The five-foot-nine, 208-pound Ouellette was a big part of Toronto's offensive success in 2023. He ran for a career-best 1,009 yards on 178 carries (5.7-yard average) with eight TDs while adding 16 catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns.

Ouellette, 28, spent four seasons with Toronto and helped the franchise win the 2022 Grey Cup. He appeared in 37 regular-season games, rushing for 1,782 yards on 322 carries (5.5-yard average) with 10 touchdowns.

Ouellette also had 59 catches for 552 yards and four touchdowns.

The six-foot 205-pound Leake was the CFL's top special-teams player last season. He led the league in punt returns (81 for 1,216 yards, 15-yard average) and registered a club-record four return TDs, one short of the league mark.

Leake spent the last two seasons with Toronto.

The six-foot-two, 220-pound Peters spent three seasons with Toronto (2021-23). In 36 regular-season contests with the Argos, Peters, 27, registered 120 tackles, one special-teams tackle, one sack, 11 interceptions and two forced fumbles.

He also earned a Grey Cup ring with Toronto in 2022, the same year Peters recorded a career-high six interceptions. Last season, Peters appeared in 13 regular-season games and had 32 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

The six-foot-four, 260-pound Barlow appeared in 14 games last year with Toronto, starting two. He registered six tackles, 30 tackles, two special-teams tackles and two forced fumbles.

Barlow, 26, joined Toronto in 2022. He appeared in 10 regular-season games and had 18 tackles, one special-teams tackle and a sack.

The five-foot-11, 175-pound Edwards-Cooper had 36 tackles, one special-teams tackle, an interception and a forced fumble in 14 regular-season games with B.C. in 2023. The 26-year-old Texans would join the Riders after three seasons with the Lions.

B.C. did sign veteran running back William Stanback to a one-year contract Tuesday. The 29-year-old American had spent the last five seasons with the Montreal Alouettes before being released last week.

The CFL's negotiation window opened Sunday, allowing teams to speak with all pending free agents until next Sunday. Players can agree to 2024 deals but they can't be made official until free agency begins at noon ET on Feb. 13.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2024.