Argos Raise Eyebrows With Releases
WR Sam Baker fights off the sun during pregame warmup.
On Saturday, the Argos parted ways with 18 players, some of whom may have been expected while others were a complete surprise.
The following players were released: DL Connor Flagel (A), DL Adrian Tracy (A), DL Alani Pututau (A), DB Deion Harris (A), DB D’Angelo Amos (A), DL Jake Hlava (A), DL Kony Ealy (A), DB Maurice Carnell IV (A), WR Damion Jeanpiere (A), WR Jamari Hester (A), WR Darece Roberson (A), FB Dion Pellerin (N), WR Sam Baker (N), OL Mojtaba Mehry (N), FB Chase Arseneau (N), DL Michael Pezzuto (N), DB Tigie Sankoh (G), and OL Otavio Amorim (G).
Almost all the defensive backs released came as a bit of a shock. Maurice Carnell IV was the star of the Double Blue game, and made some plays against Ottawa, but ultimately the missing elements in his game, which kept him off the Hamilton roster last season, surfaced in the preseason finale. Deion Harris was used extensively and had a pick in the second preseason game, but he also allowed a touchdown against Hamilton. D’Angelo Amos looked good at times in the preseason as well, but his inability to grab hold of the return duties hurt his chances. Tigie Sankoh’s release really speaks to the strength of the Global players on the roster. Sankoh was a good special teams contributor and is a high-level athlete, but he never quite looked comfortable in coverage, which stood out on Friday night in Guelph.
Of the six defensive linemen released, Kony Ealy and Adrian Tracy stand out as surprises. Ealy was productive when healthy last season and flashed once again early in camp. Tracy was viewed as a longshot when he first signed out of retirement, but he seemed to be one of the most dominant pass-rushers in the early stages. With both players in their 30s, the team likely saw the potential upside of going with younger players as a more exciting option, especially as we’re looking at backup roles. Michael Pezzuto may give it another shot next year as he’s elected to return to school. Alani Pututau and Connor Flagel looked good for the most part, but it goes back to this being a championship caliber team and a tough roster to crack as a defensive lineman.
The receivers released were victims of fighting for a roster spot on the league’s best positional group. The starters and first backup spot were already spoken for before camp even started, so it left about a dozen guys fighting for two spots. Damion Jeanpiere had been with the club since 2019, one of the few players to survive the purge of 2020. He looked the same as he did last season, which speaks to how much this group has improved, in the return game as well as at receiver. Canadian Sam Baker’s release is very surprising. He’s a special teams contributor and can also long snap, he can sub in as a receiver and make contested catches over the middle, and he’s a good run blocker. They must feel they have similar attributes in Tommy Nield, but don’t want to carry both of them. Jamari Hester has as good a chance of getting picked up by someone else as anyone, and it wouldn’t be surprising to find him back on the Argos practiced roster. He made some spectacular plays in camp, including a sensational touchdown catch in the Double Blue game, but he also had some terrible drops. His size makes him tough to contend with, so he’s the ideal practice roster candidate while he works on his hands. Darece Roberson’s release isn’t a surprise, but it’s upsetting nevertheless. He has such tremendous potential as an athlete, but he simply wasn’t able to showcase his talent. He made some costly mistakes as a returner and just wasn’t targeted as a receiver despite seeing a lot of snaps.
The fullback situation is a bit strange. After carrying so many at the position last year, it’s shocking to see only one currently listed on the roster. Dion Pellerin was the first running back selected in the 2020 CFL Draft and he looked promising as a rookie last season. He didn’t get any carries, but he certainly has that ability. His pass protection is good, he has decent hands, and he’s got the right body type to be a special teams ace. Most viewed him as the logical replacement for Declan Cross since they seemed to be the same guy. Pellerin did struggle a bit with run blocking at times and he had some key misses as an upback last year. Still, this wasn’t a move anyone saw coming. Chase Arseneau has elected to return to school for another year.
The release of offensive linemen Mojtaba Mehry and Otavio Amorim aren’t necessarily a surprise, but they’re difficult because both players are so easy to root for. They’re both hard workers who did everything that was asked of them. Mehry in particular helped the club out last preseason when they were in a bind, and he was out there again this year giving everything he had at every practice.
The hope for these players is they catch on somewhere else, if not in the CFL, then in one of the other growing leagues, and there are a few who are likely candidates to return to Toronto and be added to the practice roster. The downside of trying to make a good club is simply that it’s more difficult to do, but the upside is that the experience makes you better for it.