Toronto Argonauts Are Long Shots in 2017 Grey Cup Odds

Ricky Rothstein | Updated Jun 20, 2017

Believe it or not, the CFL’s first week of the preseason already has arrived with the regular season kicking off Thursday, June 22, as Saskatchewan visits Montreal. Today, we give an overview of what to expect from the Toronto Argonauts in 2017. Sports Interaction oddsmakers aren’t overly optimistic as the Argos are +1200 long shots to win the Grey Cup.

Offseason Of Change

In 2015, Toronto finished 10-8 and reach the playoffs, losing in the East Division semi-finals to Hamilton, 25-22. Last year, the team slumped to 5-13, tied with Saskatchewan for the worst mark in the league and the Argonauts’ worst since a 3-15 mark in 2009. The Boatmen’s 2-7 home mark, their first year playing at BMO Field, was also the CFL’s worst last year.

The 2016 Argonauts started 4-2 but obviously won just one more game (Week 12 vs. Hamilton). In early October, following a seventh loss in eight games, the club released the receiving trio of Kevin Elliott, Vidal Hazelton and Tori Gurley in a shake-up. It didn’t help. The Argos also lost starting quarterback Ricky Ray to injury and traded for Drew Willy, but neither Willy nor Dan LeFevour (now gone) could save the season.

Front Office Shake-ups

The team cleaned house after that disappointing season as General Manager Jim Barker was fired following six seasons. Coach Scott Milanovich likely could see the writing on the wall as he quit to become quarterbacks coach of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars just three days after Barker’s firing. Barker had hired Milanovich in December 2011, giving Milanovich his first CFL head-coaching job. He led the Argos to a Grey Cup victory in 2012.

Jim Popp has replaced Barker and Marc Trestman takes over for Milanovich. Popp and Trestman were very successful when they worked together with the Alouettes from 2008-12, with the team winning back-to-back Grey Cups in 2009 and 2010. Trestman then left to become head coach of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, but that was an utter disaster – at least in the second season — with the team going 13-19. The Baltimore Ravens then hired Trestman to be the team’s offensive coordinator, but he lasted less than two seasons as he was fired by Coach John Harbaugh in 2016 after a Week 5 loss to the Washington Redskins. Popp was relieved of his GM duties with Montreal last November. In his 21 seasons as Montreal’s GM, the team won three Grey Cup titles.

Ricky Ray Back From Injury

Trestman already has said that the 37-year-old Ray will be his starter. In nine games last year, Ray completed 222-for-298 passes for 2,397 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. Trestman’s NFL career highlight likely came in 2002 when he was Oakland’s offensive coordinator. The Raiders made the Super Bowl that season, losing to Tampa Bay, and QB Rich Gannon, at age 37, was named the NFL’s MVP.

If Ray were to struggle or get hurt this year, the Boatmen have plenty of depth behind him in Willy, Cody Fajardo and Jeff Mathews. Willy, who was acquired from Winnipeg for a 2017 first-round draft pick, a third-round pick in 2018 and defensive back T.J. Heath, played four games for Toronto, throwing for 1,473 yards, five TDs and four interceptions. Fajardo got into eight games for the Argos, while Matthews played in all 18 games for the Tiger-Cats in 2016 (but wasn’t the starter).

Argos Recent Signings

Toronto signed former San Francisco 49ers running back Kendall Hunter earlier this year, and he was a spectacular player in college at Oklahoma State. Injuries hampered his NFL career and just a few days ago, Hunter retired. He was in a battle with Brandon Whitaker, Ben Malena, James Wilder Jr. and Martese Jackson for the starting job. Whitaker led the team with 186 carries for 1,009 yards rushing in 2016.

In April, the Argos acquired veteran receiver S.J. Green from Montreal for a 2017 sixth-round pick and conditional 2018 selection. Green totaled 444 catches for 6,626 yards and 42 TDs over 10 seasons with the Als but missed most of last year after suffering a serious knee injury in a loss to Ottawa on June 30. Green was on those two Trestman-Popp Grey Cup teams and was named a CFL all-star five seasons in a row.

Their defence is now coordinated by Corey Chamblin, the former head coach 2013 Grey Cup champion Roughriders. Chamblin’s best player is tackle Shawn Lemon. Acquired by Toronto last July, Lemon finished with 14 sacks (second best in CFL) and five forced fumbles. The Argos were counting on off-season acquisition Winston Venable to start at linebacker, but he also recently retired. Former Argos Most Outstanding Defensive Player Marcus Ball is back. He spent 2012-13 with the Double Blue before trying his luck in the NFL.

Argonauts Predictions

The Argos host Montreal on Thursday and visit Hamilton on June 16 to close out the preseason. Their opener is home to Hamilton on June 25, and the Double Blue were 1-2 SU & ATS vs. the Tiger-Cats last year.

Look for more CFL futures options at Sports Interaction as the regular season approaches. Toronto isn’t a Grey Cup-caliber team but is likely to improve upon 2016 by a couple of wins. Calgary is the +333 Grey Cup favourite.