The Toronto Argonauts have released quarterback Cleo Lemon, ending an experiment that lasted a year-and-a-half.
The move, announced on Tuesday, comes after Lemon was pulled halfway through Toronto's home loss to the B.C. Lions last Friday. Lemon was 11-of-15 passing in the opening half, but for just 57 yards.
The quarterback was actually tied for the league lead with a 66.5 per cent completion rate, but most of Toronto's passes have been for short yardage. Lemon's 1,636 passing yards put him nearly 400 behind the next lowest total among CFL starting quarterbacks. League leader Anthony Calvillo of Montreal has passed for 2,680 yards.
On Tuesday, Barker steadfastly refused to discuss details surrounding Lemon's departure, saying only it was his decision.
"We parted ways," he said. "I'm not really going to discuss specifics.
"We felt it, like every move we make, was in the organization's best interests to move forward this way. It's always difficult to do those kind of things . . . . but it wasn't a snap decision."
Lemon has thrown for seven touchdowns and four interceptions this season.
Lemon was the main pivot in 2010 when the Argos returned to the playoffs after a three-year absence with a 9-9 record, but his individual stats were not overly impressive. He came to the Argos after several seasons on NFL rosters.
Veteran receiver Jeremaine Copeland was surprised by the move.
"I thought he was getting better and better each week and definitely improved from the first time he stepped up here," he said. "Overall I didn't think it was a great decision and I didn't like how it went down but it is what it is."
Toronto (2-7) will now try and find a solution under centre. Dalton Bell hasn't been particularly effective in his playing opportunities over the past two seasons, while former CFL starter Stephen Jyles returns from the injured list this season.
"The difference between Cleo and me is I look to run the ball more," Jyles said. "Cleo is a pocket guy.
"I can be a pocket guy too, but I can throw on the run. I can run around with the ball. I think that adds a little to the team. Quarterback mobility can take the pressure off the offensive line."
That's the biggest reason why Barker acquired Jyles.
"He has great mobility, he sees the game differently because he has been under four different systems under good coaches," Barker said. "He has great mobility and in this league that's important."
To fill the roster spot left by Lemon, the Argos signed quarterback Zack Estridge. The 23-year-old is a Midwestern State product who spent time in the Dallas Cowboys' training camp.