The Saskatchewan Roughriders aren't scheduled to play in Toronto — site of their Grey Cup win last November — until Oct. 30, but quarterback Kerry Joseph will return much sooner.
The Roughriders confirmed Wednesday that they traded Joseph, the CFL's most outstanding player last season, and a third-round draft pick in 2010 to the Toronto Argonauts for offensive tackle Glenn January, defensive lineman Ronald Flemons, a first-round pick this year and a second-rounder in 2010.
"This decision was very tough and emotional," Roughriders general manager Eric Tillman said in a statement.
"Giving up an MVP-calibre player is always difficult," Tillman continued. "But we have no doubt the two young players we are getting in return, Glenn January and Ronald Flemons, are top-quality players, and make us much stronger in areas of need."
The Argonauts have scheduled a media conference for Thursday (10 a.m. ET), with co-owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski and chief executive officer Michael (Pinball) Clemons expected to attend.
"Trust me, the fans in Toronto will love Kerry Joseph," Tillman said. "He is a class act, on and off of the field.
The Regina Leader-Post website reported Wednesday that Joseph, 34, recently expressed a desire to recoup some of the money he left on the table last year when he accepted a $125,000 pay cut to help the Riders comply with the $4.05-million salary cap.
It's believed Joseph, who earned a reported $225,000 plus bonuses last season, is commanding a salary in line with many other starting quarterbacks whose annual stipends exceed $300,000.
"In the end, we felt trading Kerry to a team which was willing to satisfy his contractual expectations was the right thing to do," Tillman said.
Joseph ranked third in passing last season with 4,002 yards and led the Roughriders to a 12-6 record and their first Grey Cup championship since 1989.
The Louisiana native completed just 13 of 34 pass attempts for 181 yards with an interception, but the Riders prevailed 23-19 over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Joseph led all CFL quarterbacks with 737 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last season — the second most in league history by a signal-caller.
"Even at his age, Kerry still competes like a young man hungry to make the team," Tillman said. "That fiery competitiveness will be a tremendous asset to the Argos and their Grey Cup aspirations."
Riders left with Crandell, Jyles
Joseph was claimed by Saskatchewan in the Ottawa Renegades dispersal draft on April 21, 2006.
Prior to folding, the Renegades inked him to a three-year contract worth $350,000 in both 2006 and 2007, and $375,000 for the coming season.
Without Joseph, the Riders will likely rely on Marcus Crandell, who tops the quarterback depth chart, and Steve Jyles, picked up in the Fred Perry trade on Feb. 8.
With Joseph in Toronto, Michael Bishop would return to backup duty, a role the six-foot-two, 215-pound Texan filled in recent years with Damon Allen as the starter.
Bishop struggled in last year's East Division final — his first CFL playoff start — misfiring on several throws.
He completed 21 of 45 passes for 376 yards and rushed for Toronto's only touchdown in a 19-9 loss to the Blue Bombers.
As for Allen, the 44-year-old said last month he hadn't scrapped the idea of playing in a 24th CFL season, but he was keeping his options open beyond football.
The Argos picked up the option year in Allen's contract for this season, and he has been training over the winter as if he'll be playing.