Football

Argos welcome Joseph, extend Bishop

The Toronto Argonauts rolled out the welcome mat for newly acquired Kerry Joseph on Thursday and committed long-term to Michael Bishop, the other half of their quarterback duo.

Former Roughriders quarterback excited about new challenge

When Kerry Joseph celebrated the Saskatchewan Roughriders' third Grey Cup win in 97 years last Nov. 26 with thousands of fans, the quarterback was hoping to repeat the feat in 2008.

But two months later, the Canadian Football League's reigning outstanding player had a bad feeling.

"Things weren't going as smoothly [in contract talks] as I thought they would," Joseph told Toronto media Thursday after being traded to the Argonauts the previous day.

"I truly enjoyed my time there but sometimes the good Lord has a different plan for you … so you have to move on in life. Sometimes change is good and I'm enjoying this one."

So are the Argos, who have the No. 1 signal-caller they had been seeking since veteran Damon Allen ran into more frequent injury problems in recent years.

To acquire Joseph, the Argos sent offensive tackle Glenn January, defensive lineman Ronald Flemons, a 2008 first-round pick and a second-rounder in 2010 to the Riders, who also coughed up a third-round pick in 2010.

Toronto also has a proven backup, extending the contract of Michael Bishop —last season's starter — through the 2010 season on Thursday.

Rich Stubler, the club's longtime defensive co-ordinator hired in the off-season to replace Mike (Pinball) Clemons as Argos coach, plans to let Bishop and Joseph battle it out in training camp.

"There is open competition at every position on our football team," he said. "However, having said that … Mike and I have talked and Kerry and I have talked and let the cards fall where they may."

Joseph, 34, ranked third in CFL passing last season with 4,002 yards and led the Roughriders to a 12-6 record and their first Grey Cup championship since 1989.

But after earning a reported $225,000 plus bonuses last season — he took a $125,000 pay cut to help the Riders stay under the CFL's $4.05-million salary cap — Joseph was said to be looking for a raise.

He wanted to be paid in line with many other starting quarterbacks whose annual stipends exceed $300,000. Joseph was slated to earn $250,000 in 2008.

He also led CFL quarterbacks with 737 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 2007 — the second most in league history by a signal-caller.

In last year's 23-19 Grey Cup win over Winnipeg, the Louisiana native completed just 13 of 34 pass attempts for 181 yards with an interception.

"We've decided it takes more than one guy to get there," said Argos general manager Adam Rita of the Grey Cup. "We have two strong people here with great character and strength and I think that they can carry the team."

With third-stringer Rocky Butler around, it appears Allen's days in Toronto are numbered. In February, the 44-year-old said he hadn't scrapped the idea of playing a 24th CFL season, but he was keeping his options open beyond football.

Without Joseph, Saskatchewan is left with a quarterbacking picture that includes Marcus Crandell, Steven Jyles (acquired from Edmonton on Feb. 8 for Fred Perry), Darian Durant and Drew Tate.

Bishop was 11-1 in 2007, his first season as Toronto's starter. He missed six weeks with a broken wrist but returned to help the Argos secure first place in the East Division.

While Bishop had career highs in yards passing (2,920) and touchdowns (22) last year, he only completed 52.1 per cent of his passes (185 of 355).

And he struggled in the East final — his first CFL playoff start — misfiring on several throws and completing 21 of 45 passes for 376 yards in a 19-9 loss to the Blue Bombers.

The six-foot-two, 215-pound Texan didn't appear upset at Thursday's news briefing at the thought of returning to backup duty, a role he filled in recent years behind Allen.

"Everyone wants to be the starter but that can't happen," Bishop, 31, said. "I'll do my best. If Kerry gets to start I'll be his [biggest] supporter.

"I'm all about winning games and I think we have something that could be great."

The six-foot-six, 265-pound Flemons has spent the last two seasons with the Argos. The import lineman appeared in 18 games last season, starting 10, and registered 11 tackles, two pass knockdowns, two tackles for losses, one special-teams tackle and a sack.

January, a six-foot-five, 310-pound tackle from Texas Tech, was a rookie last season with Toronto and started 13 games.

With files from the Canadian Press

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