Everything you need to know about the James Franklin trade

The Edmonton Eskimos executed a blockbuster trade with the Toronto Argonauts on Monday, shipping quarterback James Franklin and a 2018 third round draft pick to the Big Smoke in exchange for offensive lineman Mason Woods. While Franklin is still slated to become a free agent on February 13, 2018, the deal made sense for both clubs.

Here’s why.

Toronto is the perfect fit for Franklin…

There’s no guarantee that Franklin signs a long-term contract with Toronto (more on that in a moment), but the young pivot is a perfect fit for the double blue (and vice-versa).

Playing under Marc Trestman should be a tantalizing prospect for any quarterback. Trestman knows how to coach the position as well as anyone in the CFL and his passer-friendly system helped Anthony Calvillo and Ricky Ray win Grey Cups well into their late-thirties.

The Argos also have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the football. Receivers S.J. Green, DeVier Posey, and Armanti Edwards are pending free agents, but star running back James Wilder Jr. and the versatile Anthony Coombs are both under contract for 2018. The club also has a solid offensive line anchored by stud Canadians Chris Van Zeyl, Tyler Holmes, and Sean McEwen, none of whom are pending free agents.

Toronto is also the perfect city for a young quarterback to develop into a full-time starter. While the spotlight can shine too brightly in cities like Regina, Winnipeg, and Edmonton, a busy market like Toronto will protect Franklin in the event that he struggles out of the gate.

There’s also the matter of divisional strength. The Argos just won the Grey Cup after going 9-9 in the regular season — a record that wouldn’t have earned them a playoff spot in the West Division. This record was good enough for first place in the East Division, however, giving Toronto a bye into the East Final (played at home, of course). This easier road in the playoffs would help Franklin earn playoff dollars as well as assist in his goal of winning a championship as a starter.

…but this is far from over

James Franklin was unwilling to remain in Edmonton because he no longer wants to be a back-up quarterback. Now 26, Franklin is entering the prime of his career — he deserves a chance to become the face of a CFL franchise as his club’s undisputed starter.

This led people to speculate following the trade that Ricky Ray will, in fact, be retiring this winter. Ray has been undecided about his future so far this off-season, hinting that he both will and won’t be back for a seventeenth CFL season. Argos’ general manager Jim Popp was quick to quash those rumours on Monday, making the following statement.

“This has nothing to do with Ricky. This wasn’t a decision based off anything to do with Ricky. Ricky Ray will make his own decision when the time is right whether he is going to be back with the Argonauts or not.”

With all due respect to Popp — the guy’s got five Grey Cup rings, for Pete’s sake — this isn’t sound logic. Ray will one day be a first-ballot inductee to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, but the Argos can’t wager another season on the health of a quarterback who’s missed 25 of a possible 54 regular season games over the past three seasons.

Ray announcing his return for next season could spell disaster for an Argo club that gave up a lot in exchange for Franklin’s rights. If Franklin is indeed unwilling to be a back-up in 2018, it’s possible he’ll never sign with Toronto, choosing instead to reach free agency in February. This would mean the Argos losing Mason Woods for virtually nothing, a scary prospect for a team that didn’t have a first round pick in this past year’s draft.

I hate to say I told you so

I’m not afraid of admitting when I’m wrong — for example, I didn’t have Toronto on my list of potential landing spots for James Franklin — but I’m also not afraid to take credit when I’m right. I’ve been telling people for over a year now that Franklin was (and still is) unlikely to end up in Saskatchewan, the team that most people saw as his inevitable destination.

While the Riders were in the mix for Franklin’s negotiation rights, I never saw the green and white as a real contender for the young pivot’s services.

Esks general manager Brock Sunderland spoke to the importance of trading Franklin to an East Division team, preventing the young pivot from helping a division rival. He did just this, with Montreal as the runner-up for Franklin’s services.

This isn’t to say that Franklin won’t be in the West Division in 2018, but Edmonton has done its part to make that as unlikely as possible. I’ll say this, though — if Franklin is playing in the West in 2018, expect it to be with B.C., not Saskatchewan.

N if L

The possibility of getting an NFL look will weigh heavily on the future of Franklin as a CFL quarterback. If Franklin receives an NFL offer, he would have to be a CFL free agent in order to accept it.

Should Franklin fail to receive an NFL offer, he could choose to sign a one-year CFL contract in order to try the NFL again in 2019. The issue with signing a one-year CFL deal is money — teams will want Franklin to make a long-term commitment to their team if he’s to earn the type of money typically allotted for starting quarterbacks.

I understand that the NFL dream never dies for some, but I’d like to see Franklin sign a long-term CFL deal if he doesn’t get a serious offer from down south this off-season. The Missouri product would be 28 by the time he could try the NFL again in 2019 — getting a look as a training camp arm doesn’t seem worth it when a lot of star CFL quarterbacks make comparable salaries to NFL rookies.

Oh, that o-line

Franklin is the biggest player involved in Monday’s trade, but Mason Woods is a name that shouldn’t be overlooked. The Eskimos have quietly built arguably the CFL’s best stable of Canadian offensive linemen over the past three seasons and Woods — 6’9 and barely 23 years of age — is just the latest blue chipper to join that bunch.

Simeon Rottier’s time with the club may be coming to an end — almost 34, the left guard has missed a large number of games due to injury over the past three seasons — while 2015 draft selections Danny Groulx and David Beard are pending free agents. That still leaves Edmonton with 2017 CFL all-star Matt O’Donnell, 2016 West Division all-star Justin Sorensen, and a trio of fine developmental players in Jacob Ruby, Jean-Simon Roy, and Woods.

You can never have too many Canadian offensive linemen, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brock Sunderland move out a veteran in order to lock-up his younger hogs. Could Ed Hervey, the man who built much of Edmonton’s existing offensive line depth, make a trade to bring one of his former players to Vancouver? This is pure speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a trade happen — particularly if that veteran is originally from the west coast.

John Hodge

John Hodge

John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.
John Hodge
John Hodge
About John Hodge (369 Articles)
John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.

30 Comments on Everything you need to know about the James Franklin trade

  1. Did you put “fine developmental player” and “Jacob Ruby” in the same sentence with a straight face?

  2. Are the Argos not screwed if Franklin accepts a training camp invite after his NFL workouts, especially if Ray announces his intention to return? Surely, the team cannot afford to sit waiting through the spring and not have a starter in place to market the team. In that scenario, Popp better hope Ray retires, otherwise he would have little choice but to resign him.

    • Franklin likely has a better chance in the US if he plays a year here & does well. As for Ray, I would bet Franklin privately had been told he has a good shot at starting. Ray was contemplating retiring before Trestman arrived & looking at going into coaching. Don’t forget when Barker brought Willy aboard just 1 year ago Ray did not complain about playing backup. That’s not in Ray’s character. Ray may very well be asked to come back as a mentor. I don’t see Popp sacrificing TO’s or his OWN long term future to get one more year out of Ray. Popp learned from his dismissal in Montreal where loyalty meant nothing in the end. I have a hard time believing Franklin isn’t starting next year. For all the posters who say Franklin is stupid if he doesn’t wait to get a sure starting job, do any of you think a long time football man like Popp hasn’t thought of this? Do you think tnat a plan isn’t already in place for Franklin & that loyalty to Ray means anything other than the token “right thing to say” publicly?

      • Ray could easily have a couple of more years left, and Franklin, although a hot prospect, is not yet a proven starter. I think Popp is both protecting himself in case Ray decides to retire, but I suspect that he’s also hoping to convince Franklin that Toronto is as good a situation for him as any and that he’ll be the guy when Ray does retire in a year or two. At the very least this gives Popp and Trestman a couple of months to form a relationship with Franklin before he hits the FA market. Sometimes a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and if Franklin develops a trust level with P&T he could decide to just sign there. Otoh, he already knows Chris Jones and most of the Riders staff so that’s already a known to him.

  3. greenonions // December 12, 2017 at 10:22 am //

    Have to agree, John, with that OL. Ouside of Rottier, likely gone, the other 9 OL on the Eskimo roster which gave up the fewest sacks last year, are all 23-28 except Sorenson. But he is 31, still young for the OL. With only O’Donnell injury free last year, a lot of young guys got a chance to play. With 6’11” O’Donnell, adding Woods could be a nightmare paring at guard should Woods pan out. I did see TO as a landing spot for Franklin as TO obviously wanted to go younger. No mention of extending Ray until after the GC so what is Popp to say? I agree with you on Riders ad well. Can see no way of Franklin in Regina.

  4. Interest what the ti cats interests in him were ?

    • Sea of Dead // December 12, 2017 at 10:58 am //

      Likely nada. But it should have been obvious that Franklin, if moved, would have gone East, likely to Toronto or Montreal for obvious reasons. The Esks wouldn’t want to have him starting as a West opponent. Based on info released to date, Hamilton seems to have other plans for their QB positions.

    • greenonions // December 12, 2017 at 11:25 am //

      If he came cheap, another trade option, or possibly a starter. But I don’t see how Franklin would want to sign there. WAY too much fairly decent competition.

  5. The idea of possibly playing behind Ray is probably alot more appealing than playing behind Reilly. Unfortunately it’s pretty much a given he will see significant playing time behind the oft injured Ray. I think Ray might also do a “1 more year then I’m done” contract meaning Franklin will likely have the job after next season anyways. There is more going on behind the scenes than just the blind hope of Jim Popp.

  6. The only folks who though Franklin was going to Sask were rider folks! Just like they think every sought after player is. Its the pure arrogance of rider nation. Now they’ve turned their speculation to Collaros.
    The fact is no known QB wants to go to sask. Why would you? You’re always worried about what half baked idea jones will come up with. Will Vince Young be back? Will Manziel sign? Michael Vick? …… who wants to be part of a circus that only produces a 4th place in west finish???

    • The funny thing, Ghost, is that some are writing in to Pederson’s blog that the end game is Popp is going to trade Franklin to the Riders for Bridge once signed. Hello!!

    • theonlydispassionateriderfan // December 12, 2017 at 10:57 am //

      The irony over this comment is the “pure arrogance” it took to write it.


    • I’m not sure who’s going to end up in SSK, but somebody will. Between Collaros, Harris, Bridge, Durant, and Franklin, that’s five starting-level QBs who are expecting starting jobs in 2018. Ott, Mtl, and Ssk have the only three vacancies. Do the math.

      Regina has a fanbase, stadium and amenities that are second to none in the league. They were one of two teams to beat Cgy at McMahon, they dominated Ott in the ESF, and in the East Final they were 20 seconds away from a Grey Cup appearance. This is a team on the rise. And you believe nobody wants to go to Sask?

      • Well, Craig, by all accounts including beat writers, Franklin doesn’t. Looks like John agrees as well. So that makes 4. Collaros wants to stay in the East &, in a way, holds the cards. If traded to Regina, they’ll want to renegotiate which Collaros won’t do. So they have to release him & he goes where he wants. He wouldn’t get the same salary either way. That makes 3, unless Riders pay the full salary. Do you really think Durant is an option for Jones? Make that 2. It’s between Bridge & Harris. Hope for Harris otherwise you have the same group which got you 4th place last year.

        • Which beat writers, specifically, have said Franklin doesn’t want to go to Regina? Maybe the ESKIMOS didn’t want Franklin to go to Regina, but the Eskimos no longer control his fate.

          Are you sure Collaros holds the cards? If he wants to stay out East AND retain his current contract AND be a starter, that’s a lot of wants and only two options (Ott and Mtl) with a lot of competition on the market (Harris, Durant, Bridge and Franklin).

          But for the sake of argument, let’s take it to the extreme and say Durant stays in Mtl and Ott signs Collaros. That still leaves an open starting position in Regina for Bridge, Harris, or Franklin. You think none of them are going to want the job?

          And let’s not forget, 4th place in the west was a winning record this year (a better record than the .500 Grey Cup champs). This team had twice as many wins as the previous season. They went in to Commonwealth and McMahon and walloped the Esks and Stamps on their respective home turfs. All signs point to continued improvement. If you think the players in the league don’t respect SSK as a threat next year, you’re wrong.

          • Craig
            You “walloped” Calgary in a game of little consequence to us. It was followed by meaningless loses to Edmonton and Winnipeg too, yet you not see either of those fan bases swooning over it.
            Why would you hang your hat on wins in Edmonton and Calgary while continually telling stampfans how unimportant the regular season is?

          • My point is that this Rider team got better throughout the season. No conversation should say “the Riders were a 4th place team” without also saying “they were a winning team, they had dominating wins over all four western rivals, and they were within 20 seconds of the Grey Cup”.

            You must be mistaken, I personally haven’t said a word to stampfans about the regular season. I think ya’ll are already experts at upselling the value of regular season wins. 🙂

          • riderontheisland // December 12, 2017 at 3:21 pm //

            Ghostrider And that’s why the Stumps keep sh*tting the bed in the playoffs because they are nothing games down the stretch. Pull down your skirt because your football IQ is showing.

  7. Eddiefelson // December 12, 2017 at 10:38 am //


    • Craig: perhaps no conversation about the Riders should take place without mentioning the facts that the QB position is still up in the air and that they fielded the second oldest team in the league. Those two facts alone are somewhat concerning when you are talking about continued success.

      • Second oldest in the league? That’s news to me, and I find it hard to believe considering the median age of the team is 25.5 (check the team roster on the website if you don’t believe me).

        For the QB questions, refer to my previous posts about the surplus of starting-level talent on the market.

      • riderontheisland // December 12, 2017 at 3:27 pm //

        Wait, I should explain to you that a fact is something the is accurate not that you pulled out of your arse. Our QB situation was up in the air most of the season and completely lead up to it. The “fact” is that we start this season as a much stronger team than we started last. When you consider how strong we were down the stretch you should be afraid.

  8. Spoken like a true Bomber fan. Toronto is not a bad place for Franklin, although the Riders are equally as good if not better, but not ideal either from Franklin’s perspective because of the emergence of Bridge. Ray passed for over 5500 yards last year, and played 17 games. He’d be crazy to retire now. With a solidified OL and Trestman’s offence with good release values and RBs like Wilder and even Cross helping to keep Ray on his feet he should be good for another 5000 next year, and maybe another the year after that. If Ray comes back – and why wouldn’t he – there will be no competition at the QB spot. If Ray wants it it’s his.

    With the Riders with the emergence of Bridge the starting QB job would no longer be handed to Franklin but he would certainly be in a position to compete for it. And he knows Chris Jones and most of the rest of the coaches from their time together in Edmonton, so he would be going into a known situation. I can’t for the life of me imagine why he would end up in BC. Wally is a legend but BC struggled last year and Wally is almost certainly gone next year, so there is a lot of uncertainty in BC. That one must have been just Bomber denial kicking in so Hodge doesn’t have to deal with trauma of imagining Franklin with the Riders. 😉

    • Soooooo the Riders are looking for the “next one” because a pretty healthy 38 year old isn’t a sure thing anymore but the Argos aren’t because an oft inured 38 year old has a few years left in him?? So Regina would be a better place for Franklin because he ONLY has to compete with Bridge, Glenn & Adams instead of Ray?? That tells me a lot of your regard for the trio currently in Regina – one Ray is a tougher grind than those 3 Riders. Disagree? Then why promote Regina as a landing spot? Also, besides the competition, why go to the circus that is Regina with 16+ QB’s having passed through town under Jones, not to mention a crowd that dissects your every mistake when you can learn under a noted QB “whisperer” like Trestman? Since you think Ray is such a hurdle, why not bring in FA Ray to camp & let BRIDGE compete with him? You’ve got the money for Mr. Ray. Absolutely NO flaws in your arguments RDF.

      • Buddy, you’re not even a very good troll. Do you know that? Do you think you’re being clever? You’re just stupid, like a literal moron. Does your mother know what you do with your life? She must be so ashamed. Do you have a mental illness or perhaps a brain injury of some sort? I might have a bit more sympathy for you if you did.

        • What? You ran out of logical arguments so you had to revert to criticism and entitlement? That doesn’t impress anyone.

    • greenonions // December 12, 2017 at 12:07 pm //

      Bottom line. It’s becoming increasingly clear since Hervey moved to BC that Franklin would follow Hervey before Jones. Hodge has been pretty blunt in his assessment of the Riders, shown in his tweet above, although he didn’t give his reasons why. But others in the CFL media have let it out that Jones & Franklin’s relationship in Edmonton would not be a positive in getting him to Regina. Take that for what it is. BTW, your high regard of Bridge is laudable but here’s a prediction for you. Bridge will be a backup in this league & that’s it. If he starts it will be in Regina & that experiment will be over prior to the 2018 season ending. Overhyped because he’s in Regina but, unlike Franklin who had 4 suitors, there won’t be much interest elsewhere in Bridge.

    • Franklin “knows Chris Jones and most of the rest of the staff from their time together in Edmonton so he would be going into a known situation”. Knowing Chris Jones is not necessarily liking him, contrary to popular opinion in Saskatchewan, and perhaps he doesn’t like McAdoo’s offence. Sometimes knowing the situation that you are getting into is also knowing that it is not the best situation for you.

  9. Franklin’s potential is sky high. Based on his new agents work he likely will go the NFL 1st, the Argos 2nd and the FA route to the best off 3rd.

  10. Ghost is the latest Stamps loser on here! Oh wait it’s just Horsie again with another childish name. I laugh at how pitiful you are Horsie/Ghost/whatever your lame name is

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