In the last ten days, the Toronto Argonauts star slotback Arland Bruce III has been benched for disciplinary reasons, publicly ripped his head coach, called out his starting quarterback, and been told to stay away from his team. The drama finally ended Monday night when Bruce was dealt to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in exchange for the rights to non-import defensive lineman Corey Mace, a third round draft choice in 2010, and a conditional third round pick in 2011 (contingent on Bruce being on Hamilton's roster next season). Here are the answers to the burning questions about this trade.
QUESTION #1: Which team improved the most as a result of this deal?
ANSWER: Hamilton. The Tiger-Cats added a proven game-breaker without giving up anyone off their current roster. Defensive tackle Corey Mace is a tremendous non-import prospect, who could've genuinely helped the Ticats but he wasn't likely to ever sign with them and the two 3rd round picks may never even play in the league. The concerns about Bruce being immature, emotional, and outspoken are legitimate but the prediction here is that the change of scenery will cure enough of that to make the risk worthwhile. From a Toronto perspective, head coach Bart Andrus handled the situation exactly as he should have in opting for 'addition by subtraction' (i.e. improving team chemistry by removing a player who was having a negative impact) but the fact remains, despite the obvious issues, Bruce was the Argonauts' best football player. The Boatmen can ill afford to lose his skills from a receiving corps that was already without last year's second leading receiver, Andre Talbot
(injuries) and the talented P.K. Sam (trying out with the NFL's Buffalo Bills). For the long-term good, the move was necessary but, in the short-term, it weakens the team.
QUESTION #2: Why would the Argonauts trade their best player to their fiercest rival?
ANSWER: Because they had to. First of all, they had no choice but to attempt to trade him. Keeping him would have led to disaster, paying him to stay home would be salary cap suicide, and suspending him without pay is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement. Their only other option was to release him and get nothing in return, which is a last resort. Okay...so why Hamilton? Well, the Argos started off with a maximum of seven potential trading partners but, between the estimated
$145,000 salary cap hit to employ Bruce for the rest of this season and the controversial circumstances surrounding his departure from Toronto, six of those teams backed away from the table. Without anything even remotely resembling a bidding war, Argonaut general manager Adam Rita would've done well to fetch just the 2010 third round pick. Adding Mace, who was regarded by many as the best player in the 2007 draft class, and a conditional pick in the outstanding 2011 Draft to his return qualifies this as a good deal for Toronto, especially under the circumstances.
QUESTION #3: Does this move solve Toronto's locker room issues?
ANSWER: Not by a long shot. Bruce clearly had his followers in the Argo room. Don't be surprised to see one or more of them continue to follow him (out of town) in the coming weeks as Andrus continues to put his stamp on this team.
QUESTION #4: Why was it important for the Argos to acquire a third round pick as part of the trade?
ANSWER: It is part of the big picture. There will still be some worthwhile prospects on the board in the third round of the 2010 Draft but that's irrelevant in this case. Toronto wanted to get one of those picks from Hamilton to replace their own third rounder, which they very quietly traded to Edmonton earlier this week in exchange for the negotiating rights to wide receiver Chad Lucas, who starred for Andrus'
Amsterdam Admirals in NFL Europe in 2006. In a roundabout way, Lucas, whom the Argos signed on Tuesday, can be viewed as part of the package obtained for Bruce. The other pick is more critical to the deal, as the Argos will have to surrender a third rounder to Winnipeg if they are able to sign Mace (that was part of the agreement that Hamilton made with the Blue Bombers, from whom they obtained Mace's rights in last year's Zeke Moreno trade). If Toronto flips Mace to another team, which has been rumoured, don't be surprised to see that pick move with him.
SUMMARY: If the first four weeks of the season are any indication, the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats appear destined to fight it out for second place in the East and, more importantly, home-field advantage in the East Semi-Final. It will be interesting to look back at the end of the season to see what role this trade has played in determining which team wins that race. Only then can it really be decided who benefited most from the deal.