CFL, CFL Players’ Association remain at odds regarding T.J. Jones contract

TORONTO — The T.J. Jones situation remains unresolved.

The CFL and CFL Players’ Association are at odds regarding the free-agent deal the receiver signed last month with the Toronto Argonauts. Jones, a 27-year-old Winnipeg native, agreed to a contract reportedly worth $200,000 annually with the Argos on Feb. 14 after spending six seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions (2014-18) and New York Giants (2019).

But the collective bargaining agreement reached last year between the CFL and CFL Players’ Association limits Canadian rookies to earning no more than $80,000 annually on a three-year contract. According to a source, the league proposed an amendment to the CFLPA for consideration that was turned down.

So Jones, his agent Rob Fry and the Argos all remain in limbo.

“Rather than jump to conclusions, I remain hopeful that discussions continue between the CFL and CFLPA to reach amended language that’s in the best interests for both parties,” Fry said. “This is a big-picture issue that goes beyond just T.J., he’s just the first player to be affected.

“But with respect to his personal situation, I do hope that this can get resolved soon so that he and his family are able to make important decisions that impact their future significantly.”

CFLPA president Solomon Elimimian tweeted the union executive and player reps discussed the Jones matter “at length” and sent the CFL a proposal Monday. The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ veteran linebacker added the league hasn’t yet responded.

“The proposal was met with optimism by Toronto’s management,” Elimimian tweeted. “Nevertheless we have yet to hear back from the CFL.

“Our board respects our players rights while also acknowledging the DESIRE to bring the top talents to our game. We await a response from the CFL to the proposal and will have no further comments at this time.”

Added a CFL spokesman: “The matter is still unresolved and there may be further discussions.”

The irony of the situation is if Jones were to have a stellar campaign with Toronto in 2020, he wouldn’t qualify for the CFL’s top rookie award because of his time in the NFL. A player becomes disqualified from contention for the outstanding rookie honour if he has “dressed for a member club of the National Football League for a regular season, post-season or championship game in the current season or any season prior.”

Furthermore, Jones was never drafted by a CFL team because he didn’t meet the criteria to be deemed a Canadian, or national, at the time.

Another interesting twist is according to the CBA, a rookie qualifies as a CFL veteran if he’s on a roster, injured or disabled list of a member club or clubs for seven or more games in his first CFL season. If the player is released after that time, he faces no restrictions — financial or contract length — in signing with another team.

Jones’s father, Andre, played in the CFL as a defensive lineman with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The elder Jones died in 2011 of a brain aneurysm. He was just 42.

T.J. Jones attended high school in Gainesville, Ga. He then spent his collegiate career at Notre Dame, like his father, before being selected in the sixth round, No. 189 overall, by Detroit in the 2014 NFL draft.

Jones appeared in 45 career NFL regular-season games, registering 67 catches for 852 yards (12.7-yard average) with five TDs.

If the wording isn’t amended to allow Canadians who play in the NFL to come to Canada as veterans, it could have ramifications for the CFL. Nationals playing south of the border will be more apt to remain there and exhaust all of their options rather than return to their native land to continue playing football.

“We all want to see the best Canadian football players on the planet come play in the CFL,” Fry said.

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