The CFL’s Toronto Argonauts continue to add talent for their playoff run with just one week left in the regular season. Two Stars players have jumped aboard the ship and hope to ride it to a championship victory in 2023. Something they narrowly missed in 2022.
This also gives both wen the chance to close out their season with some earnings they wouldn’t have made from the USFL. Many USFL players have signed with the CFL to finish out the calendar year on a roster and earn as much as they can. However these signings could affect the Stars long term as well.
According to Mike Mitchell CFLNewshub.com Toronto Argonauts correspondent the players signed one year contracts with a second year option. If either player decides to sign this option it could prevent their return to the USFL. I would be interested to see the exact wording of the second year option. Of these guys can hold off on signing that second year option until July, they could in theory play with the USFL in 2024, whether with the Stars, or otherwise given their status as free agents, then return to the CFL for their regular season and playoffs.
We have recently seen players with CFL ties make their way to the USFL as well playing in around 25-30 games over a single year. McLeod Bethel-Thompson, and Wes Hills come to mind. So with all that being said, which players signed, and how bad could this hurt the Stars in 2024 and beyond if these players don’t return?
Two Defensive Stalwarts
Amani Dennis and Ralph Holley were two of the more important pieces on this Stars defensive unit in their first two seasons. Dennis has anchored the secondary and at times out performed more well known names on his own roster. Ralph Holley is a guy who has played multiple roles for the Stars, and from defensive end, to defensive tackles, and even running down on kick coverage.
Amani Dennis is a very interesting player for the Stars, at just 26 years old he served as a defensive assistant at his alma mater Division III Carthage College before joining the Spring League and later the USFL. He will however have to miss the last few games of the 2023 season to continue his playing career, on the defending CFL Champions who cruised to a 15-2 record with one game remaining in the regular season and a potential deep playoff run.
Dennis has been extremely solid over the past two seasons for the Stars. He has 5 interceptions over his time with the team. He also has managed 54 tackles, and 1 touchdown return. Originally prior to joining the USFL following his TSL Generals’ to the USFL Stars, he was talking about trying out for the XFL in preparation for their 2023 season.
Holley is about as versatile as a 280 pound defensive lineman can be at the professional level. Playing inside, and outside for the Stars depending on the situation, we also saw him run down on kick coverage units as mentioned by Defensive Line Coach Brandon Macguire in this interview:
Holley emerged as a steady performer for the Stars after they let go of Antwan Owens. Holley is a force no matter where he lines up as evidenced by his 45.5 tackles for a loss and 18.5 sacks at Western Michigan University. Unfortunately injuries limited his effectiveness in 2023 once he was able to take hold of a larger role. Overall he collected 11 tackles, and 1 sack. He is seemingly a solid fit back on the interior of Toronto’s defensive line.
Merger is Causing Players to Make Business Decisions
With the uncertainty surrounding the XFL/USFL merger this move for both of these players to one year deals with a second year option gives them a soft landing spot should they not be retained by the new league. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that there is very little chance that all 16 teams survive. Whether there is s contraction draft or not, the influx of high level free agents would only make roster spots more precious no matter which NFL alternative league you’re playing in.
This is a smart move by two young players who still have much of their career ahead of them. Building connections in the CFL can only aid them in staying employed long term no matter the league.