The Difference Between Leagues
In the CFL, it happens with regularity. Quarterbacks move before their prime, in their prime, after being named as all-stars, whenever. The exception is the quarterback that plays in one place his entire career, like Ricky Ray might end up doing with Edmonton.
Contrast that with the NFL. The deal today that sent Carson Palmer from Cinncinnati to Oakland for two first round picks is doubly rare in that it involves a top QB changing teams in his prime, and in the middle of the season.
Those two elements alone make this an eye-catcher of a deal.
It's not like big name quarterbacks all play their careers for one team. The likes of Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Roman Gabriel, Joe Montana and, of course, Brett Favre have moved, but almost always in the fading years of their careers.
Now, good signal callers do occasionally change teams when they are still at the top, but it's rare, and it usually involves unusual circumstances. Like Drew Brees going from San Diego to New Orleans. Or Mike Vick ending up in Philly.
Brees had shoulder problems, Vick had all kinds of problems. Palmer, on the other hand, simply didn't want to play in Cincy any more, and after making him wait, the 4-2 Bengals, who have played well with Andy Dalton under centre, took a very good offer from a Raiders team that obviously believes the playoffs and more are possible with Palmer.
Jason Campbell's injury made the Oakland's quarterback needs urgent. But with the franchise in limbo after the recent death of owner Al Davis, and with the Raiders still not a team with a ton of depth, this is a very aggressive (risky?) transaction, particularly if Palmer doesn't return to his form of several seasons ago.
In the CFL, of course, even the best QBs - Ron Lancaster, Doug Flutie, Matt Dunigan, Damon Allen, Anthony Calvillo - played for more than one team, and were moved early in their careers or when they were at their peak.
These days, Calgary's benching of Henry Burris - who has already played for another CFL team - naturally has tongues wagging that Burris may be on the move. If Drew Tate can prove himself worthy of being a starter over the remainder of the season, than simply the size of Burris' contract - likely north of $350,000 - will make it unlikely he would stay a Stampeder. We can argue whether the 36-year-old Burris is in his prime or past it, but he's regarded as one of the better QBs in the league, at least until now.
Naturally, the Argonauts would be the likeliest destination, because, well, they always are when it comes to quarterbacks in these kind of situations. Toronto has never done well with discovering their own, so over the decades they've often been a team that has sought an established arm elsewhere, whether it was Condredge Holloway or Dunigan or Flutie or Allen or - yikes - Kerry Joseph.
Jim Barker, of course, knows Burris from his days in Calgary, but this could be a tricky one for Barker even if Smilin' Hank becomes available. He has made a major committment to Steven Jyles in the trade with Winnipeg, and making a sharp left turn now and acquiring Burris would be a signal to the rest of the league that he has already changed his mind about Jyles.
Then again, the Argos will miss the playoffs this year, and next year is an important year as the franchise hosts the 100th Grey Cup party. Quite simply, the Argos cannot afford to have a lousy offence and a poor win-loss record again next season.
So the Burris rumours have already started. It's the CFL way.