Jim Barker couldn’t hold back the excitement on his face Monday afternoon after trading for his new quarterback, Drew Willy. The Toronto Argonauts general manager pursued the former Winnipeg starter after Ricky Ray was sidelined due to a variety of injuries stemming from a broken rib against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Labour Day. The second major injury to Ray this year prompted Barker to solidify his depth at the quarterback position.
Meeting Drew Willy as a Member of the Argonauts
How the Deal Went Down
In the deal, the Argos sent T.J. Heath and two draft picks to Winnipeg in exchange for Willy. All of it was done and arranged prior to when the Argos kicked off against the Tiger-Cats late Sunday afternoon. There was a contingency in the deal that both players had to be healthy, so that the deal would go through after the game was over.
After the game, Heath was informed that he had been traded to Winnipeg. Heath, in rookie CFL year, led the Argos in interceptions with five, including a late one in the win Sunday.
Drew Willy’s Reaction to the Trade
The quarterback found out his time in Winnipeg was over in person from his head coach Sunday night.
“I was watching the Hamilton-Toronto game last night, then coach (Mike) O’Shea actually came to my house to tell me the news. Obviously there were some emotions, I’ve been through a lot with him and think so highly of him” Willy said.
The opportunity for a new start, although not ideal, is refreshing for the young signal caller. “I was pretty pumped up to get out to Toronto, they’ve done some pretty great things here with quarterbacks in the past and to be able to learn from a guy like Ray, who I’ve got so much respect for.
“I’m extremely excited, I got in around 5 am this morning and couldn’t even think about sleeping, I just wanted to start learning the playbook as fast as I can, and so for so good,” said Willy
Expectations of the Quarterback
Long term, the Argonauts are very excited about their new player. However, it will be a process to get the new pivot up to par in the system.
“I don’t see Willy as a project, he is a bonafide upper tier starter, now when that’ll be for us I don’t know,” said Milanovich.
“The fact that he’s a veteran and he’s been around a few offences in this league means that it shouldn’t be a monumental task to get him ready sooner rather than later”
The coach re-iterated that Dan Lefevour will be the starter this week in Winnipeg based on his great play last week against Hamilton.
High Cost of Business
The Argos had to give up Heath if there was going to be a deal for Willy. For Winnipeg, the deal solidifies their secondary and their depth moving forward after they also traded for Montreal Alouettes quarterback Kevin Glenn to be there new back-up.
The Boatmen staff’s logic mandated that the cost of bringing in Willy was justified for what they were trying to do.
“Heath is a good player, to get a good a player you have to give up a good player and without Heath the deal wasn’t getting done,” said Barker.
“When we went after Ray the price was high, we’re trying to win Grey Cups here, this trade makes us better now and in the future.”
The head coach explained the presence that Heath had in the locker room.
“Losing Heath was extremely difficult. I love Heath, his teammates love him, he’s a great player and a great person.
“When it comes down to it you need a great quarterback to win in professional football,” said the head coach.
There’s a next-man-up mentality to the young Argonauts secondary, and the general manager had some insight on who’s expected to step up after Heath’s departure.
“Aaron Berry, he’s going to be coming back soon, obviously Joe Rankin, he’s a young guy coming into his own. We feel good about our young DB’s, Heath was one of those, he’s grown here. (Heath) and A.J. (Jefferson) worked together well on that boundary side and you know it’s one of those things,” said Barker.