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by Adrian Alleyne

It’s official, Saskatchewan Roughriders fans. Mark March 6, 2008 on your calendar. It’s a day you will remember for a while–the day the CFL’s most outstanding player in 2007, Kerry Joseph, became a member of the Toronto Argonauts.

There’s no need to read the previous line again. I know what I wrote, and I know it sounds crazy, but Riders GM Eric Tillman pulled the trigger and sent Joseph packing. What did they get in exchange, you wonder? Well not much. The Riders now have the services of defensive end Ronald Flemens and offensive tackle Glenn January, along with two of the Argos’ Canadian College draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2008.

I know what everyone’s thinking: that’s it? The answer is yes, but let’s look on the bright side. The Riders now have some more depth on the offensive and defensive lines, and who knows who will come out of the Canadian draft?

OK, I admit it, I’m trying to be a little too optimistic, and it is a bad trade–well player-wise at least. But before we crucify Tillman, let’s take a closer look at the situation. As fans we see football as a game, but unfortunately for those people at the top making the decisions, it’s also a business.

We must remember that before last season started Joseph took one for the team, agreeing to a $125,000 pay cut so that the team could come in under the salary cap. After the cut he was earning $225,000, while most starting quarterbacks in the league make more than $300,000. So why shouldn’t the league’s MVP make the same if not more than the other quarterbacks? He did bring a Grey Cup to the city after 19 long years.

Well, he couldn’t make that kind of money because the Riders couldn’t afford to pay him what he wanted, so they had to let him go, which is a better situation then having an unhappy quarterback leading your team. At least this way they got something out of it, rather than losing him to free agency next year. In the end it was about business, not Joseph.

This is not to say that Joseph isn’t worth the money. He really is. Just look at the stats. He threw for 4,002 yards, with 24 touchdowns compared to only eight interceptions; he also rushed for 737 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has continuously put up those numbers throughout his career, but here’s the wild card: Joseph is 34 years old and has a bad knee.

Ordinarily, in no way should 34 be considered old, but in football terms, his time is almost up. Maybe Tillman couldn’t justify paying someone that type of money–especially if they’re going to hang it up soon, so why not spend the money on some young talent? And let’s not forget who the potential new starting quarterback will be-Marcus Crandell, a two-time Grey Cup champion and the MVP of the 2001 championship while with the Calgary Stampeders.

So the future isn’t all grim, Rider fans. You still have an explosive offence, with Matt Dominguez, Wes Cates and crowd favourite Andy Fantuz. And the defence will still be decent enough to compete, even with the untimely departures of Reggie Hunt and Fred Perry.

So let’s look on the bright side: the Riders are the defending champs and there is still a good chance they can repeat this year, because they still have a lot of talent and experience on the team. But that could all change if Crandell suffers a season-ending injury. Then Tillman and the team will be in trouble.

Rider fans need to remember one last thing. This situation could be a whole lot worse.

What would people say if Joseph strolled in on Labour Day weekend, wearing the blue and gold? You know where I’m going: what if he was a Bomber?

So if you ever feel like attacking Tillman in the grocery store for trading Joseph, remember he could have traded him to the Riders’ rivals to the East. Then we’d really have a reason to be blue.