Noah Picton welcomes the company now that there are three Canadian quarterbacks with the Toronto Argonauts.
The University of Regina Rams product was the first of three national quarterbacks to sign with the Argonauts, agreeing to a three-year deal on Dec. 16.
Picton joined the Argonauts before they signed former Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Brandon Bridge to a one-year free-agent contract on Feb. 24. Toronto then selected UBC Thunderbirds product Michael O’Connor in the second round (20th overall) of Thursday’s CFL draft.
“I think it’s great because it’s getting Canadian guys into the CFL, whether it’s through the Argos or any CFL team,” Picton said Tuesday.
“Right now, the Montreal Alouettes have Hugo Richard (a two-time Vanier Cup champion with Laval) on their roster. It’s just building some recognition and giving guys some opportunities. Whether it’s Hugo, Brandon, Mike or myself, someone is going to make a go of it and push this conversation to hopefully build a strong argument to change the quarterback ratio.”
The CFL has rules governing the number of nationals and internationals on each roster, but quarterbacks aren’t included on that list. That exclusion means there isn’t any incentive for CFL teams to start Canadian quarterbacks ahead of international ones.
The CFL and the CFLPA are involved in collective bargaining agreement talks and there has been some discussion of including Canadian quarterbacks in the ratio. That change might encourage CFL coaches to develop Canadian quarterbacks, much like they do other position players.
“Some meaningful repetitions would go a long way just to compare me to the American guys,” said the 23-year-old Picton. “There are some productive Canadian quarterbacks. With the right opportunity and some legitimate (skeleton drills) and team reps, they will be able to show that.”
Bridge, who is headed into his fifth season with his third CFL team, has been outspoken when it comes to adjusting the ratio to provide an incentive to play Canadian quarterbacks.
“I haven’t even met him (but) in a sense it feels like he’s had my back for the past couple of years pushing for Canadian quarterbacks,” Picton said. “I’ve been a fan of his and I’m looking forward to getting to know him.”
O’Connor, who remains unsigned, is a national with an intriguing background. He grew up in Ottawa and attended the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., before earning a scholarship to Penn State. O’Connor spent one season there before transferring to UBC, where he led the Thunderbirds to the 2015 Vanier Cup.
“When he came up to Canada West in 2015, I felt that I had to step up my game because he was going to be the standard,” Picton said. “It was great to bring him in and compete in Canada West. I know that it elevated my game. You realize he can play and you have to put together some pretty good seasons to keep up to him because of his history.”
Picton has shown that he can play the game at the U Sports level with the Rams. In 2016, he won the Hec Crighton Trophy as the top university football player in Canada and is U Sports’ all-time leader in passing yardage (11,496).
He’s still going to be challenged when training camp opens. The Canadian trio will battle incumbent internationals James Franklin, Dakota Prukop and McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Then there is a physical difference between the Canadian quarterbacks. Picton is 5-foot-8 and 177 pounds. Bridge and O’Connor are both 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds.
“They are tall dudes,” Picton said. “Physically they might have an advantage on me and I will have to find an edge somewhere else.”
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