Argos give wide receiver Dontrelle Inman an unusual early Christmas present—his release

Andrew Bucholtz

Usually, a business parting ways with an employee on Christmas Eve would be seen as the most Scrooge-like situation of them all, but in the case of the Toronto Argonauts and wide receiver Dontrelle Inman, it may actually be the team giving him an early Christmas gift. Inman would have been a free agent in February, so the Argos didn't have him under contract for any further games, and it sounds like he wants to test the NFL waters. Releasing him now allows him to not only try out for NFL teams before February (something even under-contract players can do), but also gives him the chance to sign with one of those teams immediately if he wishes. It's something the Argonauts have done before, and it seems like a pretty smart move from this standpoint; it keeps their players who want to try the NFL happy and adds to the case for them to return to Toronto if they can't make a roster south of the border, and it also serves as a good way to boost the team's reputation as a desirable destination for players.

Here's what Inman tweeted Monday night, which was very positive towards the Argos and reinforced the idea that this was something he requested to let him pursue NFL opportunities:

The Argos then officially announced his release Tuesday morning. Letting players go to the NFL is a playbook they've worked from before, and they've done it even in more dramatic fashion: last January, they released defensive tackle Armond Armstead, a league all-star who was still under contract, after just one season so he could try the NFL, and he wound up landing with the New England Patriots. That seemed to essentially be a tacit agreement between him and the Argos; while the lowest-term contract players can sign is currently two years (thanks to the demise of the old NFL option window), CFL teams can still tell players they'll release them after one year if they draw NFL interest, and if they're willing to follow through on that, that could prove a notable way to recruit top talent north of the border.

The Inman case isn't quite dramatic as the Armstead one, as he was going to hit free agency in a few months regardless, but it allows him to pursue NFL options more easily. This list of key NFL dates would suggest that Inman couldn't suit up for a team this year even if he signed immediately, but as of December 30, teams can sign free agents for 2014. For Inman to be available then rather than in February could make a difference for his chances, and that's why this is a generous move by the Argonauts.

The Argos' moves in these situations also stand in direct contrast to their Southern Ontario rivals. Hamilton spent much of this year trying to keep under-contract receiver Chris Williams from going to the NFL, even though he wasn't going to play for them, and that led to arbitration and a judge's intervention before the case was officially settled in October. The situations are a little different, as Williams was under contract for a full season (making his case more comparable to Armstead's than Inman's), but the approaches are interesting to contrast; Toronto's let players who want to go south out of their contracts early, while Hamilton's fought to hang on to them as much as possible. The different strategies didn't make an on-field difference, as none of Williams, Armstead or Inman have played a CFL game since expressing their interest in going south, but they may make a difference in terms of attracting future talent. If you're a player with NFL dreams, signing with a CFL team that seems happy to let its players pursue those could be an enticing move. Thus, the Argonauts' Christmas gift to Inman may well lead to them getting presents of their own down the road.

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