Memphis wanted defensive backs, Baltimore wanted the place-kicker and Winnipeg wanted to pay a few bills. The Canadian Football League's dispersal draft of Las Vegas Posse players last week was earmarked by moves of cunning and chicanery.
Winners included the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who traded with Memphis for the first pick and used it to take quarterback Anthony Calvillo. The Cats came away with seven players, five on defense. Considering Hamilton won only four games last year and the Posse five, this was progress -- slight, perhaps, but progress.
Memphis and Birmingham each earned a thumbs-up, too. The Mad Dogs got three defensive backs in the trade, and a fourth in the draft, to complement pass rusher Tim Cofield. Birmingham got two of the Posse's best defensive players in linebacker Shonte Peoples and end Steve Anderson. Now, if the Barracudas can get Peoples through Canadian immigration -- he allegedly shot at an undercover police officer in the off-season -- they'll be sitting pretty.
Likewise, Baltimore improved itself with place-kicker Carlos Huerta on the 12th pick, but not without a little help. Coach Don Matthews should thank agent Dave Schull, who sent letters to every CFL team telling them not to draft Huerta unless they intended to pay up at the negotiating table.
Not to be taken seriously, though, were first-round picks by Edmonton and Winnipeg. Edmonton drafted running back Darian Hagan (a former quarterback at Colorado) with the idea of making him a cornerback. Hagan played one game at corner -- his last for Las Vegas, against Edmonton.
Then there was Winnipeg's laughable selection of slotback Tamarick Vanover, the one-time Florida State receiver. Vanover had a base salary of $75,000 last year and is due to make $125,000 in 1995. The Blue Bombers, $3.2 million in debt, aren't about to pay that, not when their best receiver, Gerald Wilcox, makes less than $40,000.
Obviously, the Bombers want to sell Vanover's contract to the NFL. They set the precedent last year when they sold defensive end Vaughn Booker to the Kansas City Chiefs.
New Orleans lawyer Harry Henderson, who expects Vanover to be chosen in the NFL draft, will make a pre-emptive strike tomorrow. He said he'll go to federal court in Shreveport, La., to have Vanover declared a free agent on the basis of a breached contract.
Irv's out, Irvin's in
Irv Cross, the former NFL cornerback and CBS broadcaster, has sold his 2 percent interest in the Baltimore Football Club to another limited partner, Marv Stursa. Cross said, however, that he'll remain active with CFL expansion in the United States.
"I felt it was better for me not to be established with one particular club," Cross said. "With expansion developing, the opportunity will present itself to step up and take one of the [new] clubs."
Meanwhile, Baltimore cornerback Irvin Smith renegotiated his contract last week, extending it through 1997. Smith, the lowest paid of the team's defensive backs at $32,000, was an All-CFL selection his rookie season. With signing bonus and incentives, he'll make about $40,000 this year.
"I think I'm worth more than what I signed for," said Smith, a former Maryland standout. "But to play out my option wouldn't sit right with me. My heart is here in Baltimore."
The unkindest cut
The unluckiest guy on the Baltimore roster is linebacker Ken Benson. Two years ago with Toronto, he led the CFL in total tackles. Last year, in Baltimore's first preseason game, he broke his right ankle, and even though he came back to play late in the year, he has been paying for it ever since.
Friday, he had a third operation on the leg. This time, the ankle was re-broken and another metal plate inserted. It did not heal properly after the first two surgeries. Where this leaves Benson's career is another matter. He expects to play this season, but not before August.
Former Las Vegas coach Ron Meyer has a public relations job at Arizona Charlie's Hotel and Casino Resort off the strip. He said he hasn't been paid since December and expects to have to go to court to get money owed. . . . The Saskatchewan Roughriders, who lost tailback Mike Saunders to the NFL's Green Bay Packers, are interested in B.C. Lions free agent Cory Philpot. . . . Baltimore owner Jim Speros said the long delay over the schedule has put him a month behind in ticket sales. He said 40 percent of last year's season-ticket holders have not renewed, but that "only 2 percent of the people have canceled." . . . The Blue Bombers, who will have a lightning bolt affixed to their trademark "W" this year, have offered contracts to former NFL quarterbacks Tommy Hodson and Peter Tom Willis. . . . Birmingham, which can't use Legion Field until July, is exploring the possibility of a preseason game in Milwaukee, Portland, Ore., or Albuquerque, N.M.
4( 1994 SALARIES FOR BALTIMORE STARTERS
Player ... ... ... ... Base salary ... ... ... Possible bonuses
Tracy Ham ... .. .. .. $225,000 ... ... ... .. $70,000