Recalling when a CFL club outspent Jerry Jones

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Imagine this: a CFL club outspending Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for a top player.

Well, 23 years ago Sunday, this happened.

Yes, on April 20, 1991, the Toronto Argonauts signed Notre Dame wide receiver Raghib “Rocket” Ismail to a four-year contract reportedly worth up to $26.2 million with $18.2 million in guarantees.

The Cowboys, who acquired the No. 1 overall pick from New England, could not strike a deal with Ismail. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Cowboys wouldn’t give Ismail the five-year, $14.5 million guaranteed contract he sought. (Before dealing the No. 1 pick, New England also could not reach an agreement with Ismail.)

“Rocket is a fine, fine player, and we wish him a lot of luck,” Jones said after Ismail’s deal with Toronto, according to the Baltimore Sun. “We asked and received an offer from Ismail’s agents. It was very apparent when we got their offer that Rocket was legitimately headed to Canada. His numbers were totally out of our range. Basically, we wanted to see if there was a chance of an NFL team being able to sign him.”

Ismail played two seasons in Toronto, earning Grey Cup MVP honors after his kickoff return touchdown helped the Argonauts win the 1991 CFL title.

In 1993, Ismail would join the Los Angeles Raiders, who held his NFL rights after drafting him two years earlier in Round Four. Interestingly enough, Ismail would finish his pro career with Dallas, and he would set career-highs in catches (80) and yards (1,097) for the Cowboys in 1999.

The Cowboys, for the record, would take defensive lineman Russell Maryland No. 1 overall in 1991. He played on all three of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl-winning clubs of the 1990s. Also, the Cowboys’ other No. 1 pick in 1991, Alvin Harper, started in Super Bowl XXVII and XXVIII for Dallas.

13 responses to “Recalling when a CFL club outspent Jerry Jones

  1. Hard to believe. Today, the CFL salary cap (PER TEAM) is, I believe, $4.4M. This hiring happened when the Argonauts were bought by a group containing John Candy, Bruce McNall, and Wayne Gretzky.

  2. The CFL was a league to be reckoned with back in the 70’s, it’s been a long time though.

  3. The simple explanation for what looks like an uncharacteristically smart/frugal decision by Jerry Jones is that in 1991 Jimmy Johnson was still the head coach/general manager, and kept Jerry from making stupid decisions like paying Rocket Ismail $26 million.

    If this exact same scenario happened today, Ismail would be making $45 million over 6 years with $42 million guaranteed.

  4. I remembered going to Toronto all the time to see Doug Flutie, Rocket and Mike “Pinball” Clemons…they had a fun team to watch. Only time I ever paid attention to CFL…my brother in law was obsessed with Flutie…then he came to Buffalo! Lmao.

  5. The Argos signed Rocket a few days before the NFL draft (article is a little misleading), and so the Cowboys passed on the Rocket.

    He fell to the Raiders at pick #100 and that’s how they got his rights.

  6. The Cowboys couldn’t reach a deal with Ismail, but Jones thought it was a moral victory for the Cowboys.

  7. FYI…rocket is pretty broke now and Dallas won three championships with Russel MD that allowed Jones to become a billionaire and build a massive stadium. I think Jerry and the boys made out alright on that one.

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