Mike Vanderjagt is back with the Toronto Argonauts.
A league source requesting anonymity told The Canadian Press on Friday night that Vanderjagt, who earned two Grey Cup rings with Toronto before heading to the NFL after the '97 season, has re-signed with the CFL club. To make room for Vanderjagt on the roster, the source said the Argos dealt veteran kicker-punter Noel Prefontaine to the Edmonton Eskimos.
What the Argos get in return isn't immediately clear. However, the source said Prefontaine's has been on the trade market for some time.
The move would be a homecoming for Vanderjagt, 38, a native of nearby Oakville, Ont.
Vanderjagt last played football in the 2006 season with the Dallas Cowboys before being released by the NFL club Nov. 27 and replaced by Martin Grammatica.
Vanderjagt played his college football at West Virginia and upon graduation was released by four separate CFL teams between 1993 and '96. After playing for the Minnesota Fighting Pike of the Arena Football in 1996, Vanderjagt landed full-time work in the CFL with Toronto - who had twice cut him previously - as the club's punter and kicker.
He helped Toronto win consecutive Grey Cup titles in '96 and '97, making all nine field goals he attempted in the two CFL championship games.
After the '97 season, Vanderjagt joined the NFL's Indianapolis Colts and remained with the club through the 2005 season. But the Colts decided against re-signing Vanderjagt, instead going for former New England Patriot Adam Vinateri.
So Vanderjagt joined the Cowboys as a free agent in 2006, receiving a US$2.5-million signing bonus as part of a three-year, $5.4-million deal. However, Vanderjagt only made 13-of-18 field goals and the 72.2 per cent success ratio was the lowest of his nine-year NFL career.
In 135 career NFL games, Vanderjagt made 230-of-266 field goals for a sparkling 86.4 per cent success ratio that made him the most accurate kicker in league history. He also amassed 1,052 points, including a career-high 157 in 2003.
But Vanderjagt's brash attitude and penchant for speaking his mind has landed him in trouble.
Vanderjagt ignited a firestorm of controversy following the 2002 season when after a playoff loss to the New York Jets he was critical of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and then head coach Tony Dungy on a sports station. He later apologized, but that did little to soothe Manning, who during an interview on the sidelines of the Pro Bowl game referred to Vanderjagt as "our idiot kicker who got liquored up and ran his mouth off."
Two years later as the Colts were preparing to face New England, Vanderjagt said the Patriots were "ripe for the picking," and that he felt the club wasn't as good that year as it was the year before when it won the Super Bowl. That prompted Patriots safety Rodney Harrison to call the Canadian "Vanderjerk." And to add insult to injury, the Patriots won the game 20-3 en route to another Super Bowl title.
But when Vanderjagt was on, he was really on.
In 2003, he became the first kicker in league history to go through an entire year - regular season and playoffs - without missing a field goal or convert try. He finished the regular season hitting all 37 kicks he tried (and all 46 converts), then made all three field goals (and 12 converts) in the playoffs.
Vanderjagt's NFL-record streak of 42 straight field goals ended Sept. 9, 2004 when he missed a 48-yard try against New England.
Prefontaine, 34, joined the Argos as Vanderjagt's replacement in '98 and has been with the club ever since. Orginally a punter, Prefontaine added the kicking duties to his resume on a full-time basis in 2002 and has developed into one CFL's best multi-purpose special-teams player. Not only can he punt and kick, but he's also an effective kickoff specialist as well and has long been a fan favourite in Toronto for his ability to make bone-jarring tackles while covering kicks.
But of late, that has caught up to the five-foot-11, 200-pound Prefontaine, who has also battled injuries. Still, he's a perennial CFL all-star and enters this season having made 195-of-282 career field goals (69.1 per cent). This season, Prefontaine connected on 26-of-39 field goals (66.7 per cent).
However, Prefontaine fills a definite need for the Eskimos, who've been on the lookout for a proven kicker to replace veteran Sean Fleming, who retired after last season.