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Arceneaux poised to leave Lions' den Add to ...

It's not a matter of if. It's a matter of when.

Receiver Manny Arceneaux is the leaving the B.C. Lions. That much is assured.

The window for CFL players in their option years to sign with NFL teams expires next month, and the two-year veteran will be long gone by deadline time. His agent, Bardia Ghahremani, confirmed as much, saying five NFL teams have shown interest and Arceneaux could make more in signing bonus money than he would in salary if he returned to the Lions' den.

"That's fine," B.C. general manager and head coach Wally Buono said. "When I talked to Manny, I told him to make it worthwhile."

Ghahremani said he doesn't expect an NFL labour stoppage next season, but in the event that one comes, his client will already have cashed his signing bonus.

"I don't think [a lockout]will be an issue," the agent said. "But that's why we do a signing bonus."

The Lions had been trying to re-sign Arceneaux, hoping the 23-year-old would delay his NFL ambitions in order to become the best possible receiver he can be. Buono told Arceneaux he wasn't ready for the NFL during an exit meeting in November, and advised him to spend more time working on his game in the CFL, so that he could ultimately command a Cameron Wake-like bonus.

(The former Lions defensive end received $1-million U.S. to sign with the Miami Dolphins two years ago.)

"The numbers [Arceneaux]put forward to us, we felt were doable," Buono said. "They just felt that maybe it was best to see what the NFL would offer."

Ghahremani said the Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, and New York Jets have all expressed interest in Arceneaux, but the Louisiana native is waiting to sign because two of those teams are still active in the NFL playoffs.

"He needs a little seasoning," Ghahremani conceded. "Hopefully, we're able to put him in a situation where the coaching staff really wants him."

Losing Arceneaux, who caught 67 balls for 1,114 yards last season, potentially represents a big loss for the Lions. Their other top pass-catchers - Geroy Simon and Paris Jackson - aren't getting any younger, and their production was down in 2010.

B.C. has also struggled to find receivers beyond Simon, Jackson and Arceneaux, although rookie Steven Black made some nice strides towards the end of last season. Arceneaux's departure will also hurt for third-year quarterback Travis Lulay, who became the starter late last season, because it means he will have to develop chemistry with a new pass catcher on the short side of the field.

"He'd be a big loss," Buono said. "As you saw in the second half of the season, he established himself in our offence. … We have to replace him with a player who has the same attributes."

Ghahremani expects Arceneaux will sign after the agent places client Tom Johnson in the NFL. Johnson, a defensive lineman with the Calgary Stampeders, is being pursued by the Seahawks, Vikings and New Orleans Saints, and is expected to sign this week.

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