As of right now, CFL teams can “legally tamper” with pending free agents. They can talk but not actually sign deals until Feb 14. Some players may find out that the free agent market isn’t that different than what their team was offering and end up re-signing prior to Feb 14 (we are still clinging to the vain hope that Lanier falls into that category). Others may find out that the grass is indeed greener on the other side and be gone.
O’day has placed himself in a situation with money to burn. There is virtually no one currently on the roster that we are paying. No QB, no WR, no one on defense other than Moncrief and now Robertson. O’Day is walking into the strip club of free agency with many stacks, ready to make it rain (where else can you find top notch football analysis like this?).
Now of course the reason that we have all those stacks is because we basically need everything. We have great RBs and are pretty good at DB. Outside of that we have glaring needs everywhere. O’Day seems primed to swing for the fences. He might connect and come away a winner… odds are probably better that he whiffs and whiffs hard though. We shall see shortly.
Yet again the Riders did not formally ask for my advice but he’s how I would assess our options heading into free agency.
Priority 1 – O-line
I know we don’t have a QB, but if we don’t fix our O-line then it won’t matter who our QB is, they will spend more time on their back then the redzone. There are 6 guys that I think are worthy of targeting. The options at tackle are pretty much non-existent. Its Joel Figueroa or nothing and given that he’s the only top tackle hitting free agency there will be a bidding war. A discount option could be Ucambre Williams who can play multiple spots including tackle. Other top names include Michael Couture (an all-star centre), Sukh Chung (he’s not the most technically refined blocker but might bring some much needed physicality to the line), Justin Lawrence (anchored the Grey Cup winning line) and Darius Ciraco (solid lineman at just 26 years old). At a minimum we need to land one of these. I think ideally you manage to get 2. Given that Dan Clark remains unsigned and 2 young centres (Couture and Lawrence) will be hitting the market, it makes you wonder.
Priority 2 – D-Tackle
Go back and look at how useless our D was when both Marino and Lanier were out. Without at least one quality tackle we get not pressure, can’t stop the run, and might as well not pay good DEs because they will just spend their time being eaten up by blocks. The best option remains Anthony Lanier and I can’t understand how this isn’t a priority. If not him then maybe you go after Casey Sayles from Winnipeg. Otherwise you are looking at some grizzled vets like Micah Johnson or Ted Laurent.
Priority 3 – QB
May seem counterintuitive to have QB so low on the priority list but good teams win the in the trenches and if we don’t address our trenches then it really won’t matter who our QB is. The growing dysfunction in Montreal will inexplicably see Trevor Harris hit free agency. I say inexplicably because Maas and Harris are like a predestined match. I don’t like that Harris is 37 but if we have a chance to get him we need to try. My concern here is that he probably wants a Bo-type deal (i.e. $450K for 3 yrs). Harris ain’t playing here for 3 years. So as much as Harris is the better QB (and thus the primary target), I think you can make a case for saving some money and going with a younger/cheaper Dane Evans and investing in a better supporting cast. The awkward Cody reunion remains the other option but that would kinda be the fallback option if everything else failed… though the way things have gone that probably means we’ll need to consider it.
Priority 4 – WR
All the talk is of course about a potential Geno Lewis-Harris combo. This would be great but a) Lewis has been vocal about leaving Montreal due to front office disfunction and we aren’t exactly the stability he is looking for. b) it’ll probably take $250-300K to get him. For a team with needs across the board I think we need to spread the money around better. I would prefer to look at a guy like Kamar Jorden. Coming off the worst season of his career, his value has never been lower. But I still think he can be a bonafide #1. You could probably get him and a guy like Markeith Ambles for about the same cost as Geno and be a better rounded team. Other guys on my radar would be Jake Wieneke, Steven Dunbar, Tim White. Even would consider Duke if his price drops enough and you think you have a QB that can keep him in line. I just honestly worry that O'Day will blow all his cash on Harris and Lewis and have their talent wasted with a crappy supporting cast.
Priority 5 – Linebacker
Assuming Micah Teitz is back we really only need a MLB but I would prefer some depth there as well. If we aren’t going with Dean or Sankey then you need to look at guys like Jameer Thurman, Avery Williams or Micah Awe.
My honest prediction is that we are very active and (as happens every year) people assume that “winning” free agency means we will be a good team… we need a good free agency or we are in big trouble but even with a good free agency we have a long way to go.