Wednesday, February 10, 2016

CFL Free Agency Summary - Day 1

Once the unofficially "wait to announce deals already agreed to so its not blatant we tampered" period ended, the free agent action was very busy on day 1. Below is a summary of all the day 1 signings (as well as length and salary where I was able find info) just to get you caught up in case you missed everything.

I will have full analysis on Friday as I expect Day 2 of free agency to be extremely busy. Big names like Aaron Grymes, Justin Capicciotti, Emmanuel Davis, JC Sherritt, Otha Foster, Cleyon Laing, Chad Owens, Jeff Fuller, Rennie Curran, Weldon Brown, Keon Raymond, Cord Parks, Bryan Hall and Tristan Okpalaugo still on the market. 

Saskatchewan
OL Christ Best – 2 year extension
DL Dylan Ainsworth – 1 yr
DB Graig Newman – 2 yrs
WR John Chiles
WR Jeremy Kelly
WR Shamawd Chambers – 1 yr
OL Andrew Jones

BC
DB Mike Edem
DB Brandon Smith – 2 yrs
WR Nick Moore – 1 yr

Calgary
n/a

Edmonton
RB John White - 2 yrs

Winnipeg
RB Andrew Harris – 3 yrs
DL Keith Shologan – 2 yrs
OL Jeff Keeping
DL Euclid Cummings – 1 yr
WR Ryan Smith – 2 yrs
K Justin Medlock – 2 yrs @ ~ $175k
RB Pascal Lochard – 2 yrs

Toronto
OL Josh Bourke – 2 yrs $230-240k
OL Corey Watman – 2 yrs
LB Cory Greenwood – 1 yr extension
K Lirim Hajrullahu – 1 yr

Hamilton
DL Ted Laurent – 2 yr extension $225k in year 1, $275k in year 2
WR Andy Fantuz – 1 year extension
LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis
OL Brian Simmons

Montreal
LB Winston Venable
WR Sam Guigere – 2 yrs
WR Kenny Stafford
DB Jovon Johnson
DB Mitchell White
DB Dominique Ellis - 2 yrs

Ottawa
QB Trevor Harris – 2 yrs $400k in 2nd year of deal
RB Brandon Gillanders – 2 yrs

NFL Watch
Josh Johnson (BC) – Signed with Jacksonville

Tristan Okpalaugo (Tor) – Workout with Oakland

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

2nd Annual Rider Prophet CFL Free Agent Occurrence

Live Blog 2nd Annual CFL Free Agent Occurrence
 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: CFL Free Agent Frenzy

Tomorrow CFL Free Agency officially opens. Its well timed as it should provide temporary relief from the depressing fact that there is no more football until June after yesterday. As a Riders and Vikings fan I'm eager for the 2015 football season to be over but as someone chronically addicted to football I'm saddened. Honestly if they announced the NFL season was being expanded by 4 weeks but it would just feature the Jaguars and Titans playing repeatedly in those god awful colour rush jerseys, I would be keenly interested.

I'll start with the big news. I will indeed be hosting my Second Annual CFL Free Agent Occurrence Live Blog (Free Agent Frenzy is rarely an apt description so I`went with occurrence in order to set more realistic expectations). I will be live blogging from 1pm until 3pm ish. Knowing my luck every deal will now occur between 11 and 1 or after 3. Join me for analysis, discussion and as much as much fun as you can have on a Tuesday afternoon. Pants are optional but there will be absolutely no video or pictures allowed. 

The 2016 edition of Free Agency might actually live up to the term "frenzy". The abundance of 1 year contracts has a record number of players set to hit free agency (note it might not actually be a record, I'm just assuming and am too lazy to confirm). The unintended consequence of this glut of free agents is that aside from a couple marquee players (e.g. Laurent) the sheer volume of players will turn this into a buyer's market.I truly believe that a patient GM can find a ton of value in this year’s market. There will be huge bidding wars for the a few big fish like Laurent, Capicciotti, etc.. but after that just given the sheer volume of free agents, prices will come down. Its simple supply and demand economics. So while you might not land guys like Laurent or Venable , I bet Shologan or Hoffman-Ellis could be a nice consolation prize at less salary.

You name it, you can get it in this year's free agent market and not just bodies but proven, quality players. Want a QB? Harris. RB? The other Harris. OT - Bourke, Interior OL - Keeping. WR - Stafford. Cdn WR Chambers. DT - Laurent, Shologan. DE - Capicciotti. LB - Venable. HB - Grymes, Davis. CB - Mitchell White. Safety- T Brack. Kicker - Medlock

I`ll save most of my analysis and predictions for tomorrow... otherwise I may have to shut er down after 4 minutes when I run out of material and just let my 3 year old take over (the difference in coherency and grammatical correctness would likely be negligible). For today I will leave you with a couple thoughts/predictions per team.
  
BC - Will be looking for an offensive weapon to compliment Arceneaux. Guys like Nick Moore and Kenny Stafford come to mind. I also expect they will have interest in upgrades to their DL as well as O-line depth. I see them being more active then usual though Buono never does a ton in free agency.

Edmonton - Their main focus will likely be trying to retain as much of their championship team as they can. Guys like Grymes, Foster, Sherritt and Stafford. They will need to restock on defense with the loses of McCoil and Jefferson. I doubt they are very active outside of maybe one or 2 signings.

Calgary -  Cornish, Rogers, likely Fuller on Offense. Bishop, Raymond, Simpson on defense. Lots of holes to fill. Though in true Calgary form I expect they will do so more through recruiting than free agency. Their return game has been about the one recurring inconsistency in that team so they may target a guy like Chris Rainey to address that. Nick Moore has also been mentioned as a guy they have interest in.

Saskatchewan - I expect 1 or 2 big signings on day one like a Canadian DT and veteran DB . After that I expect things to quiet down until prices drop on day 2-3 and then few other additions most likely focusing on Canadians. I don`t see any pending Rider FAs being retained (i.e. Smith, Getzlaf, Ainsworth) if they don`t sign before free agency. Exception might be Levi Adcock.

Winnipeg - I expect them to be the most active early.  They will be going after Andrew Harris, Justin Medlock and help along the D-line. Probably would like add another receiver (though Denmark, Dressler, Adams is a decent starting point so I can`t see them spending a whole lot to get one).

Toronto: They are at risk of losing 3 of 4 starting D-Linemen as well as LB Greg Jones. That pretty much covers the only redeeming parts of their crap defense (though changing Creehan to Stubler will help immensely in that regard). So that will be the side of the ball they focus on. They will also push hard to keep Harris. I think only Montreal will be able to pry him away but not sure they are that interested. Running back might be another target. In consider them an outside possibility for Andrew Harris.

Hamilton: Everything for them hinges on Ted Laurent. If they lose out on him they suddenly have a ton of cash to spend... and they have lots of need. They are at risk of losing their entire interior DL, 3 of their 5 starting DBs and Erik Harris is already gone. While they likely won`t lose everyone, some will probably go. I doubt they want to spend big $ on Fantuz so they likely need to target a Cdn receiver. Shamawd Chambers tops their interest list. If they can`t retain Medlock then suddenly they have a need for a kicker too.

Montreal: I could see them entering the season with Cato backed-up by Glenn at QB (which is certainly better than how they entered last year) but I still think they should go hard after Trevor Harris. Outside of that they could probably use some secondary help (and Popp has a tendency for signing veteran DBs). I expect at the end of the day they will indeed retain Josh Bourke. The same can`t be said for Winston Venable. With Henoc Muaba, Chip Cox and Bear Woods already there I just can`t see Popp being the top bidder for Venable`s services.

Ottawa: Unlike last year`s ridiculous spending spree, the RedBlacks no longer have the luxury of a ton of cap space to burn. As such they will be pretty quiet. They need a new OT and have some holes to fill in the secondary. They also need to make a decision fairly quickly on a back-up QB. Burris will be done soon and Thomas DeMarco is headed for free agency. Odds are DeMarco stays (I mean, who else wants him?). But if they are giving up on DeMarco as the heir apparent (and I think they should) then they need to find something else (perhaps a dark horse in the Trevor Harris market). 

NFL Watch:
Freddie Bishop (Cal) – Signed with NY Jets

CFL Ins and Outs

Calgary
Out: DL Freddie Bishop (signed with NYJ)

BC
In:  QB Travis Lulay (contract extension), RB Sam Ojuri, RB Mikel Leshoure,OL Deveric Gallington, FB Justin Gleben, DB Chandler Fenner (free agent signing)

Hamilton
In: DB Courtney Stephen (contract extension)

Toronto
In: DB Jermaine Gabriel (contract extension)

Montreal

Out: WR Eric Deslauriers (retired)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Round-Up: Random Thoughts

Tuesday all the secret (or not so secret) tampering that's currently going on becomes legal. I will have a full free agency primer on Monday. For today I'll leave you with a smattering of random thoughts.

- In a move I've been expecting since mid last season, Shea Emry made his retirement official. You never like to see a career end like that, though you do have to respect a guy for knowing when to say enough is enough. Emry's Rider career didn't even last a full half. Like so many men out there in came in with so much promise and left us prematurely and unsatisfied. 

- Despite the dismal way it turned out, I still maintain the Foley/Emry trade made sense (and I am a self proclaimed Taman hater). It was a sound football move at the time. You can't predict injury. 

- While I don't expect the Riders to go on an all out shopping spree in free agency, I do expect them to be active. Look for a couple notable signings and maybe a handful of less heralded acquisitions.

- As I've been saying from some time now, I expect a Cdn DT to be something we target. I also be we try and land a vet DB and a couple guys to boost our Canadian depth. Also, I think we all be shocked if at least one former Eskimo doesn't join the migration east. 

- Andrew Harris will be on the move. BC has stated they will not be making him an offer (not that he seemed eager to stick around there anyway). He will be one of the hottest commodities on the market, though the roster realities of starting a Cdn RB will limit the teams who are serious. The guy has 45 touchdowns and close to 7000 yards over the past 5 seasons. With Cornish retiring, he is the best RB in the league in my opinion.

- Other big name free agents to watch include Ted Laurent, Josh Bourke, Kenny Stafford, Aaron Grymes, Trevor Harris, Emanuel Davis, Winston Venable and Justin Medlock... and that is only scratching the surface

- There is a group of formerly high paid players who will soon be facing the realities of massive pay cuts. That includes: Chad Owens, Travis Lulay, Andy Fantuz and of course Chris Getzlaf.

- I've been toying with the idea of doing a Live Free Agency Blog on Tuesday afternoon. They are always fun to do but I'll likely end up getting screwed in the timing. You see last year I ran a Live Blog right when free agency opened and literally nothing happened for the first couple hours. I almost had to resort to Live Blogging day time soaps. Given that everything happened in the afternoon last year, knowing my luck if I run a live blog in the afternoon this year, everything will go down before I even log on.


NFL Watch:
Erik Harris (Ham) - Signed with New Orleans 

CFL Ins and Outs

Saskatchewan
In: RB Malcolm Cyrus (free agent signing)
Out: Shea Emry (retired)

Calgary
In: LB Corbin Sharun, DL Ben D'Aguilar (contract extension)
Out: OL John Estes (released)

BC
In: WR Geraldo Boldewijn (re-signed)

Winnipeg
In: DB Macho Harris, DL Shayon Green (free agent signing)

Toronto
In: OL Wayne Smith (contract extension), RB Henry Josey, RB Michael Dyer (free agent signing)

Out: LB Brian Rolle (retired)

Ottawa
In: LB Matt Goldsmith, DL Cory Henry, DB Pierre Warren, WR Armon Binns (free agent signing)


Hamilton

Out: LB Erik Harris (signed with New Orleans)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Bagg, Bigs Guys and Free Agency

After taking the hearts of Rider fans everywhere and beating them with a meat tenderizer over the last couple weeks, Chris Jones seems to be slowly nursing folks back to health. First there was the announcement of the new deal with Durant. Last week is was the re-signing of Rob Bagg.

This move makes me very happy for a couple reasons. The first is, I think Bagg is a hell of a football player. He can contribute in many ways: he can play wide receiver, he can move in to the slot (I think he's an underrated slot receiver), he made a living last year running the sweep (from I play calling stand point, I wholeheartedly disagreed with the timing of most of those sweeps but he made them work). He's a versatile Canadian that you can confidently fill a starter spot with. The second reason is that seeing Rob Bagg succeed just warms your heart. Undrafted yet has bested most of the crappy receivers drafted ahead of him. Missed the '07 cup because he turned down a roster spot to return to school. Then came the knee injuries. I'll admit I damned near cried when he was taken off the field in tears in '13 with everyone thinking it was the end. Bagg works his butt off, overcomes an endless parade of obstacles and is a heart and soul guy that we will need now more than ever given that he'll be surrounded by essentially a new team.

Bagg may want to invest in some platform shoes or a stool or something as everyone else Jones signed last week was at least 6'2. Chris Jones cares not for the motion of the ocean; for him the size of the boat is what matters. In an unrelated matter, Chris Jones may be looking to replace yours truly with a prophet who wields a bigger staff.

CFL Free Agent Frenzy kicks off next Tuesday. Expect the Riders to be very active... I mean we didn't clear out essentially all our cap space just because we are thrifty. Shawn Lemon created a stir on twitter by implying that Ted Laurent (the mostly heavily coveted free agent in the CFL) wants to come here. At this point I think its about 50/50 as to whether Lemon was dabbling in tampering or just talking with no real knowledge of things. Fact is every team in the CFL wants Laurent so $$$ will be king (something we happen to have a lot of).

Here are a few other random thoughts on Free Agency (I'll have more in the days leading up to Feb 9):
- I firmly believe the Riders will sign a Cdn DT in free agency. It will be one of Ted Laurent, Cleyon Laing or Keith Shologan (listed in order of preference) 

- Former Chris Jones guys to keep an eye on as potential Riders include Otha Foster, Rennie Curran, Jermaine Gabriel and Aaron (I will call him Frank) Grymes.

- BE nice to shore up our O-line but its an extremely thin market there. We will not be targeting Josh Bourke so that leaves Jeff Keeping as the only real option hitting the market. There is a connection there with some of our coaching staff so I see this an unlikely but not out of the question.

- Some rumours have Jeff Fuller on our radar. He's both tall and a John Murphy find so file that under definitely possible.

- I would like to see us take a chance on Mike Edem. After bursting onto the scene in 2013 as a east all-star in his rookie year, Edem's career has fizzled out. I think Chris Jones could be the guy to revive this promising Canadian's career.

- The signing of Rob Bagg really makes me wonder about Getzlaf's future. We already have Demski and Bagg with Carroll, Haidara and Reaves for depth. I imagine we'd take him back but the contract offer won't be very high. Maybe Getz is just holding out hoping Brendan Taman gets another job so he can milk him for another ludicrous deal.


CFL Ins and Outs

Saskatchewan
In: WR Rob Bagg (contract extension), QB BJ Coleman, OL Quinterrius Eatmon, WR Shay Hodge, WR Jordan Reaves, DB Marte Sears, DB Robert Sands (free agent signing)

BC
Out: OL Dean Valli (retired)

Edmonton
In: FB Mike Miller, DL Matthieu Boulay (contract extension)

Winnipeg
In: WR Weston Dressler (free agent signing), DL Louie Richardson (contract extension)

Montreal
In: RB Stefan Logan (contract extension)

Out: QB Dan LeFevour (released)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Durant Renegotiates


Speculation of Darian Durant possibly being released in favour of a young cheaper QB (namely Trevor Harris) was emphatically put to rest last week. Management expressed publicly that Durant is the #1 QB and they managed to come to an agreement on a re-negotiated contract. On a personal level I’m very happy for this. Durant is one of the few players I’m unconditionally all in on in terms of my support for. On a more general level I’m also happy because there are many people in Rider Nation that I don’t think could have emotionally taken the loss of yet another beloved player… it’s bad enough we may have to stomach Dressler playing for Winnipeg (**spits on the floor**).

The new deal is reportedly around the $450K mark which would be roughly a $65K pay cut from his original deal. He will get $250K up front which is a strong indication by the team of their commitment to him. It’s only a one year deal but for reasons I’ll get into shortly, I’m not overly concerned about that.

I think this deal makes sense for both sides. From the team perspective they get to retain their franchise QB while still freeing up $$ to build a winning team around him. For Durant, as much as pay cuts suck, he was admittedly in a brutal negotiating position. He hasn’t played a complete game in a year and a half and is coming off a major injury. But the deal still keeps him in the upper echelon of QB’s pay wise. Also knowing the competitor that Durant is, he would be much happier with an O-line that can actually block somebody or a defense that is not an utter embarrassment than $65K. He can probably make that up endorsing Co-op products. They have a vacancy in the potato chip area.

In terms of the 1 year deal, this is a smart move by Durant. Had he signed a longer deal he would have been doing so at a time of weak bargaining power. He likely would have been accepting less $/more incentives than a normal starting QB. This deal allows him to prove himself this season and improve his bargaining position for next season. Essentially he is betting on himself. I will say this: a motivated Durant with a chip on his shoulder is the most dangerous Durant. Provided all his ligaments hold up I see a big year in store for Durant. Don’t ever let it be said that Durant doesn’t put the team and winning above all else.

Many are still speculating that we will try and land Trevor Harris is free agency. I have no doubt that we will try… I just don’t see us succeeding. I maintain that if Jim Popp has any football sense left in him he will be outbidding everyone for Harris’ services come Feb 9 (Though that theory may be shot to hell as Popp seems to prefer spending all his money on receivers). The Als should be Harris’ preferred landing spot also. Every other team has an entrenched starter… Montreal has an ugly mishmash of Crompton, Cato, Glenn, Bridge and Boyd. They haven’t had a respectable pass game since 2012. Besides, if Harris’ options are limited to being a back-up somewhere I would expect him to stay in Toronto (and possibly plot a Tonya Harding-style attack on Ricky Ray’s shoulder).

Other random thoughts:
- Kory Sheets created a minor buzz when he posted a photo on Instagram that had Chris Jones in the background. Here’s the deal: Sheets is not yet at 100% but is getting closer. I’m pretty he showed up to a Rider open tryout just to let Chris Jones known he’d be interested in a return when healthy. Jones will take note of his interest and keep it in mind for down the road… perhaps like how Jones brought in Chad Simpson last season when injuries struck. File this under “possibility” not “probability”

- The Riders extended the contracts of a couple Canadians: Dan West and Spencer Moore. While neither can really be labelled “impact” players, these are important signings in terms of building up our non-existent Canadian depth. Of the 18 players signed since Jones took the helm half have been Canadians. It seems the new GM believes in actually having competition for Canadian roster spots. A stark contrast to the previous Gm’s “make the team by default because you’re Canadian” approach.

- Included in the influx of national players is punter Josh Bartel. While I’m sure this move is just intended to give us options in terms of ratio, I think the only person actually excited about Bartel’s return is Rod Black. In 2014 Bartel was statistically one of the worst punters in league.

Coaching Carousel
- Mike Gibson has bailed on the U of R after only one dreadful season… in the process I think he overtook Chris Jones as the least popular football coach in the province.
- Kent Austin signs a 4 year extension in Hamilton (through 2019)
- Ottawa hires Beau Walker as an offensive assistant
- BC hires Marcello Simmons as ST coordinator

NFL Watch:
Eric Rogers (Cal) – After working out for half the league, it seems Rogers will be signing in San Francisco. Good move for him because their WR depth is… well its non-existent.
Terrell Sinkfield (Ham) – Signed with Minnesota (as a Vikings fan I’d like to know if he can hold for FGs while keeping the laces out or kick short FGs… either skillset would be useful).
Cleyon Laing (Tor) – Workouts with Miami and Tennessee
Mitchell White (Mtl) – Workout with Dallas

CFL Ins and Outs

Saskatchewan
In: DB Dan West, FB Spencer Moore (contract extension) DB Curtis Brown, DL Ryan Jones, OL Joseph Treadwell, RB Devrin Young, P Josh Bartel (free agent signing)

Calgary
Out: WR Eric Rogers (signed with San Francisco)

Winnipeg
In: QB Quentin Williams, WR Quincy McDuffie

Hamilton
In: DL John Chick (free agent signing)
Out: WR Terrell Sinkfield (signed with Minnesota)

Ottawa
In: K Chris Milo (contract extension), LB John Kanongata’a (re-signed)

Toronto
In: RB Dillon Campbell (2015 draft pick signing), RB Edwin Baker (free agent signing)

Montreal
In: DL John Bowman, WR Nik Lewis (contract extension), WR Duron Carter, OL Dominic Picard (free agent signing)

Out: QB Tanner Marsh (released)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: What To Make Of Chris Jones

Last week Chris Jones became the most polarizing man in Saskatchewan. By this point you either hate his guts (I don't envision many elementary school appearances in his future due to the mixture of tears and spit balls that would ensue)... or you have faith that he is making the hard decisions necessary to build a winning football program (possibly still mixed with mild resentment over ditching Dressler... I mean now who will appear on our chips?). There isn't really a neutral middle ground anymore. I mean if cutting Saskatchewan's most beloved adopted midget son doesn't make you hate the guy, nothing will.

I get that our new GM's approach may rub some people the wrong way. But it's not like Jones can be expected to improve our lowly team be just continuing with the misguided idiocies of his predecessor. So hate Jones all you want but he didn't deplete our Canadian talent. He didn't let our team get old and expensive. He wasn't stupid enough to think Chris Getzlaf should be the highest paid receiver in the league. He's just the man tasked with cleaning up the mess he inherited. It's a yucky job but someone has to do it. I personally think we should at least wait to see A) what his final roster looks like and B) if we actually start winning before polishing up our pitchforks and looking to do some serious ass forking. There will be plenty of time to run him out of town when he fails to go 18 and 0.

People are noticing a discrepancy between Jones' "we did everything we could" version of events and Dressler's there wasn't really any negotiation version. My guess is what happened was the "negotiations" consisted of Chris Jones saying the this is the most I'm willing to pay you and repeating that any time the agent tried to suggest something higher. A bit cold? yeah but that's what we pay Jones to do... make the tough business decisions.

A rumour has now started that we may be dumping Durant and going after Trevor Harris in free agency. At this point I don't anything can be dismissed. Would Jones do that? Probably. Will he? Maybe. I bet Durant is being asked for a pay cut (or at least replacing base pay with more incentive based stuff). I also bet that Jones would like to have depth behind a guy who hasn't finished a game in a year and half. But there's also risk there. There are no guarantees in landing Harris (as I personally think Montreal should back up a truck of money to his door) and when healthy Durant is better than Harris (just look at how Toronto locked up Ricky Ray first and Harris is priority #2). With Jones I wouldn't rule anything out (Jones would cut the drum line if he felt it would help us win) but I also don't think its inevitable.

Fasten you seat belts because if you think this roller coaster offseason doesn't have a few more twists and turns, you are sadly mistaken.