Thursday, April 24, 2014

Riders Exceed The Cap

In what is likely the least surprising news of the offseason, it was announced yesterday that the Riders exceeded the salary cap in 2013. To be accurate its not really a cap, there's just a maximum after which you must pay a luxury tax... but cap is just easier to say and type. We went over by $17,975 and will be fined an equivalent amount. It amounts roughly to 1 hour worth of booze sales at Riderville during the Cup so I'm sure we can dry our tears with stacks upon stacks of cash and of course Grey Cup rings. Seriously, $18k over is nothing (doesn't even amount to one player at league minimum) so its not like you can say we bought the Cup. If $18k was the selling price for a Cup any team that didn't spend that is dumb. Our bill for legal fees for 2013 was likely more than this fine.

And to heck with all this talk about the Riders not being true to the "spirit" of the Salary Management System (SMS). There are rules and those rules say that if you spend over $4.4M you get fined. We didn't circumvent those rules, we didn't hide any salary. We exceeded $4.4M and will pay a fine. Just like an O-lineman who gets called for holding. Its only cheating if he gets away with it. Besides, I would way rather my GM do everything in his power to win us a Cup (even if it involves a stupidly small fine) rather than spend under $4.4 and not win a Cup just to look good.

Back when the SMS was introduced I doubt anyone would have predicted the Riders would be the most penalized team under the system. Hell we were one of the biggest supporting voices. But this now marks the 4th time we have been penalized (compared to twice for all other teams combined). $76,552 in 2007, $87,147 in 2008 and $26,677 in 2010. But here's the thing to note: of the 4 times we've been penalized we have appeared in the Grey Cup 3 times and won 2 of them. If SMS fines are what it takes to get us Grey Cups, I'm all for it. I honestly am surprised more teams don't go over the cap. As long as you stay under 100K and don't lose picks, then the cost is pretty small.

Admittedly the small penalties don't give SMS much teeth and maybe the League should look at beefing up the fines if they really want to make it more than a salary guidelines. But overall I think the system is working at leveling the playing field compared to what it used to be back in the day. And as long as it results in a winning team I have no problem with the Riders (or any team for that matter) going over the cap and getting fined.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

CFL Draft 2014 Team Preview: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 2nd Overall

2013 Draft Assessment: Predictably awful. The Bomber franchise spent years lamenting how Taman traded away anything resembling a top draft pick and then when Joe Mack started keeping the picks and using them they lamented the bad choices he made. They used last year’s second overall pick on DL Andy Mulumba, which talent–wise was a fine pick but everyone knew he was NFL bound and after seeing significant playing time in Green Bay I doubt he will be seen back in Canada anytime soon. Toss in major injuries to other 2013 picks like Kris Robertson and Mike DiCroce and the fact that Stephen Alli doesn’t sound like football is even in his future and that leaves Carl Fitzgerald as the only thing Winnipeg has to show for 2013. All of the sudden Taman’s “trade it away policy” while in Winnipeg doesn’t look so bad by comparison. Also consider that the only good thing they have done draft-wise in the Joe Mack era (Henoc Muamba) left for the NFL.

Potential Pipeline: DL Christo Bilukidi (Cincinnati), DL Andy Mulumba (Green Bay), WR Stephen Alli (college/med school)

Current Strengths: Cory Watson… seriously I’m struggling to find something else positive to say. It's sad when the new expansion team has better Canadian content. The addition of Donovan Alexander and Graig Newman likely strengthen the safety position that Cauchy Muamba currently occupies in a less than mediocre manner. (Side note: but I find it ironic that Newman bolted from the Riders to get more playing time and may end up being the 3rd string safety in Winnipeg).

Current Needs: They have just 27 Canadians under contract which doesn’t give them a lot of room for error in finding the 20 that will make the roster. Simply put, you name it, they need it. It’s just a matter of which are the top priorities. They would be wise to put OL at the top of that list. Their big attempt to shore up that less than stellar group was the acquisition on Pat Neufeld and quite frankly if they are crazy enough to start him at tackle then great news for opposing defences and bad news for Willy. Either way they need to improve along the OL and have a good chances to do so at #2.

Priority 2 should be linebacker. The departure of Muamba leaves 1 Cdn LB on their roster. Even if you count Newman as an LB, 2 simply is not enough for a team. They will also likely be looking for a WR. There was talk at one point of them thinking 3 Cdn WRs was a possibility but then they ditched Poblah and Etienne (neither are starting material but at least provide depth). Even if the plan is to start Watson and Kolhert (as I expect) they will need more depth there.

Last but not least they may want to think about looking for a placekicker given that they only have 1 on the roster and he has never attempted a kick at the pro level. Unless O’Shea just plans on calling fakes in every kicking situation.

The second overall pick will be used on an O-lineman.  Under normal circumstances Winnipeg would go with David Foucault who is the more highly rated prospect, but this is a franchise that, based on previous drafting futility and the lack of a second round pick, can’t risk the NFL interest Foucault has drawn. They will likely look for a far safer option in Matthias Goosen. The remaining picks will likely be a mix of LBs, WRs and maybe a kicker. Above all new GM Kyle Walters will be looking to make solid picks to distance himself from the mockery that Joe Mack brought to the draft.

Monday, April 21, 2014

CFL Draft 2014 Team Preview: Ottawa Redblacks

Picks: 7 picks, first selection is #1

2013 Draft Assessment: They likely drafted as good as they could in 2013 given that they could only draft red shirt juniors and other teams put an early run on those players. The issue is that to date not one of their 4 selections has signed with the team. We could see a couple sign after the NFL draft but until that happens the only benefit of the 2013 was the new franchise not making an embarrassingly bad pick

Potential Pipeline: DL Connor Williams (college), OL Nolan MacMillan (college), DL Kalonji Kashama (college), TE Tyler Digby (college/lacrosse)

Current Strengths: For an expansion team, they actually did a decent job of building their Cdn base. The Shologan/Evans combo they took from us solidifies 1 DT spot. Eric Fraser and Delroy Clarke likely allow them to have a starting Cdn safety (not a particularly good one but expansions teams gotta take what they can get). I like Eppele, Deane and Krausnick-Groh along the OL as well as the 2 FBs they have in Lavoie and Delahunt (for what that’s worth).

Current Needs: Looking at Ottawa’s roster they have a lot of Canadians, but not many that I would consider to be starting quality and that’s an issue because League rules say they need at least 7 of those. As mentioned above Shologan and Fraser will constitute 2 of them. That leaves a need for 5 on offense. That could either be 4 OL (with Deane at Tackle) and 1 WR or 3 OL (2 import tackles) and 2 WR/FB. Either one poses problems as their OL depth is awful. The departure of Hage leaves them with really on 3 starting quality guys and I would not consider one of their WRs as starting quality. So their 1st and 2nd round picks will more than likely be looking to address those spots with OL being the most important.

Prediction: Guaranteed the Redblacks will use the first overall pick on an OL. The key for them will be picking one that will actually be in training camp. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is the best player available but is NFL bound and not going to be seen by whatever CFL team drafts him anytime soon if ever. Another top OL prospect, David Foucault, has also caught the eye of the NFL. He is a less risky pick than Duvernay-Tardif but Ottawa can’t afford much risk. That leaves Pierre Lavertu as both a safe option and a talented one. He has the added bonus of being a centre which is more important now that Hage bailed. They likely target WR Kris Bastien in round 2.

In the remaining rounds they will look to build depth at LB/special teamers and probably a kicker in the late rounds to at least have some competition for Palardy