Let’s start off with what’s going down in Riderville…
In one of the least surprising moves of the offseason, the Riders re-signed Leron Mitchell to a 2 year plus an option deal. I say it’s not surprising because on Monday Ken Miller hinted in an interview that Mitchell was a leading contender to start at corner this season which is generally difficult to do when you are not on the roster. I will reserve my judgment on the Canadian corner experiment until training camp. While I do have some concerns, I am also slightly optimistic. I mean hell, as long as Mitchell gives less than a 10 yard cushion in coverage and doesn’t bite on anything even remotely resembling a pump fake, he’ll already be miles ahead of our starters coming out of camp last year.
Kavis Reed was introduced as our new Special Teams and Running Backs Coach, leaving Alex Smith to concentrate on LBs. This is like the best of both worlds. We get to continue to have Alex Smith do great work with our linebackers, without having to be subjected to him doing the opposite with our kick catching game (I would call it a return game but that would imply some forward progression). Reed is young but already has a lot of coaching experience, so hopefully he can breathe some new life into our special teams. As for the addition of Running Backs into his portfolio, I’m pretty sure that was just a case of “well someone’s gotta do it”.
Many people are wondering why we opted for Reed when Special Teams guru Marcello Simmons was still available. Well, the reason is I think the Riders see this role as a stepping stone for Reed. They are likely grooming him to be our Defensive Coordinator down the road. Given the age of some of our coaches, having a succession plan in place is almost mandatory. Simmons is more of a specialist in terms of coaching and doesn’t yet have the experience to fit into our succession plan. Though I find it hard to believe no one is interested in Simmons.
Around the CFL…
The League has invited fans to make rule change suggestions which will be discussed at the upcoming CFL Congress meetings. While I did submit many recommendations, we’ll have to wait and see if my top 2 get any real consideration. #1 being mandating mascot soccer as the halftime show at every game and #2 being having officials ride atop trained ostriches during the game rather than walking. What rules changes would you like to see?
There have been talks between Commissioner Cohon and the city of Moncton about starting a yearly CFL game in the maritime city (informally dubbed the Atlantic Bowl) as part of a weekend-long event including a CIS game. I think a maritime presence can only be good for the league. That said, the plan is to showcase two eastern rivals, meaning there's a good chance that potential east coast fans will get to witness a showdown between the Ti-Cats and the Argos. That makes this move pretty much a saw-off in terms of positive exposure.
Okay once and for all I need to address a recurring concern people have been expressing: Why did we not do anything on the free agent market?
Look, we made (failed) attempts to sign Mo and Anton but other than that what did we really need? Nothing. We have pretty much every position covered with what’s already on our roster. And other than Mo and Anton who else what there really to go after? The only thing we are lacking going into camp is an established MLB (which isn't available on the market) so I assume people are just mad that we didn’t pursue Jon Oosterhuis.
CFL Ins and Outs
In: DL Matt Kirk (free agent), DB Chris Thompson (contract extension)
Out: Casey Printers (cut)
Well you could see this coming a mile away. There was no way the Ti-cats were going to pay Casey half a million to hold a clip board. The interesting thing is that no one in the league is interested in the former MOP, not even Montreal who almost signed him 2 years ago. It’s gotta say something when Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton have no back-up QB and Winnipeg, Hamilton and the Riders don’t have an established starter and still no one is interested.
I’m personally glad the Riders are not going after him. I mean I’m willing to bet he wouldn’t look as terrible as last season if he had a decent supporting cast (I still think he’s overrated but that’s beside the point). My concern (and evidently the concern of all CFL GMs) is Printers’ ego and the effect it will have on the locker-room. We are just recovering from the effect Michael Bishop had on the team. How much do you think it would set things off if we spent all off-season promising our current QBs that they would get a fair shot at starting only to bring in another outsider? Been there, done that, swore profusely, moved on.
In: Jesse Lumsden (free agent), DB Jason Nugent (trade with Winnipeg)
Out: Brock Ralph (traded to Winnipeg)
I told you Lumsden was headed to Edmonton. He’s a fragile grease ball (seriously, cut your hair or at least shower!) so the chance to take on the least strenuous rushing load in the CFL was the perfect fit for him. You’d think this move would upset Calvin McCarty who’ll be relegated to back-up, but in all fairness McCarty won’t see Lumsden as a threat to steal his job… it just means he gets to take 2-3 games off this season.
In: Luke Fritz, Shawn Gallant, Don Oramasionwu (free agent), Riall Johnson (trade with Toronto), Brock Ralph (trade with Edmonton), Ike Charlton (re-signed)
Out: Zeke Moreno (traded to Toronto along with a conditional draft pick), Jason Nugent (traded to Edmonton), Greg Bearman (cut)
Nobody has been busier this off-season than Mike Kelly and so far he made some pretty good moves. Here’s what I don’t understand though… last year Hamilton traded Brock Ralph to Edmonton primarily because Ralph’s son needed specialized medical treatment only available in Edmonton. So did Ralph’s son magically get better or is Richie not as nice of a guy as he is made out to be?
In: Dante Marsh, Jerome Dennis (contract extension)
Apparently Dennis is part of a rap group called 10,000 Lakes… meaning he joins such esteemed company as Nealon “Nee Deep” Greene and Robert “Shake Severs” Baker as CFLers who also dabbled in rap (and were equally unsuccessful at both).
In: OL Phil Bogle (free agent signing)
Bogle went from blocking for Ladainian Tomlinson in 2003 to playing in the AFL last season. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that he’s on the downside of his career.
In: DT Kenny King, DT Tom Johnson, DT Montey Stevenson (free agent signing)
I’d take the time to write something insightful about this trio but they’ll be gone by training camp anyway so I won’t bother.
In: Zeke Moreno (trade with Winnipeg), Kerry Joseph (contract extension)
Out: Riall Johnson (traded to Winnipeg)
How ironic would it have been if the Argos had simultaneously announced Joseph’s extension and the signing of Casey Printers? (Actually I was somewhat surprised that didn’t happen).