Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Morning Sentimonies: This and That

This is generally the most excruciating part of the CFL offseason. The initial surge of free agency has passed and the next real notable event is the draft in 2 months. We don’t even have a schedule to discuss… though I’m convinced the delay is because the League is still waiting to hear back from Ivor Wynne and Canad Inns stadiums on availability.

Actually for those of you complaining about the delay in finalizing the schedule, consider just how ridiculous of a job it must be. It may only be an 8 team league but Hamilton is playing their “home games” in a different town that apparently cannot accommodate televised night games, Winnipeg games must be scheduled around potentially windy days or the new stadium might collapse and Toronto games must be scheduled around Blue Jay games, concerts, conferences, bar mitzvahs, coffee breaks for Rogers Centre employees and pretty much every other conceivable occurrence that would trump the Argos time in the stadium. Good luck with that.

The only real bit of Rider news was the signing of WR Lyle Leong and DB Carlo Thomas. Thomas actually broke into the league on our practice roster and dressed for a solitary game in 2009. Both guys are in tough to make it beyond training camp. Our receivers are pretty much set and there is a ton of competition at DB with the like of Brown, Anderson, Russ, Collins, Jackson, Harris, Turenne and Maze already in the mix. For me it will once again be weird to see a C Thomas out on the field and not see him whiffing on his pass blocking assignments.

The Commissioner and other team big wigs will be in town for the League Congress. Cohon has extended a public invitation for people to join him at the Press Box for a drink on Wednesday night. Cohon is just enjoying the perks of being pretty much the only sports commissioner that people don’t hate. While I’m sure a similar event involving the like of Goodell, Bettman or Selig would be well attended, I’m fairly certain that a beer is not what people would want to share with them… profanity and fists would likely be higher on the list. I think our collective goal should be to get the commish smashed and convince him to go streaking and wake up the next day with an unexplained Rider logo tramp stamp tattoo.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Free Agency Thoughts

The action has been fast and furious since Free Agency opened Friday at noon… well more accurately steady and slightly above timid but that’s fast and furious by CFL FA standards.

The Riders were actually more active than I expected they locked up Brackenridge and Sisco and dipped into the FA pool to nab Tristan Black, Weldon Brown and ugg… Dwight Anderson. We extended Joe Lobendahn. We lost Shomari (Ham), Willis (Edm) and Krausnick-Groh (Edm).

For me the Brackenridge signing is the biggest and best news of the lot. I don’t know why we diddled around so much on this one. He’s a tremendous player and he plays a very hard position it should have been a no brainer. It would have been a massive mistake to lose him. Fortunately we got a deal done in time and that’s the most important thing.

I really like the Brown and Black signings (as much as that makes me sound like a racist… at least I don’t hate the signings I guess). Black is a solid special teamer and has shown flashes of being able to be a contributor on defense. Always important to build Canadian depth (which makes this move surprising since Taman rarely places great importance on that). Brown is a decent player and should help improve our secondary. My only concern with him is word out of Edmonton was the reason they let him walk was because he was looking for a big payday. I like him as a player but don’t see him as a “big pay day” guy just yet.

You can probably guess how I feel about Sisco. Actually I find it really funny how Sisco thought it was a good idea to test free agency. Only to find out that no one was interested in a guy who has accomplished less than Marc Parenteau as a receiver. Shocking I know. People keep talking about his potential but guy is entering his fourth season and between injuries and questionable work ethic has yet to show he can contribute… even when by virtue of having 2 working legs he has been our best Cdn receiving option.

The guys we lost are no big concern. Shomari wanted the opportunity and short of converting him to receiver, we tried everything under the sun to make that happen. As a depth guy I like him but what can you do? Willis is a bit of a loss but how do you justify getting in a bidding war over a penalty plagued DE coming off his worst statistical season ever? I would have liked him back but evidently Edmonton was willing to pay $$$ to get him and I don’t think he was worth breaking the bank on. It certainly deepens our ongoing weakness at DE but I’m sure after 4 years of looking Taman is due to find one right? Right??? AKG is another depth guy I liked but after losing his long snapping job to Alford you could see the writing on the wall. Our starting OL unit may be set but we still need to build depth… will have to rely on the draft for that.

I’m assuming the Lobendahn extension resulted in a more cap friendly deal otherwise I’m confused as to why we’d bother. BC does this lots, gives players more up front which are taxed better and less in the season. Somehow works out to more cash in the players pocket and a lower overall salary for cap purposes. As I said, that better be the case otherwise extending a guy we signed off the unemployment line who still has a year left is an odd move.

This of course brings to the Dwight Anderson signing. Lord help me, Chamblin sure makes it hard on Rider fans. First DeAngelis, now Anderson. What next, coax Jason Jimenez back into the game? A lot of the talk has been about Anderson’s character and admittedly he has a douchebag-ish reputation but many players are stepping up to defend him as a good guy in the lockeroom and quite frankly I’m going to assume that Chamblin did his homework and figures Anderson will fit in… even with Dressler who back in 2011 he felt would benefit from the eye patch in terms of looks. My bigger concern is that watching Anderson play in Montreal, I don’t see the same talent I saw in Calgary. At 32 I think his best years may be behind him. Maybe I’m wrong but unless we are getting a damn good DB, I wouldn’t even bother with a guy like Anderson on my team. I fear we may be getting an older Odell Willis, tons of energy, tons of aggressiveness, tons of penalties, tons of not so awe inspiring performances. Maybe Chamblin can mould him back to the Calgary version of Anderson but I will not be convinced until I see some proof on the field.

I just hope all these new DBs result in a stable starting 5 this year. Last year it was a new combo every week and that clearly affected performance. Stability, even if it involves an eye gouging douche bag, is needed.

Overall I thought the team did a good job of in free agency, not a lot of moves but we did address needs in the secondary and got a bit of Cdn depth. Still have work to do at DE and depth along the OL but recruiting and drafting will have to take care of that.

On last though on free agency, can we all just hold off on declaring Hamilton the winner of free agency? It happens every freakin’ year and every year they fail to become the dominant force in the East people just assume they will be. Things should be a bit different with Austin at the helm but let’s reserve our ridiculous declarations until we actually see them take a snap.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Free Agent Round-Up

I’ll have my actual sentimonies on all the goings on across the CFL on Monday but for now here is a list of everything that’s happened over the last few days in case you haven’t been religiously following all the moves

Re-signed: LB Tyron Brackenridge, WR Jordan Sisco
Signed: DB Weldon Brown, DB Dwight Anderson, LB Tristan Black

Re-signed: DB Chris Thomspon, Fred Stamps
Signed: DL Odell Willis, OL Alex Krausnick-Groh, DB Marcell Young


Re-signed: OL Jovan Olafioye, LB Solomon Elimimian
Signed: DL Julius Williams
Restructured contracts: K Paul McCallum, DB Korey Banks

Re-signed: DL Bryant Turner
Signed: OL Matt Dewitt

Re-signed: RB Chad Kackert
Signed: LB James Yurichuk

Re-signed: LB Chip Cox, WR SJ Green, WR Eric Deslauriers, DL Moton Hopkins, DB Gerald Brown, DB Seth Williams, RB Dahrran Diedrick
Signed: LB Steve Octavien, DB Geoff Tisdale

Re-signed: DB Bo Smith, OL Brian Simmons
Signed: DL Brian Bulcke, LB Shomari Williams, DB Deon Beasley, DB Evan McCullough

Monday, February 11, 2013

CFL Free Agency Frenzy

It’s a day that is about as anticipated and dramatic as grocery shopping. CFL free agency opens Friday. I’m actually curious if the NHL lockout had stretched on any longer if TSN would have considered an all day special to fill air time. Can you imagine?

“We are 5 hours into this and the Cory Huklack watch is still… well non-existent but we paid a hobo in timbits to stake out his condo is case anything happens. So far he has just been yelling incoherently at pigeons but we will keep you posted.”

I am predicting the Rider to do a whole lot of nothing in terms of big moves… mainly because we don’t have the cap space to make big bids on the marquee players. Between our big moves on the OL last year and the huge $$$ we have tied up in receivers there just isn’t a lot left over for a big FA splash.

Anywho in anticipation of all the action let’s take a look a potential Rider free agents and the most notable other ones from across the league.

Tyron Brackenridge – This one concerns me a lot. General vibe I have picked up is that the Riders offered him a lowball offer and are not really interested in upping the offer. That’s a mistake. This guy has been solid since the day he walked in the door during that dreadful 2011 season. He plays a very difficult position and there isn’t any logical replacements just sitting around. We will regret letting this guy get away.
Odell Willis – He is still chasing non-existent NFL aspirations and when he eventually clues into that fact he will be open to the highest bidder. That said I don’t think there will be many bidders for a high maintenance player coming off his worst season statistically. Decent odds he’s back. I don’t mind having him in the mix but he is far from indispensable

Shomari Williams what do you do with this guy? Short of converting him to safety we’ve tried pretty much everything. I don’t mind him as a rotation/depth guy but if his contracts demands are high I’d have no problem walking away.

Jordan Sisco Continuing the trend of disappointing draft picks… it will not surprise you to know that I could care less if Sisco ever signs back here. We idiotically blew a high draft pick on him and every time our depth get’s so injury depleted that he’s our best option by default he goes and gets injured. I don’t know what drugs he’s smoking but he seems to think it’s in his best interest to test his value on the open market… well Jordan, prepare to be underwhelmed. Walmart may have the most lucrative offer

Cory Huclack He long snaps on punts… it’s an important skill but one I think is replaceable.

Chris McKenzie You hate to lose a veteran HB as this is a tough, tough position to play. I like McKenzie but something tells me if he was in our plans he’d have a deal inked. Hamilton needs big help in the secondary maybe he re-unites with James Patrick.

Alex Krausnick-Groh I always kinda liked Groh. He’s a good depth OL guy who can play centre and long snap. The fact that he lost his snapping duties to Alford last season though is telling to me. My guess is he goes back home to Calgary where he went to university.

Other notable FAs (note there are not many because it’s a pretty weak year for FAs)

Chad Kackert – Toronto finally found an RB who is smart enough to block for Ray, talented enough to catch and can run on top of it. Kackert will re-sign this is all just gamesmanship to up his price.

Jeff Perrett – Hard to believe Montreal is letting this guy get to the open market. He’s a great starting Canadian tackle… gentlemen start your bidding.

Brandon Whitaker – In most other years this would be huge news but he’s coming off injury and few teams are actually in the market for an RB. Montreal and Toronto seem like his only options and in either case he’ll be competing for a starting spot… which seems crazy given how great he was just a season or so ago.

Ricky Foley – He’s Canadian and a starter, there will be interest. If it’s anything like last time he went to free agency he will verbally commit to one team and talk about how much he loves the fans/city and then fly to a different city and sign there

Bryant Turner – In a lean free agent year he’s one of the better option on DL. Winnipeg would be wise to keep him… but that of course means Joe Mack will deem him dispensable and just assume he can recruit someone else.

Evan McCullough – If we are letting McKenzie walk this is a guy I would want to take a look at. He’s a pretty solid HB. Doubt we do but I like him.

Solomon Elimimian – If we had money I’d love to bring him in as our MLB… but we don’t so he will either sign with the Cleveland Browns or BC Lions… as enticing as the NFL might be it would be hard to willingly sign in Cleveland.

That’s it for now… follow me on Twitter @RiderProphet for up to the minute coverage of the 3.5 signings that will actually occur on Friday.