We all knew that the Riders went all in in 2013 and regardless of the outcome odds were that in some way the team would need to be blown up afterwards. Fortunately our all in bet paid off big time. Unfortunately, the time has come for the “blow up” part. Also unfortunately, I don’t think any of us expected the scale of the blow up. Shologan left but we had to lose someone good to Ottawa. Dressler left but he’s too good of a guy to begrudge an NFL shot. Butler left but his market value was insanely high for a team as close to the cap as us. Sheets left but… OK this is getting ridiculous!!! Tack on the loss of Zach Evans, Drew Willy, Abraham Kromah and Graig Newman and the addition of David Lee and Jade Etienne hardly seems to ease the pain or lessen the urge to medicate with rye.
Now before you get all doom and gloom on me don’t forget that we were able to extend Taj Smith, Terrell Maze and Chris Milo who also could have left for greener pastures (or less green I suppose). We also re-upped key pieces in Getzlaf, Bagg, Picard and Labatte. But still the loses can’t be downplayed or softened. We are down our best receiver, an elite RB and 2 starting Canadians and 2 other roster-worthy Canadians. I guess we can take some solace in the fact that we get play Winnipeg 3 times and the fact that some poor team has mistakenly decided to employ Jim Daley again. (Sorry it’s the best I got in terms of news).
While you won’t be able to replace Sheets’ production, if a GM in the CFL can’t find a half decent RB then they are in the wrong profession. A healthy Hurl covers for Newman. Lee replaces Evans. So we are slowly getting there. But this year more than ever our scouting will need to work overtime. I also expect a trade in our future for some NI bodies. It’s a weak draft year and outside of OL (where we can’t roster more than the 6 we already do) and maybe a WR we don’t have much in terms of young up and coming NIs.
Here are my general impressions of how other teams have faired so far:
BC: So far the losers of Free Agency. Have lost Bell, Mydelton and Moore and maybe Kerron Williams yet and also missed out on pretty much every FA target they so bolded tweeted they were targeting.
Calgary: As usual not very active. Lost Randle and Jackson but got Josh Bell so the net effects are minimal.
Edmonton: Managed to not get fined for tampering which is progress. Made the best of a weak group of FA O-linemen and nabbed Sorenson and Andrew Jones (though they lost Scott Mitchell). To the surprise of no one they landed Pat Watkins which is a nice addition. Overall they are incrementally better.
Winnipeg: Landed Nick Moore to help new QB Drew Willy have options outside of Terrence Edwards. Have added Chris Randle and Korey Banks to their secondary while jettisoning Jovon “my play has dropped so much it makes my Humpty’s commercial look good” Johnson. They lost Henoc Muamba to the NFL and he was about the only good thing about last year and their OL should concern Willy but in terms of a team needing to rebuild I think they are headed in the right direction.
Toronto: Made a surprise splash by nabbing Shea Emry who is younger and more Canadian than McCune, balances the loss of Watkins. Otherwise they have been quiet.
Montreal: Managed to keep most of their big FAs (Bourke, Whyte, Hebert). Lost Emry but have Brouillette to step in so much like Toronto they were in maintenance mode.
Hamilton: Stole the Taman “sign everyone” plan from last year and nabbed Craig Butler (for a reported $150K per season), Cary Koch, Brandon Stewart, Abe Kromah, Steve Mydelton in addition to Collaros. Hard to argue they aren’t the most improved team on paper. I’ll pass on awarding them the Cup though until I see them actually play.
Ottawa: Not as big of players in FA as I thought they’d be. They did add needed veterans like Malik Jackson, Kevin Scott and Jovon Johnson but I expected at least one major signing from them and it never came. Only thing coming out of Ottawa were tweets from a disgruntled Kevin Glenn naming the team (Sk, BC, Win) Ottawa was trying to trade him to. He says he was hacked… what are the odds that he was hacked by the only spam-bot with an intricate knowledge of REDBLACK football ops?