(EDIT: The Shomari Williams tradw that just went down will render some of this irrelevant. Damn Riders)
Well we’ve gone 3 whole days without having another Rider leave in free agency. Short of getting deeply emotionally invested in a bunch of pseudo sports that no one cares about for all but 2 weeks every 4 years to distract us (I can’t believe we aren’t better at the Super Gs, maybe regular Gs are more our event), I guess we have to take what good news we can get.
The end result is that we need to replace 7 spots on the roster (pending what happens with Sanders and Schmitt): 4 starters and 3 back-ups. So let’s take a look a how the Riders might manage that.
Kory Sheets (starter) – Not likely gonna find another back of his calibre but we should be able to find a 1000 yard rusher. One option would be someone with CFL experience like Will Ford (though his price tag is apparently high) or Chad Simpson (who just had his second foot surgery). For likely scenario will be an open competition featuring 3 new recruits (like what happened in 2012 when Sheets joined the team).
Weston Dressler (starter) – Again gonna be tough to replace his calibre of play. Will likely be more of a by committee thing. Simon will be leaned on more and we will likely use Smith and Bagg in the slot more. Still going to need to find another starting receiver, again I see this coming from new recruits… I just hope it goes better than when we were sure Sinorice Moss and Dwayne Jarrett were the answer.
Keith Shologan (starter, Cdn) – Given that we were starting 8 and 9 Canadians last year, finding another Canadian starter is not essential. We can replace him with an American and add a back-up/special teams Canadian. I blindly assumed Jermaine McElveen would be retained… evidently that was a worse assumption than assuming the Slovenian hockey team was due. I have heard the team was high on practice roster player Richard Sumlin so he might be an option there, we also have Antonio Coleman though he’s more of an end. Expect this to be an open competition with Sumlin and 2 more new recruits. Still an outside chance we bring in a vet like Torrey Davis or Ted Laurent (though I highly doubt Laurent).
Craig Butler (starter, Cdn) – Like Shologan he could be replaced by an American. Organization is high on Brian Peters so he could be added to the Lbs. Also, not sure Hurl is ready to be a fulltime starter but I expect him to figure prominently in the defense assuming he’s healthy.
Drew Willy (back-up) – Riders were very high on Sunseri which was the main reason they were willing to let Willy go. Sunseri will be the lead horse in the battle but can expect some new competition. It could be from guys we’ve seen before like Ryan Katz who spent time on the PR or maybe some NFL neg list guys like BJ Daniels or Ryan Aplin shake loose… or maybe someone we’ve never heard of. I don’t expect anyone with CFL experience (I think we’d like Kevin Glenn but aren’t willing to give up anything to get him or pay him as much as he’s making).
Zach Evans (back-up, Cdn) – Signing of David Lee covers this loss. Lee can add Cdn depth and back-up Foley in the DL rotation. Our Depth at DT is currently just Tearrius George so that’s somewhat concerning but we are covered from a Cdn perspective.
Graig Newman (back-up, Cdn) – Hurl will cover some of Newman and some of Butler. We still have Regimbald-Gagne who could factor in and quite frankly if you can’t find a Cdn LB/DB to play on special teams then you suck at recruiting.
For me the lack of a defensive tackle is the biggest concern along with losing 4 Canadians. Outside of that I think we will be ok. We are far from the favourites and don’t expect us to dominate like we did to start 2013 but anyone writing off the 2014 season better take a second look at our current roster… as well as a look at both the Eskimos and Bombers who we play 3 times a piece.
Side note: for those of you bemoaning our perceived lack of spending inspite of shedding some big contracts, keep this in mind: in addition to needing to extend Durant we also have one more key player in need of an extension: Ben Heenan. He is entering the final year of his rookie contract that is currently paying him in the $60-70K range. That is highway robbery for a starting calibre Canadian tackle (considering Josh Bourke just became the highest paid non-qb in the league). Gotta keep some cash to lock up this young stud.