I admire the optimism that some of you still hold for this season. Not sure if it’s related to undying Rider passion or drugs but good on you. As for me, I’m firmly in next season country. An objective look at our roster is needed. Anything that fits into the plans for 2016 is safe. Anything where there are question marks should be in consideration for trading or cutting. I’m not abdicating trading away anything and everything regardless of the return or cutting the entire roster and filling it with replacements (unless Keanu Reeves and that crazy cop linebacker guy are available) but we need to at least be entertaining any option that can make us better next season.
Though I’m sure the Riders aren’t likely to adhere to my plan (nor are they likely to pay me a consulting fee for doing their work for them), here are 6 things I feel we need to be doing to prepare for 2016:
Manage The QB Situation
Cut Sunseri immediately. He has no future with this team (or any team for that matter). Any rep in practice or game situation he is given is a wasted opportunity to develop someone with actual potential. Brett Smith has earned the starting job and the chance to prove if he can be our #2 next season. Keith Price needs to be given some playing time. Start with a few series and build up to playing at least a full quarter. Blake Sims should also get a few reps once he’s up to speed on the playbook. Its sink or swim time for our young QBs. Thus far Smith swam, it’s time to find out if the others can do the same. If they can’t, better that we find out now so we can look for better options.
I would also explore trading Glenn. Now I realize that his injury situation may make this problematic but we need to at least explore options. I like Glenn and he more than delivered on expectations but the fact remains if Smith can be a bona fide #2 then he is not needed. A healthy Glenn has value. Maybe Winnipeg would be interested?
Play The Young Guys
As with Price and Sims, we need to get our new recruits some playing time and figure out now if they can show enough in a game situation to be invited back next season. Guys like Roosevelt, Mertile and Bryan should see some meaningful playing time (We are off to a good start by dumping Tisdale. Suber should be next as he isn't in the future plans). If he heals up, MacDougall should be given a starting job to see if he can hack it. I would pay particular attention to our O-line. Richards, Vonk and Watman should see time with the starting unit (Not all at once since I’d rather not have to scrape Brett Smith off the turf so soon after finding out that he’s good). This is the perfect time to see if these 3 can really provide the depth we need.
Work The Phones
Outside of a token few untouchables (e.g. Durant, Dressler, Demski, Labatte, Brown), anyone on our roster is fair game for the right price. We had better be talking to every team out there about any potential trade. Obviously what we will be looking for is mid-round draft picks (to replace the ones Taman routinely trades away), young Canadians with potential and young Americans if they address an area of need… such as DE. We are currently lacking a proven rotation D end. Chick is also not getting any younger and although he will probably want to play forever to pay for the army he has fathered… it would be wise to start grooming a replacement.
I’m not expecting any blockbuster deals since we would mostly be trading role players and guys in the final year of their contract. But if we can get a couple mid-round picks or prospect players for some of our 30 years plus guys then you gotta explore those options. A guy like Tearrius George comes to mind. Solid player but he turns 33 this offseason. If you can get value for him now then take it.
Start Working On Extensions Now
One of the few upsides of your top players suffering season ending injuries is that it likely results in more cap space than you intended. I get that our constant injuries make managing the cap difficult but I would bet that given contracts like Durant, Brown and Emery largely won’t count, that we have some cap space to work with. We should use that to start extending current players that we want to retain with big signing bonuses to get a head start on the offseason and ease our cap situation next year.
Scan NFL Cuts
NFL camps are in full swing and over the next month a lot of cuts will be made. There is a chance (though no guarantee) that they may include so former CFL players who could make a big impact if the returned north. Obviously Heenan, Peters and Brett Jones are on the watch list but I would expand that to include names like Marcus Ball (who was close to signing in Winnipeg this year). Possibly the likes of Henoc Muamba, Jalil Carter, John Chiles, etc… as well. If we have cap space we may have an advantage in luring these guys here if they shake loose.
Manage the Kicking Situation
I know there is a distinct chance that McCallum will be kicking long enough to see New Mosaic stadium tore down and replaced with Mosaic 3.0 but we should not count on that. As refreshing as his consistency has been, we should be on the look for our kicker of the future now. Sean Whyte is out there as an option. In Calgary, Tyler Crapigna is sitting idle behind Paredes and Maver. Not sure if you could coax him out of Calgary but it’s worth a call. Maybe we want to try out a young unproven guy (it worked out for Winnipeg with Harullaju and Toronto with Pfeffer). Whatever direction we want to go it would be easy to give a young guy a trial opportunity for a couple games to see how he handles live action. If nothing else it would give McCallum extra time to catch up on Matlock re-runs and naps (I was going to add “yelling at kids who cut across his lawn” to this list but when it comes to McCallum’s lawn, he likely has good reason to be yelling).