I’m a bit delayed in getting my sentimonies up today. I half expected the Riders to announce more changes on Monday which would render much of my post irrelevant… As if right on cue, this afternoon the Riders re-signed George and Webster and cut Jackson and McCallum (who didn’t make the first cut list because Jones’ pen ran out of ink).
On Wednesday Chris Jones unveiled his coaching staff. Essentially he could have just hired a teenager to Photoshop an old picture of Edmonton’s coach staff with a different hue of green as well as white instead of gold and saved himself a press conference. Jones’ likeness could have essentially remain unchanged (the all black look is universal). While introducing his staff he causally let it be known that “oh by the way, I cut half our roster.” And thus began what will undoubtedly be a busy and difficult offseason.
We shouldn’t be surprised. If the expectation is that Jones return this franchise to the upper echelon of the league he will have to do a bit more than polish the turd that was the 2015 Riders. He can’t just magically wave a wand and make out current roster a playoff team… there is going to have to be some casualties. Thus far that has included our old coaching staff and most of the defense. Anyone who watched the Riders play in 2015 would be hard pressed to argue that those are good starting points.
The changes kept coming as Friday it was announced that beloved belly rubber (won’t lie that sounds a little weird) Andre Munroe was traded to Toronto for the rights to import OL Jarriel King (he is set to hit free agency in Feb). I was surprised that we let Munroe go. Defensive tackle is a tough position to recruit so when you have a young promising player there generally you try to hang onto them. I think this boils down to two things. 1 – You gotta give up talent to get talent. 2 – Fixing our O-line is a bigger priority for Jones than the defensive line. King is 28 and entering his 4th year in the league. He started 3 games at left tackle in an injury plagued 2015. He has also played right guard at times (though unless our ratio situation improves dramatically I can’t imagine that’s the plan). This deal tells me 2 things. 1) The fact that we gave up a roster player for a pending free agent tells me Jones greatly coveted King and was not willing to risk letting other teams talk to him. King’s first season in the CFL would have been when Steve McAdoo was the OL coach in Toronto. So I’m guessing he must like him. 2) One of Adcock or Fulton are not in the plans for 2016.
Now let’s take a closer look at the first wave of Rider cuts (if you seriously believe a second wave isn’t coming you are being naïve).
Of the 19 players released (plus now Jackson and McCallum), 15 of them were set to hit free agency in February. So they are not so much cuts as guys who were not about to be receiving a contract offer from the Riders. Not that getting cut is ever a good thing, but this does allow the players to get a head start on finding a new team before free agency opens and teams spend all their money. The douchier move would have been to string them along until February (or later for the guys who weren’t FAs).
Here’s how I would categorize our cuts:
Not At All Surprising
Jamel Richardson, Taj Smith, Marshay Green, Junior Mertile, Cameron Sheffield, Blake Sims, Alex Suber, Ryan Wellman, Hugo Lopez, Terrell Maze, Macho Harris, Tyron Brackenridge, Paul McCallum, Tristan Jackson
Regardless of who the coach was I couldn’t have seen any of these guys being back. I liked Terrell Maze in the previous 2+ seasons, thought he was underrated as a DB. But he did not look even close to the same guy this year. Add age, hefty contract and it’s no surprise. Jones wanting to build a defense in his own image only further sealed Maze’s departure.
As for Brack, he will always be one of my favourites. Loved him ever since he showed up in late 2011. Heart and soul player, outstanding in the community, impact guy on the field. But I’ve been predicting his departure for months. The only way the Riders were bringing him back was with a pay cut (to reflect the drop in his play). Brack will likely be in high enough demand that someone was going to offer him more than us. Then Jones took over and Brack doesn’t fit his mould and isn’t one of his guys so he’s gone. I wish him nothing but the best… and wonder who will now appear in terrible ads for crappy worsk safe sunglasses?
Kyle Norris, Nathan Kanya, Chad Spann, Scott McHenry
I liked McHenry as a role player but let’s be honest… if any of these 4 players were key to our success in 2016, we’re in a world of trouble. Interesting to note that O’Day signed Kanya and Norris to contract extensions just last month. Both are also former Eskimos… evidently, Jones was not a fan of theirs.
He was never going to be a superstar but he was a solid runner. Somewhat underrated when you consider his 1800 yards from scrimmage (5.8 yards per carry) and 11 TDs over 2 years despite never really being entrenched as our starter. Thought he at least deserved a chance to earn the job in camp. But I also get that he plays one of the most easily replaceable positions.
Weldon Brown, Derek Walker
Only 2 names actually surprised me. Walker had injury issues in 2015 (which may have been a factor in his release) but he was awesome in his rookie year in 2014 (5 sacks , 1 impressive INT). Young DTs are hard to find so I was a bit surprised he’s gone (especially since Munroe is also now gone).
Weldon Brown was our best cover guy bar none. While I doubt his presence would have single handedly saved our defense, his injury hurt a lot. He was guy you could confidently lock on an opponent’s best receiver. He’s a very skilled defender who is only 28. I thought he would be a priority re-sign. Evidently Jones must not think his skillset fits our new defensive mould.
Jones appears to be confident he can just find us a new defense… things is when you look at how many guys on the Edmonton defense were found through recruiting, I would not bet against him. You are going to need a roster come the new season because we are going to be watching a vastly different team come June.
Emmanuel Davis (Ham) – Workout with New Orleans
Mitchell White (Mtl) – Workout with Arizona
Jeff Fuller (Cal) – Workout with Philadelphia
In: OL Jarriel King (trade with Toronto)
Out: DL Andre Munroe (trade with Toronto)
In: WR Anthony Parker, DL Junior Turner (contract extension)
In: DB Eric Fraser (contract extension)
In: DL Adrian Tracy, LS Aaron Crawford (contract extension)
In: DL Andre Munroe (trade with Ssk), LB Akeem Wonder, DL Detrick Bonner (re-signed), WR Jeremy Gallon (free agent signing)
Out: OL Jarriel King (trade with Ssk)