Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Durant Renegotiates

Speculation of Darian Durant possibly being released in favour of a young cheaper QB (namely Trevor Harris) was emphatically put to rest last week. Management expressed publicly that Durant is the #1 QB and they managed to come to an agreement on a re-negotiated contract. On a personal level I’m very happy for this. Durant is one of the few players I’m unconditionally all in on in terms of my support for. On a more general level I’m also happy because there are many people in Rider Nation that I don’t think could have emotionally taken the loss of yet another beloved player… it’s bad enough we may have to stomach Dressler playing for Winnipeg (**spits on the floor**).

The new deal is reportedly around the $450K mark which would be roughly a $65K pay cut from his original deal. He will get $250K up front which is a strong indication by the team of their commitment to him. It’s only a one year deal but for reasons I’ll get into shortly, I’m not overly concerned about that.

I think this deal makes sense for both sides. From the team perspective they get to retain their franchise QB while still freeing up $$ to build a winning team around him. For Durant, as much as pay cuts suck, he was admittedly in a brutal negotiating position. He hasn’t played a complete game in a year and a half and is coming off a major injury. But the deal still keeps him in the upper echelon of QB’s pay wise. Also knowing the competitor that Durant is, he would be much happier with an O-line that can actually block somebody or a defense that is not an utter embarrassment than $65K. He can probably make that up endorsing Co-op products. They have a vacancy in the potato chip area.

In terms of the 1 year deal, this is a smart move by Durant. Had he signed a longer deal he would have been doing so at a time of weak bargaining power. He likely would have been accepting less $/more incentives than a normal starting QB. This deal allows him to prove himself this season and improve his bargaining position for next season. Essentially he is betting on himself. I will say this: a motivated Durant with a chip on his shoulder is the most dangerous Durant. Provided all his ligaments hold up I see a big year in store for Durant. Don’t ever let it be said that Durant doesn’t put the team and winning above all else.

Many are still speculating that we will try and land Trevor Harris is free agency. I have no doubt that we will try… I just don’t see us succeeding. I maintain that if Jim Popp has any football sense left in him he will be outbidding everyone for Harris’ services come Feb 9 (Though that theory may be shot to hell as Popp seems to prefer spending all his money on receivers). The Als should be Harris’ preferred landing spot also. Every other team has an entrenched starter… Montreal has an ugly mishmash of Crompton, Cato, Glenn, Bridge and Boyd. They haven’t had a respectable pass game since 2012. Besides, if Harris’ options are limited to being a back-up somewhere I would expect him to stay in Toronto (and possibly plot a Tonya Harding-style attack on Ricky Ray’s shoulder).

Other random thoughts:
- Kory Sheets created a minor buzz when he posted a photo on Instagram that had Chris Jones in the background. Here’s the deal: Sheets is not yet at 100% but is getting closer. I’m pretty he showed up to a Rider open tryout just to let Chris Jones known he’d be interested in a return when healthy. Jones will take note of his interest and keep it in mind for down the road… perhaps like how Jones brought in Chad Simpson last season when injuries struck. File this under “possibility” not “probability”

- The Riders extended the contracts of a couple Canadians: Dan West and Spencer Moore. While neither can really be labelled “impact” players, these are important signings in terms of building up our non-existent Canadian depth. Of the 18 players signed since Jones took the helm half have been Canadians. It seems the new GM believes in actually having competition for Canadian roster spots. A stark contrast to the previous Gm’s “make the team by default because you’re Canadian” approach.

- Included in the influx of national players is punter Josh Bartel. While I’m sure this move is just intended to give us options in terms of ratio, I think the only person actually excited about Bartel’s return is Rod Black. In 2014 Bartel was statistically one of the worst punters in league.

Coaching Carousel
- Mike Gibson has bailed on the U of R after only one dreadful season… in the process I think he overtook Chris Jones as the least popular football coach in the province.
- Kent Austin signs a 4 year extension in Hamilton (through 2019)
- Ottawa hires Beau Walker as an offensive assistant
- BC hires Marcello Simmons as ST coordinator

NFL Watch:
Eric Rogers (Cal) – After working out for half the league, it seems Rogers will be signing in San Francisco. Good move for him because their WR depth is… well its non-existent.
Terrell Sinkfield (Ham) – Signed with Minnesota (as a Vikings fan I’d like to know if he can hold for FGs while keeping the laces out or kick short FGs… either skillset would be useful).
Cleyon Laing (Tor) – Workouts with Miami and Tennessee
Mitchell White (Mtl) – Workout with Dallas

CFL Ins and Outs

In: DB Dan West, FB Spencer Moore (contract extension) DB Curtis Brown, DL Ryan Jones, OL Joseph Treadwell, RB Devrin Young, P Josh Bartel (free agent signing)

Out: WR Eric Rogers (signed with San Francisco)

In: QB Quentin Williams, WR Quincy McDuffie

In: DL John Chick (free agent signing)
Out: WR Terrell Sinkfield (signed with Minnesota)

In: K Chris Milo (contract extension), LB John Kanongata’a (re-signed)

In: RB Dillon Campbell (2015 draft pick signing), RB Edwin Baker (free agent signing)

In: DL John Bowman, WR Nik Lewis (contract extension), WR Duron Carter, OL Dominic Picard (free agent signing)

Out: QB Tanner Marsh (released)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: What To Make Of Chris Jones

Last week Chris Jones became the most polarizing man in Saskatchewan. By this point you either hate his guts (I don't envision many elementary school appearances in his future due to the mixture of tears and spit balls that would ensue)... or you have faith that he is making the hard decisions necessary to build a winning football program (possibly still mixed with mild resentment over ditching Dressler... I mean now who will appear on our chips?). There isn't really a neutral middle ground anymore. I mean if cutting Saskatchewan's most beloved adopted midget son doesn't make you hate the guy, nothing will.

I get that our new GM's approach may rub some people the wrong way. But it's not like Jones can be expected to improve our lowly team be just continuing with the misguided idiocies of his predecessor. So hate Jones all you want but he didn't deplete our Canadian talent. He didn't let our team get old and expensive. He wasn't stupid enough to think Chris Getzlaf should be the highest paid receiver in the league. He's just the man tasked with cleaning up the mess he inherited. It's a yucky job but someone has to do it. I personally think we should at least wait to see A) what his final roster looks like and B) if we actually start winning before polishing up our pitchforks and looking to do some serious ass forking. There will be plenty of time to run him out of town when he fails to go 18 and 0.

People are noticing a discrepancy between Jones' "we did everything we could" version of events and Dressler's there wasn't really any negotiation version. My guess is what happened was the "negotiations" consisted of Chris Jones saying the this is the most I'm willing to pay you and repeating that any time the agent tried to suggest something higher. A bit cold? yeah but that's what we pay Jones to do... make the tough business decisions.

A rumour has now started that we may be dumping Durant and going after Trevor Harris in free agency. At this point I don't anything can be dismissed. Would Jones do that? Probably. Will he? Maybe. I bet Durant is being asked for a pay cut (or at least replacing base pay with more incentive based stuff). I also bet that Jones would like to have depth behind a guy who hasn't finished a game in a year and half. But there's also risk there. There are no guarantees in landing Harris (as I personally think Montreal should back up a truck of money to his door) and when healthy Durant is better than Harris (just look at how Toronto locked up Ricky Ray first and Harris is priority #2). With Jones I wouldn't rule anything out (Jones would cut the drum line if he felt it would help us win) but I also don't think its inevitable.

Fasten you seat belts because if you think this roller coaster offseason doesn't have a few more twists and turns, you are sadly mistaken.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday Round-Up: Boom!

I have literally had to re-write this post 4 times. There have been term papers in university that I put less effort into. I had originally crafted a post regarding my thoughts on the signing of Derrius Brooks and the acquisition of Maurice Price. Well that plan was shot to hell yesterday afternoon by Jones dropping the bomb on Rider Nation that both John Chick and Weston Dressler had been released. So I started again typing about Chick and Dressler. Then news broke about Shawn Lemon joining the Riders. Then news broke about the actual salary numbers for Chick and Dressler. Also add in the fact that Lemon was released early from his RedBlack contract "to pursue NFL opportunities" (can't believe I forgot that) and the weird little twitter beef he's having with GM Marcel Desjardins. I'm convinced by the time I actually get to posting this the team may have been relocated... it's been that crazy

So let's get right to it.

In one fell swoop Jones managed to lose all the good will he had built up in the province since we hired him. I would suggest he have someone do his grocery shopping for him as I envision either some distraught child kicking him in the shins while soaking their signed Dressler jersey in tears or some riled up senior citizen hitting him with a cane.

And you know what? Chris Jones doesn't give a crap!

These were painful moves because Chick and Dressler and hands down the most beloved Riders (it’s not even close... mainly because Jones already cut most players who were somewhat beloved). But we got a harsh introduction to what the Chris Jones regime will be like. His decisions will not be affected by his heart (assuming he has one) nor by the opinion of the fans. His decisions will be based on what he thinks gives us the best chance to win. In his opinion, paying Dressler and Chick at their current salaries did not give us the best chance to win. It’s that simple.

Why did this happen? Well Chick and Dressler were set a make a ton of money this season, $500,000 combined reportedly. Chick alone was reportedly at $240-260k, which is insane regardless of how you feel about Chick. That is so far beyond actual market value. Did Chick manage to negotiate a $10k bonus per dependent child? That is gross incompetence on the part of Brendan Taman. If I had been Craig Reynolds I would have fired him on the spot upon learning of that and the $225k for Getzlaf. But I digress. 
500K is a ton of money especially to have invested in 2 players over the age of 30. Both were due big roster bonuses so no team wanted to trade for them (when they knew we’d be force to cut them and they could get them without paying those bonuses).

Chick doesn't surprise me, I kinda wondered about his future once Jones was hired. Jones really values “his guys” on D and Chick wasn’t one of them. Add age and a ludicrous salary and its unfortunately simple football economics. It’s a crappy business. Dressler does surprise me. He’s still productive, proven leader, heart and soul guy. His contract was big but not completely outlandish for a #1 receiver. Though Chris Jones will repeatedly say that there are 2 things you can’t coach: size and speed.Tells you what kind of players he'd prefer.  Again... football is a crappy business. I will miss both those players as they were among the best to don the Rider jersey both on and off the field. 

We are going to have to trust in the bigger plan. Not long after the big boom of Chick being released, it was revealed that we signed Shawn Lemon. Lemon is younger and cheaper than Chick. So when you take your emotions out of this, it’s a smart football move. As a side note, how many people remember that Shawn Lemon was actually already once a Rider? I'm guessing either you don't remember or repressed most of that memory with alcohol as it was during that dreadful 2011 season.  expect Lemon is only the first big name free agent acquisition that will land here. We aren’t clearing cap space just for fun. I think we will have to wait until the roster is set to truly assess how good/bad the moves Jones made were. He has a master plan with many moving parts. For example, what if the cap space we are freeing up allows us to sign Ted Laurent, Aaron Grymes and Duron Carter? (Not saying this is likely but humour me and consider the hypothetical). Would you trade Dressler and Chick for Carter, Grymes, Laurent, and Lemon? Again, I don't actually see this happening but this kind of cap clearing opens up options like that.

We have long been clamouring for a GM who knew how to pull the plug on a player 1 year too early as opposed to 1 year too late (a la Wally Buono)… well now we have one and while that will likely translate into a winning football club, it doesn't not always mean a happy fan base gets or the retention of beloved players.  You don't have to like it but at least have faith that its moving us in the right direction. We've won 4 games over the last year and a half... change, while it might be painful, is needed.

PS - Here's my thoughts on Brooks and Price as a bonus since I had typed them anyways:

I’ll start will Derrius Brooks as I really like this signing. With Tyree Hollins set to be our only returning DB, we are in need of a full rebuild in the secondary. Brooks is a big step forward in that regard.  He was a solid DB when he was with Calgary so much so that he got an NFL shot. He brings much needed experience to our secondary (at this point any experience is a bonus) and at 27 he is still pretty young. While I have no doubt that Jones will find us some new DBs in free agent camps, we need to sprinkle in some vets like Brooks and hopefully one more to help bring the new unit along
I’m somewhat conflicted on the Maurice Price move. He cost us next to nothing to acquire (essentially a 6th round pick) and we managed to renegotiate his salary down from the $160-180k range to a more reasonable $130k reportedly. So this is a low cost, low risk investment. Given Price’s world class talent, the potential reward is through the roof for this guy. He’s got decent size, amazing speed and can be a bona fide game changing receiver. It’s not all roses and sunshine though. For one thing Price is made of glass. When he was healthy in Calgary, he was among the best in the league… thing is it was always a matter of when he got hurt not if. Last season in Ottawa was the first time in his career he made it through an entire season… and that was probably because he touched the ball way less than normal. There is also his tendency for fumbling (remember the 2013 West Final?), his habit of taking plays off when he’s not getting the ball, the fact that even other players make fun of him for not being willing to go over the middle… lastly there the utter garbage he tends to put on social media.

In the end it boils down to a calculated gamble where the potential gains far outweigh the risks. It’s not often you can acquire a potential top 10 receiver for a 6th rd pick. If he can regain the form he had in Calgary and stay healthy then this could end up being a huge coup for us. It’s far from a guarantee but I think he’s worth a shot.

On a side note, why do the Rider have to sign everyone that we hate? Price, Dwight Anderson, Davis Sanchez, Shea Emry, Paul McCallum, Geroy Simon, etc… I just have this sinking feeling that at some point I will be yelling at Wally Buono to get off the field despite him being employed by the Riders. He will have John Cornish and Troy Westwood on his coaching staff and have Henry Burris as his QB. 

Coaching Carousel
Mike Benevides finally officially named Edmonton’s defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. This is a very big hire for the Esks. He will bring stability to the defense in the wake of losing Jones and will help Maas given his previous head coaching experience.

NFL Watch:
Dexter McCoil (Edm) – Signed with San Diego (or possibly LA depending on how things shake out)
Willie Jefferson (Edm) – Signed with Washington
Steven Clarke (BC) – Signed with Tennessee
Freddie Bishop (Cal) – Workout with NY Jets
Eric Rogers (Cal) – Had a second workout with NY Jets

CFL Ins and Outs

In: WR Maurice Price (trade with Ott), DB Derrius Brooks, DL Shawn Lemon (free agent signing)
Out: WR Weston Dressler, DL John Chick (released)

In: DB Brandon Smith, WR Kamar Jorden (contract extension)
Out: OL Edwin Harrison, KR Tim Brown (released)

In: OL Jovan Olafioye (contract extension)

Out: LB Dexter McCoil (signed with San Diego), DL Willie Jefferson (signed with Washington)

In: WR Ricky Collins (free agent signing)

In: WR Kealo Pilares, DL Everett Ellefsen, DL Stephen Mawa, OL Everton Williams (re-signed), DB Tevrin Brandon, OL Ricky Osei-Kusi, LB Geoff Hughes (free agent signing)

In: LB Damaso Munoz (contract extension)
Out: WR Maurice Price (trade with Ssk)


In: OL Kristian Matte, OL Jake Piotrowski, FB Jean-Christopher Beaulieu  (contract extension), LB Telvion Clark (free agent signing)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Melancholy Monday

As a general rule Monday's are not that joyous an occasion to begin with. That terrible feeling when your sleep is uninterrupted by the alarm. The desperate race to intake enough caffeine to make the morning bearable.  You know, the usual grind. But this morning's sentimonies may come across as a bit more melancholy than normal. 

That is because I evidently have an affinity for sports teams that will cause me a great deal of heartache and weeping. The Riders' history is riddled with crushing heartache (that I think we'd collectively prefer we don't rehash). I am also a Vikings fans. Now the general response to "I'm a Vikings fan" since Sunday has been evenly split between uncontrollable laughter and empathetic "there, there" pats on the back. There are many ways to lose a football game but missing a game winning FG from inside 30 due at least somewhat in part to the fact that evidently no one ever told the damn holder that the laces go out. "Laces out Dan!"... well that is a special kind of pain. Fortunately decades of cheering for the Riders has built up a tolerance in me for heartache. 

Here are some random quasi coherent thoughts to tide you over until there is some real news (knowing my luck that will be about 15 minutes after I post this).

- Not to dwell on that damn Vikings game but they outplayed Seattle in every aspect of that game except 2 plays: a botched snap by Seattle that they somehow let turn into the biggest play of the day and a 27 yard FG. If you had told me that the Vikings' chance of advancing in the playoffs would come down to whether they could defend a badly botched snap and kick a short FG, I would have be overjoyed.

- Given that every team I cheer for tends to hate me, I've decided to use my powers for good. I currently don't have a basketball, lacrosse, soccer etc... team so if you would like to improve your team's chances by having me cheer for their rivals, drop me a line. I'd be glad to help.

- In Rider news, we keep slowly adding the roster Chris Jones essentially lit on fire and threw in the garbage. Early focus seems to be on Cdn depth which is a refreshing change. For once Canadians might not make our roster by default because we brought no one else to camp to compete with them. Novel concept.

- We also added WR Michael Campbell whom we acquired in the waiver draft. Bet you had no clue such a thing even existed. I've been religiously following the league for years and have only heard vague whispers of such a think once. Makes me wonder what other weird secret things go on in this league. 

- Free agent tryouts start right away for the Riders down south. Now I feel compelled to request that we collectively just relax a bit and not jump to our usual conclusion of declaring some recruit a sure fire MOP/Hall of Famer/demi-god. I have no doubt that between Jones and Murphy we will indeed find quality talent but can we  dial it back to cautious optimism until we see these people play in the preseason at least? ... I realize that's probably too much to ask but a man can try.

- If there was ever a time to bring back the all black jerseys it would be while Chris Jones is at the helm. It's too perfect a match not try.

Coaching Carousel
Marcell Bellefeuille – will join BC as an offensive assistant
Jaime Elizondo – hired as Ottawa’s new OC (was previously Argos’ WR coach)
Marcus Howell – hired as Riders’ receivers coach
Baron Miles – hired as Edmonton’s DB coach

NFL Watch:
Colin Kelly (Ott) - Signed with San Fransisco
Dexter McCoil (Edm) – Workouts with Washington and Pittsburgh
Cleyon Laing (Tor) – Workouts with San Diego, Washington and Pittsburgh
Eric Rogers (Cal) – Workouts with Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington and Baltimore
Kenny Stafford (Edm) – Workout with Chicago
Terrell Sinkfield (Ham) – Workouts with Chicago and Baltimore
Willie Jefferson (Edm) – Workout with Washington
AC Leonard (BC) – Workout with Washington
Jeff Fuller (Cal) – Workout with Baltimore
Freddie Bishop (Cal) – Workouts with San Diego and Pittsburgh
Euclid Cummings (Tor) – Workouts with San Diego and Pittsburgh

CFL Ins and Outs

In: RB Melvin Abankwa(2015 draft pick signing), WR Michael Campbell, DB Nick Taylor, DL Caesar Rayford (free agent signing)

In: QB Drew Tate, Brandon McDonald (contract extension), QB Andrew Buckley (2015 draft pick signing)
Out: LB Juwan Simpson (released), OL Brander Craighead (retired)

In: DB Ryan Phillips (contract extension)
Out: DB Steven Clarke (released… likely to sign in the NFL)

In: QB Matt Nichols (contract extension)
Out: QB Brian Brohm, RB Da’Rel Scott, DL Jamarkus McFarland, DL Ethan Farmer (released)

In: QB Jeremiah Masoli, DB Johnny Sears (contract extension)

In: WR Chris Williams, DL Zach Evans, OL Matt Albright (contract extension) RB LaVance Taylor (free agent signing)

Out: OL Colin Kelly (signed with San Fransisco)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Welcome to 2016

Welcome to a year that can't possible be as bad in terms of Rider football as last year... right? Hope abounds as supreme ruler Jones makes preparation for his inaugural Rider season (I honestly would not be the least bit surprised if Jones personally sells me over priced beer tokens come June).

Check below to get caught up on all the NFL workouts and the few CFL signings that took place over the holidays. Until news picks up again you will have to settle for a smattering of my random quasi-coherent thoughts.

- I liked the re-signing of SJ Haidara. He will likely not develop into the impact receiver he was projected to be when BC used a second round pick to draft him but he is an important depth guy for a team that will need to start Canadian receivers.

- The acquisition and signing of Jariel King is being viewed by many as an underwhelming move to address our OL issues. Consider this though. When Jones took over in Edmonton their O-line was an embarrassment. He didn't make many high profile moves but moulded that line into a solid group in a short time through adding some players that didn't garner a headline at the time and coaching. I have faith he can do it here again.

- Lots of talk about us potentially poaching Edmonton defensive players in free agency. Here are a few other names to keep on the radar (keep in mind this is pure speculation on my part): 

LB Rennie Curran - We need LBs. Curran is unlikely to stay in BC with Bighill and Elimimian there. Curran enjoyed a lot of success under Jones when he was with Edmonton.

DB Jermaine Gabriel and DL Cleyon Laing - Both were drafted when Jones was D-coordinator in Toronto and were highly regarded prospects. We need to rebuild our Canadian core and either would give us a big boost in that department.

WR Kenny Stafford - While Walker and Bowman got a lot of the attention, Stafford quietly put up 9 TDs! Lots of talk about Edm defenders on our radar but offensive guys like Stafford might attract our attention as well.

Canadian DTs - Unlike our previous regime's incorrect assumption that they could simply draft a starting Cdn DT in the 3rd round, I expect us to try and find a more proven option in free agency. Obviously Ted Laurent is the big fish but cost may be a factor as the whole league would like a guy like him. I've already mentioned Laing. Also keep an eye on Zach Evans... not just because he's a local boy (Chris Jones probably doesn't give a crap about that) but his stock has visibly risen in Ottawa. This might be his chance to step out of Shologan's shadow. I also think Hasan Hazime is an underrated player. He's had injury issues and isn't quite ready to be an every down starter but I've seen flashes from him.

Coaching Carousel
Marcel Bellefeuille – will join BC as an offensive assistant
Jaime Elizondo – hired as Ottawa’s new OC (was previously Argos’ WR coach)

NFL Watch:
Cleyon Laing (Tor) – Workout with New England
Freddie Bishop (Cal) – Workout with New England
Eric Rogers (Cal) – Workouts with Minnesota, Cleveland, Houston and NY Jets (has 14 total workouts scheduled)
Euclid Cummings (Tor) – Workout with Chicago
Kenny Stafford (Edm) – Workouts with Baltimore and Tennessee
Dobson Collins (Mtl) – Workout with Baltimore
Dexter McCoil (Edm) – Workouts with Arizona, San Diego and Minnesota
Colin Kelly (Ott) – Workout with Philadelphia
Tristan Okpalaugo (Tor) – Workout with NY Jets
Willie Jefferson (Edm) – Workout with NY Jets
Steven Clarke (BC) – Workout with Tennessee
Emmanuel Davis (Ham) – Workout with Tennessee
Aaron Grymes (Edm) – Workout with Tennessee
Swayze Waters (Tor) – Workout with Tennessee
Jeff Fuller (Cal) – Workout with San Diego

CFL Ins and Outs

In: WR SJ Haidara (contract extension), OL Jariel King, DB Kwame Adjei, OL Aaron Picton, RB Brandon Deschamps (free agent signing)

In: DB Joe Burnette, DL Frank Beltre (contract extension)

In: DL David Menard (contract extension)

In: WR Adarius Bowman, DL Almondo Sewell, K Sean Whyte (contract extension)

In: OL Stanley Bryant (contract extension)
Out: OL Dominic Picard (released)

In: FB Patrick Lavoie, WR Jamil Smith (contract extension)


In: LB Thomas Miles (contract extension), OL Joe Circelli (free agent signing)