It's sad waking up today and realizing that there is now no football until June... not nearly as sad as blowing a 21 point lead in the final football game of the season... but still pretty sad. The good news, at least for CFL fans is that Free Agency is just around the corner and the smattering of news will surely keep our minds off the football-less void for at least half a day.
Generally speaking, I don't expect the Riders to be overly active when free agency opens (and by that I mean they are not currently secretly active but totally not tampering). We already signed Carter and Glenn so I doubt we will see too many big names come our way. I do think we may look to free agency to add some depth here and there.
Today I'll go through our top areas of need and identify the top target who is likely (or should be) on our radar as well as some alternative options to consider.
Need: Offensive Line (Canadians)
Its no secret that our line is lacking in Canadian depth. The problem is that the free agent market is also lacking in depth at this position. There are really only 2 guys that I would have on my radar: Hunter Steward out of BC and J'Michael Deane from Ottawa. Deane was a Stampeder draft pick and may comes cheaper than Steward so I would peg him as the more likely. But with so few decent options there will be others vying for their services.
Need: Offensive Tackle
Our O-line was pretty bad last year... check that, really bad... check that, embarrassing. Our attempts to reignite our offense would take a big step forward if we could find someone to lock down the outside path to our QB... or at least somewhat impede defenders occasionally. Obviously the top target is reigning top OL Derrick Dennis but that would require $$$$$$. Greg Van Roten would be another option to look into. Honestly I would even take Xavier Fulton back, he's not the player he was in his prime but can still hold his own. Maybe this is what we want to bring in Vince Young for. Hell we could pair him with Philip Sims and start 2 converted QBs at OL... that would be right up Jones' alley.
Need: Running Back
In theory one of the easiest positions to recruit should be RB so I'm not a big believer spending big on free agent RBs. That said we have a definite need and 3 guys on the market catch my eye. Shakir Bell is a name mentioned a lot due to the Edmonton connection... and him being pretty good. I would also be placing a call to Jeremiah Johnson and Brandon Rutley. Both can be impact RBs if we could get them for the right price.
Need: Defensive Tackle
Assuming Gaydosh can stay healthy (no guarantee) we have one DT spot filled but definitely need another one so we don't endure another endless string of mediocre at best players occupying space there. If you are shooting for the stars Mic'Hael Brooks is the one you want. Sure he is a douche but it's pretty obvious that is not a deterrent to Jones. Euclid Cummings is a another top guy to target. It would be ideal to land Cleyon Laing as he is Canadian but I doubt he fits into our salary structure.
With Fred Bennett cut its obvious we are looking for change at CB. The name that I think is at the very top of our free agent wish list is John Ojo. He missed all of 2016 with a ruptured achilles so there is risk. But he excelled in Jones' D in 2015 (logging 5 INTs). I think we are likely to make a strong push for Ojo. Other names I would be looking at are AJ Jefferson (stud) and Johnny Adams (went from superstar to traded for a roll of tape in one year. I'd be willing to roll the dice on a bounce back). I just honestly hope we don't go after Pat Watkins. I know Jones LOVES him but his play has slipped noticeably and I don't see that trend reversing.
There is always a chance that Kevin Francis finally develops into the safety Jones thought he could last year... stop laughing... it could happen. Either way we should be looking for a safety and for ratio purposes a Canadian is preferable. A pretty thin market there as the only "top end" option is Marc-Olivier Brouilette and I can't see him coming west. That leaves "serviceable" options like Matt Black, bringing back Jeff Hecht or Cauchy Muamba (who I think is just awful but Jones somehow coached to his one solitary useful season so may be worth a shot)