In the days that follow free agency opening, people looking quickly to anoint the "winner" of free agency. I think this is a bit ridiculous for a few reasons. First off, generally the teams that are the most active are the teams that need to be active because they are brutal. So they may improve by adding some big names but they are starting from the bottom. The "good" teams actually tend to be very quiet in free agency opting to retain their own and develop from within to fill holes. So a lot of activity does not correlate with a team becoming good. Second, free agency shopping is a lot like shopping for groceries. Just because you buy the finest ingredients doesn't mean you will be able to turn them into a gourmet meal. Take a tender steak to McDonalds and they are still going to make a Big-Mac. Also,most Rider fans are still conscious of all the high profile moves we made last year and how well that all turned out (now I would argue that where last year we used free agency to build a core, this year we are using it to supplement our core so there is a difference in my mind).
That long winded sermon out of the way, I will say that overall I think the Riders have made some good moves ... as well as a couple really questionable ones. They addressed key areas of weakness, mainly O-line and Canadian depth. Let's go through at our additions (all contract details quoted are as per Justin Dunk).
OL Derrick Dennis (3 yrs, $170K) - Our O-line was beyond brutal last year so I love that the Riders seized on the opportunity to land the reigning best lineman in the league. Dennis will lock down the left tackle spot. I also love the 3 year commitment. This is a huge signing.
RB Kienan LaFrance (2 yrs, $110K) - This signing by far carries the most risk, but the potential reward may be worth it. Simply put if LaFrance can truly be a bona fide starting Canadian RB then we will be getting good value. The risk is that LaFrance has minimal time as a starter. Sure he was a monster in the East Final but even Ryan Dinwiddie had one monster game. I think he has the skill set to succeed but we will have to see if he can reach the potential we see. With Morris (and now Milton) under contract, its obvious we are going Canadian at RB to change our ratio.
OL Ryan White (2yrs, $90-100K) - The market for Canadian OL was close to non-existent so White is a nice add. He's versatile and can play multiple spots along the O-line. He's only 30 (4 years younger than Andrew Jones, who was released as a result of White signing). He likely projects as our 6th OL but regardless, depth at Canadian OL is crucial and White gives us a boost in that regard.
RB Aaron Milton (2 yrs, $70-75K) - Solid depth signing given our move to Canadian RB. Milton can also contribute on special teams. This might be an under the radar addition but quality Canadian depth across the depth chart is paramount so this is an important addition nonetheless.
S Marc-Olivier Brouilette (2 yrs, $100-110K) - Maybe its just my stereotypical view of French players but I didn't see Brouilette leaving Montreal or at least the East Division... but great pick-up for us. He gives as a proven Canadian starter at safety (he can also play up at LB as well). For team that spent half the season with a converted rookie receiver at safety, this is a very important step in solidifying our secondary. Last year we started guys on defense just because they were Canadian (not because they were good). Guys like Muamba and Brouilette represent a very positive step in the make-up of our Canadian starters.
WR Chad Owens (2 yrs, $110K) - OK Riders, I was digging everything you were doing up until the Owens announcement came down. I have nothing in particular against Owens,I am just really struggling to understand how this makes sense. Owens is old, small, and expensive (relative to a new guy), he is like the complete opposite of everything Chris Jones stands for. Also, receiver is not even close to a need for this team. If we plan on playing 4 import WRs and you correctly assume that Carter and Roosevelt get two of those. That leaves 2 spots for Owens, Holley, Edwards, Collins and Craig. Owens is older and more expensive than any of those. So I guess there is no harm in bringing him to camp (other than the sizable signing bonus he got). I just really don't get the logic.
RB Cameron Marshall - Marshall has been trying his luck down south since 2015 when he totaled close to 1000 yards and 7 TDs as a Bomber. He was a powerful, between the tackles type of runner. Obviously he'll be in tough to crack the roster given our depth at Canadian RB but he certainly worth a look in camp.
LB Glenn Love - LB wasn't a huge need given the presence of Muamba, Jones and Eguavoen but Love is a solid addition nonetheless. He is an extremely talented player on special teams (something we could definitely use) and proved last year that he can step into a starter role where needed. He essentially fills the void left by Knox's departure. He should compete with Eguavoen for the starting outside LB spot.
OL Thaddeus Coleman - Coleman was our most outstanding lineman last year but that's really like having to choose a most outstanding turd when cleaning up your dog's mess in the back yard. Still Coleman strikes me as an adequate RT and I'm okay with bringing him back to compete for his spot in camp. Maybe if we put a better supporting cast around him he'll do better.
WR Bakari Grant - See pretty much everything I said about Owens. I could see Grant being a mid-season pick-up to fill in for an injury but quite frankly if both Owens and Grant make this team it means we are super crappy at recruiting receivers. Honestly, the best case scenario I see for Grant is starting the year on the 6 game and playing only due to injury.
There has been a lot of speculation given our stockpiling of receivers that a trade is forthcoming. The problem with that is that very few teams need receivers. BC, Ottawa and Winnipeg are set. Edmonton has Zylstra and Hazelton so they aren't as needy as people seem to think despite the loss of Walker. Calgary will just keep finding stud receivers like they always do. Even Montreal has Lewis, Jackson and Cunningham so they aren't desperate. Only really needy team is Toronto and unless you want Ray or Willy, I don't see them as a viable trading partner.