The QB landscape in the CFL has potential to be shook up this offseason to an extent not seen in many years. Free agents like Franklin, Masoli, Harris, Lulay and Bridge; potential retirements like Ray; potential cuts like Collaros and Durant; not to mention potential new entrants like Johnny Manziel. Change is coming and the first dominoes have already fallen with Harris re-signing and Franklin being traded to Toronto. So let’s take a look at where things are at today and what that is likely to mean for the Riders.
The Franklin trade is the biggest domino as he was the biggest fish this offseason. While there is still no guarantees as he is still potentially a free agent come February, let me break it down like this: Franklin knows he’s getting paid this offseason, it’s just a matter of who is signing the cheque. So he will only sign in Toronto if he gets starter’s money (otherwise he will just wait until someone else gives it to him). Money is more important than playing time so in theory if Toronto could pay him starters $ and retain Ray it would be workable. The only way I can see that working cap-wise is if both Franklin and Ray take a low base pay with heavy incentive based on playing time but I can’t see Franklin agreeing to that. So this is where my logic kicks in (scary territory I know). Toronto would not have given up a highly rated young Canadian OL unless they were very sure they could sign Franklin. That means they are willing to pay him the big $. That means they do not expect Ray back. No guarantees but as a betting man, my money is on Ray retiring and Franklin leading the Argos in ’18. Sorry to break your hearts Rider fans.
So given that the long assumed saviour of the franchise is off the market where does that leave the Riders? I see essentially 2 options: stand pat or add one more to the mix.
Glenn, Adams and Williams remain under contract and the odds of Bridge returning are highly probable. Montreal is likely his only other option and there may be just a bit of ill-will there (plus the whole Kavis Reed dumpster fire thing). So option A is bring everyone back and have an open competition. The only way I see this scenario working is if one of the young guys wins the starting job. Glenn had an admirable year but at some point I think we need to admit that the odds of him leading a team to a championship are pretty slim. I’d take him as an insurance policy/back-up… though if history has taught us if he’s the back-up, misfortune is guaranteed to befall the starter. Bridge showed a ton of potential but still has some big flaws in his game. Adams is a highly thought of player but all we really know at this point is that he can execute poorly designed and blatantly obvious QB runs.
The biggest advantage of this approach is salary. Not having to shell out big bucks on QB allows us to build strength in other arears of the roster. We managed the second most offensive TDs with this combo last season so while its not the flashiest approach, it is workable.
Add one more
Assuming we are not satisfied with our current group (and I don’t think Jones is ever fully satisfied) there are some options to explore. I list them in order of both likely and value to the team:
1 – Zach Collaros
He’s currently under contract but given that he’s reportedly making over $500k and not the starter it’s only a matter of time before he’s cut or traded. Any trade would need to be contingent on renegotiating his salary. In 2015 he was hands down the best player in the CFL. While he’s certainly not looked anywhere close to that form since returning from injury, I’m convinced that a fresh start with a good support cast will revitalize his career. You could likely land him at an affordable incentive laden deal (essentially swap him for Glenn). There’s risk but the upside is higher than anyone else available. We apparently made inquiries about a trade mid-season so we are at least somewhat interested.
2 - Jeremiah Masoli
I can't see him leaving Hamilton after how well things went went June Jones took over. But he is technically a pending FA and he has all the tools (strong arm, great runner, that "it" factor at times). He's still very inconsistent but grew by leaps and bounds this season. Highly unlikely but you never know.
3 – Travis Lulay
He'll be coming off major injury and already has a ton of wear and tear on him but he proved last season that he's not dead yet. I don't see him leaving BC and I don't us being super interested... but he's technically an option. Though one that certainly isn't a step in the right direction age-wise.
4 – Johnny Football
Please no! If the football gods have any mercy they will spare us this carnival circus. Hamilton owns his neg rights and June Jones has been kissing his ass as much as one can without physical contact so hopefully there's nothing to worry about here. But we totally didn't secretly work him out and only met with his publicist so sadly there is some interest there.
5 - The rest: Durant, Willy, LeFevour
So assessing everything I think the most likely scenario is either Collaros or our current guys with an edge to the current guys. Jones has brought stability and long term viability to almost very aspect of this team... except QB, so this is a big decision. Personally I want Collaros but Jones tends not to ask my opinion in these matters.
James Franklin will sign in TO, thus sending more rumoured compensation Esks' way. Ray was prepared to back up when Willy came there & took an incentive laden contract which paid off handsomely. On top of your reason for Franklin signing in TO, Ray wants to get into coaching when he's done. I can see him getting paid starter money, structured as part salary for, say, QB coach (TO has none) & backup money, maybe with some incentives. This would bring him up to starter type money. Remember Fantuz who got paid for not playing & didn't count against the CAP. He had an "organizational" role. Franklin is very unlikely to land in Regina. I go back to the Lalji tweet on Franklin & Jones not exactly best buddies - probably why Jones evades questions on Franklin with his "won't comment on other team's player" & why Riders reportedly didn't make trade offer despite the open secret Jones has wanted Franklin since he got here.
The other guys:
1. Collaros - the problem here is he wants to stay in the East & doesn't intend to renegotiate his salary. IF he gets traded to the RIders & refuses to negotiate, they'd have to release him in which case he signs where he wants - likely Mtl. His salary goes down regardless so he can force his release if he so desires. As long as the Als QB situation is unsettled, he holds the cards. Why accept a lower salary from the Riders if he has other options?
2. Masoli, I agree, will stay in Hamilton.
3. I can't see Lulay leaving BC. Could have done that even last year.
4. Manziel, sorry, is the guy I could see in Regina IF June Jones would let him go. Based upon his comments I don't see that happening. Why let the BEST player in the league go?
5. Don't need any of them. Who would we drop to bring them on?
I think that Collaros is the best bet if we get anyone. But my gut says the Riders are going to have to go with the same guys or find someone in camp.
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