Free agency opens on Feb 13th but anyone expecting the flurry of signings we have become used to since Coach Jones arrived will be quite disappointed. Two reasons I say that. 1 – Unlike previous years, we don’t have a ton of glaring needs. We aren’t in rebuild mode. 2 – Even if we wanted to be super active, I don’t think we have the cap space to do so. Collaros and Bridge’s deal means our costs at QB have gone up. Duron got some more money. Guys like Jones and Butler got new deals, presumably for more than the league min they likely made last year. And we haven’t really shed any significant salary. I mean guys like Clark, Mrabure, Steele and Demski remain unsigned and I don’t really expect Brouillette back so there’s some stuff. But overall our outstanding needs will need to be met through scouting, drafting and possibly a couple not-flashy/depth-type free agents.
So rather than the traditional look at who the Riders will be targeting in free agency I decided to take a bit of a different approach this year. I went through each team and picked one player that I would be targeting if money was not an issue (i.e. a Pipe Dream) and one player that is more realistically someone we could land.
Pipe Dream: Most people would immediately look to Alex Bazzie and Craig Roh given our need for another pass rusher to pair with Jefferson. But I see them as a Lemon/Cappicciotti type-scenario where they wouldn’t fit with how Jones uses he D-ends. They guy I would be after is Chandler Fenner. He notched over 100 total tackles and played pretty solid as SAM LB. Given the offseason departure of Shaq Richardson and Kenny Ladler to the NFL and Mo Leggett still recovering, Fenner will be very in demand.
Potential Target: Kirby Fabien. He’ll likely be a bit on the pricey side but Cdn OL depth is always something to be looking for especially an established starter at RG who is only 27. We’d probably have to dump Dyakowski to make it happen though.
Pipe Dream: Honestly as a young Canadian starter, Adam Konar would top my list but in terms of need, LB is not something I see us needing (though some of that hinges on whether Cameron Judge is just weird but will still play football or is actually done with it. Did we ever get clarity on that whole thing?). So from a needs perspective Euclid Cummings is the primary target. He can be the disruptive force we need on the inside of the DL.
Potential Target: Danny Groulx. The 7th overall pick in 2015 has yet to establish himself as a fulltime starter on the OL. Not sure what his value will be on the open market but there is potential value if a team can get him playing up to his potential.
Pipe Dream: Tommie Campbell. We currently have an opening at CB, why not target one of the best CB's in the league (him and Randle are 1-2 in my opinion)? He's lockdown DB that you can throw on pretty much anyone. If he doesn't get an NFL look, he will likely be highly sought after.
Potential Target: Mike Klassen. We need Canadian depth along the D-line (assuming the plan is to start one Cdn there) and we currently have zero under contract. Klassen is not a big name guy but is a veteran who may fit our needs and budget.
Pipe Dream: Mo Leggett. I know he's coming off injury but I think he's one of the most impactful defenders in the game. This category is called "pipe dream" so why not dream big. Whether its at safety or up at LB, Leggett is a playmaker that can change a game. We'd of course have to delouse him to get the Winnipeg stank off.
Potential Target: Jake Thomas. A bigger name than Klassen but still potentially within our means. He's another Canadian D-lineman that may be on our radar should one or more of Mrabure, Steele, Henry not return.
Pipe Dream: SJ Green. We don't really need him but after showing last season that returning from injury did not diminish his ability to make circus catches there's little reason to doubt Green won't remain among the top WR's in the League. And who knows with how pissed everyone seems to be at Toronto maybe this isn't a pipe dream.
Potential Target: Mitchell White. This would cost us but Mitchell is a good CB that would take Rogers' place quite nicely. I expect us to try and fill that spot through scouting for cost purposes but if we were inclined to spend, he would be a likely target.
Pipe Dream: Ted Laurent. He's the biggest fish (both figuratively and literally in free agency). He's an all-star Canadian defensive tackle a rare asset that most GM's would kill to have (this time I'm hopefully just speaking figuratively). He is an instant boost to whichever team lands him.
Potential Target: Mike Atkinson. Quietly providing Cdn depth behind Laurent is a more likely candidate for us in Atkinson. He wouldn't exactly give much of a boost to the D but you can never have enough Canadian depth.
Pipe Dream: Zach Evans. Yes, I said it. Evans is a pipe dream. Get over it! Just because he's from Regina, doesn't mean he's coming here. I would love to have him, as we need a Canadian DT of his calibre but don't assume just because he came from here that he's coming back. Everyone assumed the same things last time he was a potential FA and he chose to re-sign in Ottawa. I get the sense he likes it there.
Potential Target: Arnaud Gascon-Nadon. Not as flashy as Evans but with 9 sacks in the last 2 seasons Gascon-Nadon could provide great value for a Canadian D-lineman. Not sure how he'd fit in our scheme but he's worth looking into.
Pipe Dream: Honestly, Montreal is in such bad shape that even their potential free agents suck. I looked through that list and found very few I'd even consider. Philip Blake is the only name that stood out as he is a starting Canadian OL. So him I guess.
Potential Target: Hopefully no one. Seriously. Half of their FAs used to play for us and the other half hopefully never will. Back away, not today.