Last week’s acquisition of Zach Collaros addressed the biggest area of need on the Riders’ roster headed in to 2018. But unfortunately for us the rest of the League won’t just roll over and let us ascend to the top (well, I mean Montreal might as this point, but the others won’t). While we are in a great starting point stability-wise, we still have some holes in our roster than we are going to need to address to build a strong enough supporting cast around Collaros to contend for top spot in the West.
There are still plenty of opportunities to address those areas of need: re-sign pending free agents, sign other teams’ free agents, the draft, free agent camps in the States. More trades are another possibility as well. Regardless of the method, here are the areas of need on the Rider roster (at least as of me writing this… the Riders have a habit of announcing roster moves immediately after I make off-season posts that render most of what I’ve just typed irrelevant.)
#1 – Defensive Line
Two issues here: quantity and quality. Quantity wise, even if you include Willie Jefferson (who Jones has essentially said will be back) we only have 5 D-linemen on the roster. I imagine we re-sign at least a couple of Steele, Henry, Mrabure and Leonard but still we need more linemen. But from a quality perspective we really need to give Jefferson a strong supporting cast. Guy is flat out one of the best D-ends in the League and that’s in spite of doing most of it on his own. Can you imagine how deadly he could be with a stronger line taking some of the attention off him? I’m a big James supporter but we should still be looking for DTs (both Canadian and imports) to strengthen the middle. There will be some big names potentially hitting free agency (Laurent, Laing Evans) and I fully expect us to draft a Canadian DL with one of our top picks. We also could use some upgrading a the other DE spot. I really like what Antigha showed in his rookie year but one more impact DE to rotate with him and Willie would be awesome.
#2 – Canadians
I know its early but at this point I honestly can’t tell you where our 6th and 7th starting Canadians will come from. Safety and MLB for sure and a min of 3 on offense (2 OL, 1 WR). Beyond that?? I’m assuming we maintain a starting Canadian DT (though we currently have 0 of them signed). That leaves either a 3rd Cdn OL or a 2nd Cdn Receiver as the 7th spot. I think we could easily play 3 interior Cdn OL but Bruce Campbell made a pretty good case to be brought back at left tackle. Assuming we re-sign one of Demski or Bailey we aren’t in a bad spot for starting 2 WRs but regardless more depth is needed there. Also the surprise departure of Bouka leaves a whole in terms of Cdn depth in the secondary.
#3 Impact Receiver
Could we get through a season with a Roosevelt/Grant/Owens/Holley combo? You bet. But if we really want our new start QB to light it up we should give him one more offensive weapon. Ideally we bring back Duron to fill that need but if for some reason we don’t we will need another stud to complement Roosevelt (please don’t read that as “another stud to compliment Roosevelt”).
As of right now Dan Clark remains unsigned… and regardless of whether we re-sign him (I assume we will) we should be looking for a new centre. Look I know hating on Dan Clark makes me un-patriotic around these parts but I call it like I see it. I don’t think he’s a bad person, just a bad starting lineman. Maybe Bladek can win the job? Either way we currently have a void a centre and even if we re-sign Clark he will still periodically leave a void at Centre.
I’m still working under the assumption that Kacy Rodgers signs in the NFL (though no deal has been announced yet). You will also know that the next logical man up (Chris Lyles) I hate as much, if not more, than Dan Clark. The potential free agent market for DBs could be deepest in as long as I can remember. Calgary’s entire secondary, most of BC’s, a lot of Winnipeg’s could all potentially hit the free agent market. Basically a who’s who of top end DBs (sure glad we have our halfbacks locked up long-term). Now NFL signings and CFL re-signings will thin the market a bit prior to February. But if we were inclined to address this need via Free agency there are a ton of good options. Could also just find a new one. We found Rodgers, Butler and Cox (even though that didn’t work out).
As usual, a great & thorough analysis. I would only add we need to get the RB situation clarified. Never was, still not, sold on LaFrance. Have a bunch of backs who, together, contributed to the worst rushing attack in the CFL. Somebody has to step up. On the other points....
1. Fully agree. Again, desperately need a stud DT. Evans is the most likely target & sign Steele.
2. Everyone says we have Cdn depth. I don't see it. LaFrance is an expensive bust. So much for making that a ratio changer. We still need to play 3 imports @ OL. Bladek hopefully is ready but he would push out Dyakowski who, mimicking Abou-Mechrek's comments, was a turnstyle the 2nd half. At WR Bagg isn't getting any younger, Demski needs to be re-signed & finally realize the potential we glimpsed at the start of 2017. Bailey has size but never panned out in Edm partly because he's one dimensional - he couldn't play special teams for Jones there so has to make it as a receiver. Time's running out. At best a ???? From JSJ's draft class, 3/4 of the rookie of the year candidates in the East came from the OL. Argos' McEwen was East award winner last year. What we don't have is guys who have stepped in & started from the drafts.
3. I hope we don't have to go with those 4. Roosevelt is o/s & needs to play 18 games. Holley is also very good. Grant had a great season but finished like the old Grant the Stamps & TiCats could live without - too many easy drops. Owens is too old, sorry. These days of 5 receiver sets you need 3 good receivers. Carter likes Regina so you need to sign him. Like you say, the other teams aren't sitting still. The CAP is the great equalizer & it's the depth that takes good teams to the top. Look at Edmonton. Gotta admire the coaching job there, like Maas or not. When you're down to 4th line players at LB, for instance, & win 1 less game than Calgary, that's depth.Even without Walker & Zylstra, they have Bowman, Williams, Mitchell, Stafford & likely Hazelton. The 2 young guys both were healthy scratches multiple times but extrapolated to 1,000 yard seasons.
4. I'm with you on Clark but think he needs to be signed. There are a lot of National OL currently on FA list though
5. Not a big Rodgers fan. An atea of concern but good chance to get some help here via FA route.
The biggest fish is Collaros. Fans should be very hopeful about next season. I see the West shaping up as a killer. A whole lot hinges on FA for all tne teams. My feel is, right now, Stamps & Bombers take a step back, BC & Riders a step forward. Esks are a dark horse for me. Maas had the CFL's best offence the past 3 years, starting with his OC stint in Ottawa. Last year his offence absoluted dominated the stats. I don't see that changing. If they get healthy & add some pieces on defence they may be the team to beat. But the East may not be the pushovers they were in the regular season. Ham & Argos will be better, Ott worse & Als will be the Als.
Good work. I always look forward to Monday mornings.
Have you heard anything about the supposed signing of Jefferson some time ago? I remember when he came back to the CFL he tweeted his return in an Eskimo jersey & there was confirmation that was where he was going. Next thing you know he's a Rider. Now nothing more on a signing for weeks & The Score has him going to the Bombers. Another reversal for Jefferson? Or much ado about nothing??
Anon 1 - The RB situation I see as an open competition between Marshall/Thigpen/Richardson with only 2 being kept around. Not really a bad option in there. The issue is more usage than production. If our guys got the carries of the teams that actually make the run a priority we could easily be among the top rushing attacks. As for the draft, the next big step in terms of sustainable success is our draft picks starting to pan out. As you say recent history is not great. Bladek looks good. Hopefully you can add Judge and St John in there but honestly who knows about either at this point.
Anon 2 - Nothing official but Jones has repeatedly stated that he expects to get things finalized with Willie. My guess is that there is a deal typed up and agreed to but Jefferson is exploring NFL options first (and I have heard of no workouts for him). I'm not worried just yet.
Based on the last 2 years i trust our scouting to find defensive backs. I've come around on Jones's D as he showed last year when he gets his personal and everyone is on the same page it works. That being said the final piece is a big disruptive force in the middle, whether that is Nick James or a Nick James type.
Because Campbell initially retired vs coming here, I have suspicions on if he returned to play out his contract and can leave now. He has to be better than last year but Dennis could move back to LT if that happens and go 3 Cdns inside again. I am hoping Bladek wins a starting job and I too have not given up on St. John
Yeah I'm less worried about the defense. We have a really strong core and recruiting is showing good results: Moncrief, Butler, Rogers, Antigha, James, Eguavoen etc...
We could easily bump Dennis back out to tackle and roll with 3 interior Cdn. and ratio-wise that would be a huge plus. As much as it defies all common logic the Labbate at Center, Dennis at guard is a tough option to completely discount.
The OL setup is very much like Bombers who have Goosen at Ctr, Bond beside him & 2 import tackles. They had a very good OL this past year. The difference is their OL has only one guy, Bryant @ 31, over 30. We have to start getting younger guys worked in or in a couple of years the entire OL gets old quick. We need at least one new young starter this year who can play & another one or 2 over the next 2 years.
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