Riders news has been fairly sporadic of late... other than the re-signing of Steele (giving much needed depth behind Evans) and the Riders finding new and creative ways to keep salary cap expenditures low by only employing being likely to be suspended (apparently). So I thought I would take this opportunity to look at other teams are stacking up coming into 2018.
I'll start with the East Division. It's routinely weaker and referred to as the Least Division , though it has produced the last 2 Grey Cup Champions so maybe they are onto something.
My methodology is simple: I use where they ended last season as a starting point, factor in key additions and deletions and then make a sweeping generalization about how I think they will do next season. What I lack in rigour and sound reasoning, I make up for in confidence in my overtly biased analysis.
Adds: QB James Franklin, DB TJ Heath, LB Taylor Reed, DB Ronnie Yell
Loses: OC Marcus Brady, DC Corey Chamblin, WR DeVier Posey, DB Mitchell White
From a player perspective the defending champs have managed to maintain most of the group from last season with minimal loses. Their offense should be better with a full season of Wilder and Franklin ready to step up when old man Ray goes down (previously no Ray meant no win). While they still have the players, the question on D is how they manage with the departure of Chamblin and a new defensive system. I see them as the top team in the East coming into the season. They should even hit double digit wins.
Adds: K Lirim Hajrulahu, Orlando Steinhauer
Loses: QB Zach Collaros
The Ti-Cats firmly believe that the team they were at the end of last season was their true form and not the utter garbage they were to start the year. That's why they have essentially changed nothing about their roster, choosing continuity instead. Getting Steinhauer back is huge. I don't care if he's not the D Coordinator in name, he will have a huge influence on the D and they should improve as a result. Offensively, a healthy Terrence Tolliver gives Masoli 3 big time weapons. I don't suddenly expect them to be a super power but I think you can expect them to contend for second in the weaker East division.
Adds: Noel Thorpe, DB Josh Johnson, DB Louchiez Purifoy, LB Kyries Hebert
Loses: DL Zach Evans, LB Taylor Reed
Ottawa has all the offensive firepower one could need: Ellingson, Sinopoli, Spencer, Shaw, Powell. Defense is where I have my concerns. Obviously swapping Noel Thorpe for the guy who couldn't figure out he needed to pressure Kevin Glenn is a huge boost but I don't think they have the talent they need. Their D line just lost is best player in Evans. They seem to think that Newsome and Leonard will be an awesome pass rushing duo... but just ask the 2016 Riders have that will work out. They currently have one of the weaker D-lines in the CFL and they are relying on a 37 year old to anchor as less than stellar LB group. While their offense will keep them competitive, I see them getting edged out by Hamilton and finishing third (a dangerous spot given the usual strength of the West).
Adds: DB Tommie Campbell, DB Mitchell White, DL Jamaal Westerman, WR Chris Williams
Loses: They quite frankly had no one that anyone else wanted.
On paper the Als have absolutely improved their roster (not hard given how awful they were last season). Campbell and White are arguably the top CB pair in the CFL. Westerman (and possibly Muamba) add quality Canadian content. They should actually be able to play somewhat decent defense (the interior of the DL remains a question mark though). Offensively they have the weapons in Jackson, Williams and Cunningham. But here's their biggest issue... their whole season rests on the success of QB Josh Freeman. Now Freeman isn't quite as big a pipe dream as Vince Young was but he's also not anything close to a safe bet. They also have done very little to shore up the O-line in front of him. So Josh Freeman and his zero CFL experience behind a shaky OL with only Drew Willy to save them when he inevitably fails... Kavis might as well start planning who he will take 1st overall in the 2019 CFL draft (assuming they haven't wizened up and fired him by them).