CFL Free Agent Frenzy (editor’s note: it is unlikely to be an actual frenzy) opens next Tuesday. Now that we have a GM and Coach in place we can turn our attention back to the players. We have a bunch of current Riders eligible to become free agents next week. Compared to other teams we have been almost deathly silent when it comes to player re-signings.
I was actually starting to get concerned about the silence until the Mike Edem announcement came down. He is a big time re-signing. His name isn’t talked about much but he is a versatile player and an impact Canadian starter. Glad he’s sticking around. Other than him, all we have re-signed is Zach Evans and Purifoy. Both are good signings but it would be nice to see a few more.
Today let’s take a look at our remaining free agents and who among them is worth keeping. We’ll also look at some under the radar free agents from other teams that may be of interest.
DL Willie Jefferson – Hands down the #1 name on our priority list (and likely a few other teams to). His tone has changed of late. Originally it was “I’m not trying out for an NFL team, they know want I can do and can find me if interest” and “if I’m back in the CFL it’ll be in Saskatchewan”. Now he’s actively looking into NFL options and less comital on us as a landing place. Some of that may be just him/his agent doing what they need to maximize his value and not take a “hometown discount” but with Jones gone, there’s no guarantee he comes back. Thing is we NEED him back. Back up the money truck and get this done.
OL Josiah St John – We invested 3 years developing him and for the first 2 it looked like we’d wasted a 1st overall pick. But when called on last year, I thought he stepped in just fine. He’s young as far as OL go so I would like to see him retained as you can never have too much depth here. He says he wants to stay.
DL Tobi Antigha – The rare safety/d-end role he plays is probably not as coveted now that Jones is gone. But even as a pure D-end I liked the guy. Assuming Jason Shivers ends up as D-Coordinator I can see Antigha back. Fingers crossed.
WR Namaan Roosevelt – Had Williams-Lambert not got poached by the NFL and had Jones still been the GM I would have bet against Roosevelt coming back. Age and durability are starting to become a concern. I think we need a strong veteran presence amongst all the young guys (Evans, Moore, Cannon) and on a personal level I would love to have him back. But there are a number of top end receivers hitting the market so no guarantee he’s back.
QB Zach Collaros – I like Collaros but you simply can’t count on him as a starter at this point based on his injury history. If he’s willing to sign and incentive laden deal for backup money I’d be interested. There’s not enough good QBs to go around this season so once the Reilly’s and Harris’ of the world get signed those left empty handed may have to look his way.
QB Brandon Bridge – Good riddance. He’s heading into his 5th year and has shown zero upside. We damn well better not be interested and at this point, I’m not even sure who else would be.
WR Rob Bagg – He pretty much said last year that the team didn’t want him back but that was Chris Jones. With O’Day calling the shots there is a chance. We need some veteran presence amongst our WRs and quite frankly we have yet to find a younger Canadian that is better than him (not a glowing endorsement of our recruiting in this area). Unlikely but possible he returns.
WR Devon Bailey – Tall guy that can win a circus jump ball… beyond that hasn’t shown much else as a receiver. At this point in his career we’ve likely seen his ceiling so I’d be ok giving guys like Picton a chance or drafting someone with more potential.
WR Caleb Holley – Went from rising star 2 years ago to being passed by four rookie receivers last season. Not a great career trajectory heading into free agency. I don’t expect him back.
RB Cameron Marshall – I love Cameron Marshall. He’s not a homerun hitter but he’s a far more explosive player than Tre Mason who is more a pound it for tough yards guy. As long as he’s healthy I want him in camp.
DL Mic’Hael Brooks – was a huge boost to our interior DL and by in large avoided the dirty plays that he was famous for in BC. Not sure where he is at recovery-wise but I’d take him back.
DL Eddie Steele – Need depth for Evans and Steele is a great guy as part of the DL rotation. Don’t have much else for Cdn depth at DL so unless there is a plan to draft one or find one in free agency, he’s important to retain.
DL Makana Henry – Very unheralded but valuable Canadian. One of those role players any good team needs. He likely comes cheap so I see him being retained.
LB Sam Hurl – Wasn’t awful last year… which is as close to compliment as you will get out of me for Hurl. If he’s willing to accept back-up money to be depth behind Judge then from a depth perspective he’d be alright to keep.
DB Marc-O Brouilette – I assumed he would re-retire last year, he didn’t. Assumed he would re-retire this year and thus far has not (update: he may actually be retiring now). Depth behind Edem is next to non-existent so I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss his value but I honestly don’t see him as an impact player anymore. Could likely go younger and cheaper… not to mention Brouilette’s injuries starting to add up.
LB Kevin Francis – He’s a young Canadian who we have been developing for a while. Likely no more than a back-up/special teamer… but you need those guys. If he stays great. If he goes, no big loss.
WR Brian Jones – Honestly showed the most of any of our Canadian WRs (which is like saying he was the best… (the bar is not set high). I’m indifferent on him returning but I would take him over say Devon Bailey.
DL Cory Johnson – In an ideal world we retain one of him or Brooks.
DB Jovon Johnson – Like most people I assumed old man Jovon was done a couple years ago, yet he still seems to have value. I see him as a guy you call if you have an injury in camp or mid-season but we should have a strong enough group in the secondary to not need him at this point.
Under The Radar Free Agents From Other Teams
So obviously guys like Mike Reilly, Micah Johnson, Bryan Burnham and Delvin Breaux will be free agent targets of many teams so I’m not going to even bother talking about them. Here are a few less heralded names that I would be interested in if I was shopping for free agent finds.
Calgary – Bit of a stretch to call him under the radar but DB Tunde Adeleke is an up and coming guy to watch. Canadian player who can impact in both the return game and on defense. Can’t see the Stamps letting him go especially with Singleton gone but if he hits the open market I’d put in a call.
Edmonton – Less heralded than guys like Walker or Ellingson but Kenny Stafford has twice topped 700 yards (including this past season) and had 9 TDs in 2015… all while being the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th receiving option. Also keep an eye on Kevin Glenn… seriously! There is a lack of top end QBs and plenty of teams in the market. The quintessential insurance policy still has value in 2019.
BC – Not a ton of Canadian’s out there who can be impact players on defense but Bo Lokombo is one of them. Great on special teams and while he wasn’t lights out last season when he hard a starting role, he showed enough to garner interest come free agency.
Winnipeg – We have a hole at LB with Eguavoen gone, Jovan Santo-Knox is potentially available and would certainly help fill that void. Also if you are looking to build Canadian depth you could do worse than Trent Corney.
Montreal – Nobody… seriously their free agency list is garbage. Other than Cunningham and Heath the only other name that interests me is OL Phillip Gagnon
Hamilton – In 2016 Terrence Tolliver put up 1000 yards and 9 TDs in 13 games. Injuries have held him back since but I think there is still big upside for the 6’5 receiver for anyone willing to take a chance.
Toronto – Going off the board with this name but Victor Butler. Dude had 10 sacks in 12 games in 2017. He did not play in 2018 due to a contract dispute with the Argos. He’s a free agent now and would likely want good $ to return to the CFL but given his potential he is worth looking into. I would also add Jeff Knox to the list. We need an LB, he’s very familiar with Saskatchewan.
Ottawa – Most of Ottawa free agents are big name guys Harris, Ellingson, Rogers, Ackie. Outside of that group a name worth watching is Jonathan Rose. While I don’t approve of his ref punching policy. I do approve of his 7 INTs over the past 2 seasons.