Happy New Year. Let’s get to it.
Let’s start with the NFL watch. Some players (Begelton, Addison, Rose, Sayles, Kongbo, Stanback) have started signing NFL deals. So far no Riders have signed, but its just a matter of time. Derrick Moncrief has already worked for 8 NFL teams… in other words: He Gone. Generally, if you get 3 or more tryouts then odds are very good you are signing somewhere. One tryout could lead to a signing (as it did last year for Jake Ceresna and Mercy Maston) but remember that Jonathan Jennings garnered a tryout last year and Brandon Bridge got one in 2018… so 1 tryout could just mean that someone owed someone else a token favour. Moncrief will sign (within an hour of me posting this if history is any indication) and I like his odds of sticking. Big loss but he’s deserving of the opportunity.
Three other Riders have had NFL interest so far: Cam Judge (Chargers), Nick Marshall (Bengals) and Shaq Evans (Giants). With only one tryout each so far, it’s tough to say whether it will materialize into an offer. I give Judge the strongest odds. He’s younger than the other 2 and unlike them has not been through the NFL ringer already.
Now that the calendar has rolled over I expect a few re-signings will trickle out. Likely a few were hammered out before Christmas but couldn’t be finalized/announced so that the money all counted in the 2020 salary cap year. Up until now, O’Day has done a good job locking down the depth/role players (LaFrance, Geter, Schram, Bouka, Henry) with a heavy emphasis on Canadians. But with the exception of Purifoy and Clark we haven’t done anything with starters. That will need to change. Obviously some things hinge on NFL interest and some guys will want to wait until free agency to check their true market value but even locking up a couple starters would make me feel better. We currently have no starting linebackers and 1 (possibly 2 depending on the status of Hughes, more on that in a minute) starting d-lineman. 1 ish of your front 7 settled is not a great spot to be in. Not panic time yet as there is still plenty of time but a signing or two would certainly help allay some unease.
Last thing I’ll touch on today is Charleston Hughes. His status is somewhat murky. He did not appear on the list of pending free agents but no one (Hughes included) has definitively said he is under contract. So what’s the deal? Let me preface this next part with the following… I have zero insider info on this, this is purely my own speculation and reasoning. The only thing I’ve ever been considered a “source” for is in the context of who emitted that odour. Anywho, we know (based on CFL transactions) that the Riders quietly reworked Hughes’ deal back in May. My guess is that that contract included a team option for 2020. That would explain why he’s not on the FA list and why he can’t definitively say he’s under contract. So why then won’t the team just say so? Well my guess is that they did indeed pick up the option for 2020 but are currently negotiating a further amended salary. If 36 years old and coming off surgery don’t scream “asked for a pay cut” I don’t know what does. My guess is that it will all get sorted out and Hughes will be back in 2020 looking for his sixth sack title (5th in a row). That part is fine with me but I would like to see this year’s recruiting class include a potential impact pass rusher. It’s been a while since we found/developed one and that has led to a need to bye them on the free agent market.
Not too concerned by lack of signings. Keep in mind everyone but Hamilton & Mtl has holes in the coaching staffs to be filled. Maas said when he signed he wanted freedom to pick his own staff on offence - count on Mike Gibson, his Asst HC/OL buddy in Edmonton coming over now that coaching contracts expired Jan 1. Do you want to start signing players before you get input from everybody? I don't expect a lot of changes on the Riders but the staff hasn't been finalized yet. As far as the players go, we were one of, if not THE oldest team in the league last year. We have to get younger. The starters on OL are OLD. Bladek has been unable to unseat anyone. Keep Micah at a lower salary but he's 32, Henry is 33, Evans turning 30 & hasn't been the guy he was in Ottawa. We got nothing much in sacks down the middle. What happened? Our RB's are getting up there. Powell is turning 32 (Remember Messam literally fell off the map from 1 year to the next around that time), Thigpen - way too old. We got a lot of use out of older players last year but we're playing with fire if we think this can continue. We can't rely on the majority of these guys all having good years. 14 on the current roster will be 32 or older starting the season, 10 of them key starters. I can see why Dunk has come out already & said he thinks the Riders likely finish behind Calgary & Edmonton, maybe Winnipeg, & he's a Rider guy. Another cfl scribe has also said the biggest concern in this, a Grey Cup year, is too many old players on the team. I'd like to see a whole lot more announcements post Feb 11 & less signings prior of grizzled veterans, even at reduced rates.
True you probably want coaches' input but with both Coordinators in place they should have a pretty good idea of who they want to keep. I'm with you in that I don't expect a ton of changes.
You are bang on with the need for some youth. A couple years in a row now we've had to rely on a lot of 30+ guys delivering. So far its worked out but eventually you go to the well one too many times.
Evans is a guy seriously wonder about. Even when healthy it seems his play has been trending in the wrong direction. He's still still young enough that a rebound is possible but when you need to trim salary he's a guy that I'm guessing at least gets looked at.
Where we really need youth is OL. Vaughn/Cofield at tackle was a good start and Shepley is ready but Labatte, Blake, Clark and Coleman are old. Be nice to get at least one more younger starter in there in addition to Shepley.
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