It’s the start of March and there isn’t a hell of a lot going on in the CFL. That means in order to fill the space of my weekly Monday post I have to invent something to talk about. And if history has been any indication all of the effort I put into this will be for naught when 30 minutes after I post it, something big happens with the Riders. So I guess you are welcome in advance for curing a slow news week.
I got mildly excited when they announced that Grey Cup details were being unveiled. But it turns out that they unveiled next to no Grey Cup details other than that everything will be held at Evraz Place... well no shit Sherlock. Where else would it be? So since there are no Grey Cup details to talk about, had to come up with something else.
What I wanted to do today is talk about the new roster rules related to American veterans, how that might impact the Riders, and how they may attempt to exploit the rule. Look, if you aren’t cheating you aren’t trying. The key is to cheat just enough to stay below the radar… when you become too flagrant in your cheating you end up like the Pre-practice squad or the Houston Astros.
Quick recap on the rule changes. The number of National starters has gone up from 7 to 10 but a max of 3 of those can be American based on the expanded definition of a “National”. If an American has played with the same CFL team for 3 consecutive years or any CFL team for 4 years they can count as a “National” starter.
For the Riders, the following veterans qualify under the new definition
WRs – Kyran Moore, Shaq Evans, Kenny Stafford and Jordan Williams-Lambert
RB – William Powell
OL – Terran Vaughn, Takoby Cofield
DL – Chaleston Hughes, AC Leonard
LB – Solomon Elimimian, Otha Foster
DB – Nick Marshall, Ed Gainey, Louchiez Purifoy
There are 2 more guys I’ll mention but I’m not sure of their status. One is Chad Geter. Technically it will be his third consecutive year with the team but I’m not sure if the fact that he started 2019 with the Als affects that. The other is QB Bryan Bennett. Given that there are only 2 designed QB spots now, teams may look at having emergency QBs play other positions. Since Bennett plays on special teams he could be a “LB” and in that case would count under the definition.
For the Riders, this means likely 0 difference in terms of the starters. We will still start 7 Canadians (at this point 1 would guess: 3 Cdn OL, 1 Cdn WR, Judge, Edem and Cdn DL). As for the three new “National” starters, it could be anyone of the guys mentioned above but since your “National” starters can only be replaced by Canadians or veteran Americans you would want it to be a position that you are deep at Canadians and vets. So my guess is 2 of those spots go to WR (possibly all 3). Shaq and Moore (and at least one of Stafford or Williams-Lambert) will be starting and we have multiple Canadian/veteran options to replace them. Another option is offensive tackle. Both Vaughn and Cofield (who I assume our tackles will be) are vets and the 6th OL who steps in for injuries is always Canadian. You could also do D-line. Leonard and Hughes are vets and we have lots of rotational Cdns (and possibly Geter). If we go any of these route the impact of the changes will be minimal as its what we’d be doing anyway. If I was to guess, we will use our new starting spots on O as we have the most flexibility there. On defense all our vets are already starters so we’d have not vet back-ups to replace them. Seems more problematic than beneficial.
But while setting your starting 10 “Nationals” is pretty straightforward, the potential for real gamesmanship comes mid-game. In the event of injury or “injury” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) any National starter (even the Canadian ones) can be replaced by a veteran American.
So we could start a 5 receiver set of Moore, Evans, Williams-Lambert, McRoberts and McInnis and then have McInnis get a “cramp” on play one and replace him with Stafford. That all American set would count as much as many as 4 National starters.
Or you could “start” a Canadian at offensive tackle and a new American (go Lanard Bonner!) at guard with Cofield as your 6th OL. Then on play 2 your Cdn gets hurt and you run a 3 American OL without impacting the ratio.
Of for a defensive example. You start a line of Dabire/Shippy/Faulk/Hughes. Dabire gets hurt and Leonard steps in a you run an all American front within the ratio.
Of course real injuries would hamper the gamesmanship but these are all very real possibilities. So it will be interesting to see how teams approach the changes. As confusing as this will get I do like that they have done something to help elevate the status of veteran Americans. My one regret is that Chris Jones is not around for this. If there was anyone who would find a way to exploit this to the point where the league needs to fine him, its Jones.