Monday, December 21, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Catching Up

In the midst of a winter break where we can’t go anywhere or do anything, it may seem like CFL football is a long way away. And it probably is. While I’m pretty confident there will be a season, I would be willing to put money on it not starting in June. But, the fact that there is actually tangible football news to discuss is really refreshing. There have been a number of notable Rider goings on… so let’s talk about them. Unless you’d prefer I give you Mandalorian spoilers… it turns out baby Yoda is the long lost third Skywalker sibling. Things got weird between Yoda and Queen Amidala.

 Anyway, back to football.

Cody Fajardo – He restructured his contract. This is going to be a fairly standard process for any starting QB. Reilly and Adams have already worked through it. Teams need to cut salary costs if they are going to make it through 2021 and the best place to start is the biggest contract on your payroll. In a normal year you might be worried that asking your most important player for a pay cut would be a risky undertaking but everyone understands where the league is at financially and everyone is in the same boat so there is no greener pastures to explore.

Zach Evans – Many were surprised by his release. I was not. I was among his greatest critics last season. He managed to be completely invisible while playing next to Micah Johnson and Charleston Hughes. And I’m not even talking just on the stat sheet (because sacks don’t tell the full story on a DT). But he just didn’t pass the eye test and rarely had an impact on plays. Add in a roster bonus that was coming due and the fact that he’s now the wrong side of 30 and unless he was willing to take a sizeable paycut, his days were numbered. Look, I like Zach Evans, he was good in 2018 and his career speaks for itself. It’s just too bad that Brendan Taman was too stupid to realize he was good and let him go in the dispersal draft and give his 4 best years to Ottawa. Anyway, as much as losing a starting Canadian creates a hole on your roster, I’m not too worried about this. I’m pretty high on Charbel Dabire and am pretty confident that at a minimum he can also be invisible along our D-line, thus seamlessly replacing Evans.

William Powell – I’m a bit conflicted on this. On one hand, I like Powell and think he is a talented back. He did score 14 TDs last season. But… he’s going to be 33. That’s like 70 in running back years. I think he still has enough to vie for the starting role but we had better find a back-up RB who is still in his 20s. We can’t have another year where we back him up with someone another old man like Thigpen.

Mike Edem – Starting Canadian defender. Important piece to keep. Plus he’s pretty good on top of that and seems to fit well in the Shivers D.

Braden Schram – This won’t register on the radar of many as Schram is just a back-up OL. But I am glad we are bringing him back. For one, you can never have enough Canadian OL depth. But also, I think Schram has the potential to be a starter. With Shepley possibly sticking in the NFL we have a hole to fill and I think Schram will be in the mix.

Jorgen Hus – The best compliment you can pay a long snapper is that you don’t really notice them. Hus is extremely reliable to the point where you just assume the snap will be fine.

Lots left to go, but even just being able to talk about Rider football makes me feel like drinking some rye and calling up Bradbury just to yell at him.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Something Is Happening!

After endless months of absolutely nothing but “we hope” and “we are trying our best” (side note the late Sean Connery said it best in The Rock when he said “Losers whine about their best. Winners go home and *#$% the prom queen). Not even through the first line without a long tangent... off to a good start today. Anywho, fresh off announcing a schedule, the CFL announced plans for free agency. For a nation starved for 3 down ball, its been a pretty good month.

Free agency will open in February like normal but the roster freeze has been lifted and teams can start re-signing their pending FAs as of today. Spoiler alert 90% of the CFL is a pending FA. It honestly would have been easier to release a list of the dozen players still under contract.

For the first time in many months, I took a look at the Riders’ roster to see how we look headed into 2021. Beyond Fajardo being under contract I really had no clue what to expect. I mean Fajardo is a great starting point but then again every starting QB is under contract except Masoli and possibly Reilly if they don’t pony up and pay him his money. So let’s go position by position and see what we still have on the roster heading into free agency.

Side note, I’m pretty pumped to be talking Rider football again!

QB – In addition to Fajardo we also have Harker and Hastings still with us. So we enter the season with a full QB room. Though I do expect us to try and bring back James Franklin as Hastings is completely unproven and Harker still has some developing to do. Still we seem pretty good here.

OL – This is spot that makes me the happiest. In a league where 90% of people are free agents we have 3 of 5 starters locked down including one OT. Dan Clark, Brendon Labatte and Takoby Cofield. We will need to address our CDN depth as the only other Canadian we have is Vincent Roy but we are starting in good shape here. 

RB/FB – For some reason we have a ton of RBs under contract (6 in total). Kienan LaFrance is the only one to actually play a down in the CFL but even if we bring back Powell I like have some serious competition. Powell will be 33 come the 2021 season so I would actually be in favour of proactively looking for a younger alternative. Also, if you can’t recruit RBs in the CFL you are a terrible GM. I do like that Albert Awachie remains under contract. He’s an underappreciated player. Blocks really well and can catch when called upon.

WR – The good news… we have our Canadian depth locked down in Justin McInnis, Brayden Lenius and Mitch Picton. The bad news… we don’t really have any American receivers. The only guy with any CFL experience is Paul McRoberts. He got a lot of hype in training camp back in 2019 and I like his potential but if training camp hype was reliable, guys like Joe Sykes and Terrence Nunn would be future Hall of Famers.

DL – Decent shape as AC Leonard, Chad Geter, Zach Evans and Mak Henry are under contract. Lots of hole to fill though as we need another DE (my guess is Hughes comes back) and at least one really good DT. Unless Zach Evans used the year off to suddenly become less mediocre we need more on the inside.

LB – We have none. End analysis. I mean technically we have Jacob Janke and Seun Idowu but realistically we have none.

DB – Slightly better than LB… but only slightly. Purifoy is here, which is a very important piece to have locked down in the secondary. We also have Bouka but he’s really a depth rotational contributor… but his Canadian passport and the fact that he can legitimately fill a roster spot gives him value.

Special Team – We literally have none. Like zero, zilch, not even some guy you’ve never heard of. Now, odds are good that we can get Lauther, Hus and sigh… Ryan back but as of now it’s a big old blank space.

I imagine the roster will start filling up again now that teams can sign again. Unlike normal years there’s not going to be as much incentive to wait until free agency. No team has money so if you think there’s big money to be had on the FA market then I have some ocean front property in Estevan to sell you.