Free agency opened Tuesday and Jeremy O’Day was a busy man. Seven players were added to the mix. Some of them were expected. Some of them came as a surprise. Let’s take a look at how we made out.
We’ll start with “the big 3”. Three big name players that are important adds: Larry Dean and the Johnson brothers (Micah and Evan). Evan Johnson (henceforth known as the white Johnson) was an expected move. We had a hole to fill at guard with Shepley leaving. Johnson is a great replacement. Young, talented, local product, has some experience starting at tackle which adds great depth/flexibility to our line. You can never go wrong prioritizing a strong line.
Dean is an important add given that we had exactly zero starting LBs on the roster. Elimimian’s surprise retirement certainly made the MLB market a lot smaller and signing Dean all the more important. Dean will ensure we continue to have a solid playmaker to anchor the middle of our D.
Micah was the surprise. A pleasant one, but a surprise. He will nicely fill the void left behind by (checks notes) Micah Johnson's departure. This signing makes me feel a whole lot better about our D-line. With Hughes’ departure we were lacking a game changer there. Micah will instantly make Bishop and Leonard a lot more imposing pair. According to Justin Dunk, we got him for an insanely reasonable contract. Strong play in the trenches is essential so I like that O’Day got us impact players on both sides of the line.
We also made a number of other signings that don’t have the same high profile as the Dean and the Johnsons but could still be important pieces for us in 2021.
DB Lorenzo Jerome – Played in 7 game with Calgary last year starting 2. The important detail is that those to starts were at the cover LB spot. Not saying he’s the next Moncrief but he has actual starting experience at the spot which is more than anyone else on the roster can say.
LB Justin and Jordan Herdman-Reed – Unlike the Johnson brothers, these 2 are actual brothers. They are an important piece of the Cam Judge replacement plan. Justin has played in 40 games over 3 season. He has 7 starts at MLB in 2019 making 37 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Jordan also plays MLB he has 52 games played, 13 starts in the past 2 years and 93 T, 25 STT, 3 sacks and 1 FF over that time. Obviously neither is the impact player that Judge is but we probably got both of them for less money that Judge will end up costing.
DB Godfrey Oneyka – Continuing the theme of “O’Day apparently only likes to sign people with the same last name”, Godfrey joins cousin Nakas on the roster. Godfrey was the 10th overall pick in 2018 and started 5 games for Edmonton last season (3 regular season, 2 post season) at wide side CB.
What these 4 Canadians give the Riders is a ton of ratio flexibility. Judge was a stud playmaker and we need a starting Canadian to replace him. While we didn’t get “the next Judge” we did give ourselves options. You could use Godfey and Bouka to start a Canadian at CB. That would allow one of McCray or Purifoy to bump up to LB. You could use a combo of Teitz and the Herdmans to keep the OLB spot Canadian. You could go Canadian at MLB and bump Larry Dean outside. You could do all of that within the same game depending on the situation.
Losing Judge sucks but I think O’Day did the right thing in deciding early whether we were waiting for him. You have to set aside a good chunk of cash to sign him. So there was a very real risk that we waited on him, missed out on a bunch of other FA signings and still lost him to a higher bidder leaving us with absolutely nothing. The choice between spending the money now (and getting guys like Dean, the Johnson and the Canadians for sure) is a wiser choice then saving it for a chance to sign Judge.
We filled a number of holes in free agency and aside from not having a kicker, we now have no glaring roster deficiencies. I really like our Canadian depth and we brought in some impact defenders to offset the loss of Hughes, Moncrief and Elimiman.