The negotiation period, aka legal tampering, has started. That of course means that good old fashioned illegal tampering has been going fast and furious for months. Free agency opens on Feb 8. So let’s take a look at what is left in terms of Rider potential free agents and where O’Day might be looking.
The Riders still have a pretty extensive list of free agents but for me there’s a “Big 3” that are priorities and then there’s the rest that are less of a big deal. Originally it was a Big 4 as Brett Lauther was on the list but we locked him up which is huge. If you want a cautionary tale on assuming kickers are easily replaceable look at BC, Winnipeg and Hamilton last year.
My big 3 are as follows:
Louchiez Purifoy – I still don’t think he gets enough credit for how good he is. I’ll add that he is still just 29 years old. Versatile, impact defender. Keeping him would allow us to roll with a secondary of Marshall, Purifoy, Edem, Webb and J Clark. That would be pretty darn good.
Duke Williams – This is the one everyone is talking about. Duke has said he is making his decision this week (that could mean signing here, that could mean deciding to wait until Feb 8 to officially sign with another suitor). He’s an impact player, plain and simple. At no point in 2021 did we field a healthy Duke, Shaq and Moore together, that would be some firepower. I will say this though. With Evans and Moore under contract I could see O’Day getting outbid on Duke and waiting to find a more economical option in free agency. There is a ton of "name" receivers hitting the market and there's not enough money for them all to get huge contracts (Ellingson, Walker, Bailey, Lawler, Wieneke, Cunningham, Posey, Rogers, Collins) Not saying I like that but it’s a possibility.
Michah Johnson – Dude is still a beast in the middle of the DL and makes everyone around him better. Issue will be money. We didn’t want to pay him headed into 2020 so he signed with BC (remember that?). They mysteriously dumped him in favour of an all rookie D-line (how’d that work out?) and he came back here on a very reasonable contract for 2021. He likely deserves a bump in pay. Do we keep him? Or does BC try and swoop him again?
If I started with any other position other than OT you’d ridicule me right? Obvious to everyone that its our #1 need. Rykar Matthews tops the list of people we should be calling. Also in there would be Joel Figueroa and Justin Renfrow. Based on last season they could announce they are bringing Gene Makowsky out of retirement and I’d consider that an improvement.
Linebackers is another area of need. Other than Teitz we don’t have anything set. We need a middle linebacker where there are in house options like Larry Dean and Deon Lacey. Or free agent options like Darnell Sankey, Micah Awe, Justin Tuggle and Jovon Santo-Knox. Jameer Thurman would be a hell of an acquisition but I don’t see him leaving Calgary. We also need a cover LB and there are a number of good options there including our old friend Derrick Moncrief, Anthony Cioffi and Patrick Levels.
Should we not retain Micah, we will need help at DT. Some interesting options there are Sheldon Richardson (a very talented dude who gets overshadowed by Jefferson and Jeffcoat in Winnipeg), Dylan Wynn, David Menard and a more value option like Drake Nevis.
Not a pressing need but there will be some talented DBs hitting the market like DeShaun Amos, Jonathan Mincy, Jamar Wall, Frankie Williams and Winston Rose. Would not be opposed to adding one of them at the right price.
I also have a list of people I hope we don’t look at. It’s Andrew Harris and Brandon Banks.
For Harris is goes far beyond the general Rider hatred of the guy. Look, we’ve managed to stomach the likes of Dwight Anderson and Diamon Ferri before, so I’m sure we’d survive after some initial griping if that was it. But Harris is on the downslope of a very impressive career. If he wasn’t, Winnipeg would have re-signed him by now. He’ll be 35 come the season and despite a full year off, only managed to be healthy enough to play in 7 games last season. If we really want an old RB we should just keep Powell. He's at least durable... and infinitely more likeable.
Banks is a similar story. He can still be an impact player in spurts but at 34 he’s clearly slowing down and his durability is in question. Not worth the money he’ll be looking for. Also, with Kyran Moore in tow, I don’t think another small quick receiver adds much to our offense. What we need is a possession receiver who can win the deep ball.