Like many GMs, Jeremy O’Day has been slowly chipping away at his list of pending free agents. Today we’ll take a look at what he’s done so far as well as look at other Rider news including NFL tryouts.
We know that Brayden Lenius signed with the Falcons. Happy to see him get an opportunity. He put in a lot of work to improve for 2021 and it paid off in his performance. The odds are always staked against a receiver making the NFL (not due to talent but since they don’t play special teams they need to outright win a roster spot) so we may see him again in the fall. Two other notable Rider notes in regards to the NFL. Both Jonathan Woodard and Anthony Lanier had a tryout with the NY Giants. Now one tryout likely means that odds are low they end up with a contract but certainly worth keeping an eye on. Our D-line recruiting class for 2021 was outstanding and keeping as may of those guys as possible is important.
AC Leonard – This was a big one. Leonard got paid with a contract reportedly in the $200k range but he deserves it. Since 2016 he has 36 sacks including 20 in the last 2 seasons. If you want some context on how good that is its more than Willie Jefferson (19), Ja’Gared Davis (19) and Jackson Jeffcoat (14). He has increased his sack total in each of his past 4 season. He’s an impact player. He’s also one of the few whacky Chris Jones experiments that panned out. Remember that Leonard was a TE until he showed up here in 2016.
Moore, Shaq Evans –
Everyone is eager to see Duke re-sign and I would certainly love that but let’s
not underscore the importance of keeping these 2. Moore was leading the CFL in
catches prior to his season ending injury. He was also among the leaders in
missed tackles. I’m a big Kyran Moore fan and think he can be a key part of the
offense. The big question with Shaq is do we get 2019 or 2021 Shaq? No
guarantees but I’m willing to bet 2021 Shaq was more hampered by injury than
anyone ever let on. I think he rushed back and it affected him. The thing about
both these guys is that Fajardo trusts them. Keeping continuity with offensive
guys who have a connection is important.
Terran Vaughn – He was projected to start at offensive tackle but a shoulder injury ended his year in training camp. That hugely impacted our offense in 2021. A healthy Vaughn is definitely a boost to our biggest area of weakness.
Mike Edem – Edem is a reliable Canadian playmaker but I don’t think we realized his true impact until he missed the last half of the season with a wrist injury. Defense still did good and Purifoy can certainly play any position in the secondary but it just seemed to be more solid with Edem in there. Nice to have him back.
Charbel Dabire – I may be one of his biggest boosters. Have liked him since his rookie season. He’s a solid Canadian DT
Jamal Morrow – I hope with the benefit of hindsight, our coaching staff realize how wrong it was that Morrow sat on the practice roster for the first 3 games and then was inexplicably benched for 3 more games mid-season. He was far an away our best returner and made plays when given the chance. He will have a legit chance to compete for starting RB in 2022 and I’m all for it.
McInnis – Mentioned in
a previous post that while Schaefer-Baker is our best Cdn WR we need depth
behind him. The departure of Lenius only reinforces that need. We still have
yet to see the talent that made McInnis a first round pick in 2019. Injuries
were a factor in 2021. Be nice to see him do like Lenius and take a big step
Jake Harty – This is the one I’m most meh on. Harty is a valued contributor on special teams and technically helps with Cdn depth at receiver but when you consider that pretty much every Cdn receiver on our roster got reps ahead of him and when he did get reps he had some notable drops I think we are at a point where his special teams play is the only reason he is here, not his offensive play. Always good to retain those “grit” Canadians that contribute on special teams but I’m neither excited nor mad about this one… as I said, just meh.
We also added a couple CFL veteran free agents in OL Na’ty Rogers and FB James Tuck. Rogers has CFL experience playing tackle so I’m very happy we are bringing players to have an actual competition there. But I’m tempering my expectations. Rogers comes from Ottawa… remember that the RedBlacks OL was one of the few that made ours look good by comparison. Willing to give him a chance but let’s not assume we’ve solved the OT issue yet.