Monday, April 8, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Remembering Hopson

Last week we bid farewell to an important figure in Rider history. Former president Jim Hopson passed away. Ever since his passing many wonderful things have been written and many wonderful memories have been shared about the impact Hopson had on the team and on the people he interacted with. I won’t pretend that my words will add anything that hasn’t already been said but I do want to add my perspective on what he meant to Rider history.

The defining impact of Hopson will be the resetting of expectations when it comes to the Riders. Prior to his arrival the prevailing attitude was that we should just be happy we have a team at all. Their survival was at risk year to year so if the team sucked for decades at a time then we were all taught to just be happy they didn’t fold. We thought it was fine that we had only 2 championships ever. We thought it was fine that we had no jumbotron. We thought it was fine that it was not cool to wear Rider gear unless your goal in life was mockery and physical beatings. We were lovable losers… with heavy emphasis on the losers.

Until Hopson’s leadership that all changed. Now he didn’t do it all himself (and he would be the first one to admit that). But change of the magnitude that took place requires strong leadership with a clear vision and relentless pursuit of that vision. Hopson brought that. Old Mosaic was brought out of the stone ages and into the 80s (being only 20 years behind was a big step forward) and eventually replaced completely. We brought in GMs, coaches and players that expected greatness. We won games. Seats filled up. We won as many championships under his tenure as in the 90 previous years. Merchandise flew off the shelves. We put a logo on anything and everything and people were proud to display it. We went from the CFL’s equivalent of a lovable but unemployed and mooching uncle to the benchmark of excellence. 

And its not like it was all roses and sunshine for Hopson. Sure the timing of the ’07 Cup probably accelerated everything but let’s not forget that in his tenure involved some rocky moments. He had to make the tough call to fire Roy Shivers. He had to deal with Shiver’s replacement having to be put on administrative leave while he dealt with legal issues stemming from alleged inappropriate conduct with a babysitter. There were 4 head coaches during his tenure. There was brawl on Dewdney ave involving players. But despite all this, the expectations and accomplishments of the team continued to rise. On top of the successes, I think most telling is all the stories coming out about how much people respected Hopson as a person. 

His impact on the franchise will never be forgotten… unlike Andrew Harris’ quest to find the person responsible for tainting his supplements.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: You Can’t Get Fooled Again

For the love of god, please check the date on the calendar before reading anything today. In the immortal words of George W Bush “There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.” So don’t get fooled again. 

If you see a headline saying “Trevor Harris Traded” or “Competition for #1 QB Spot now a surprise battle between Drew Willy and Tino Sunseri” just ignore it. 

If you see a headline saying “Schaefer-Baker Retires To Pursue Career As A Bovine Doula” don’t retweet it. 

If you see a headline saying “Riders Sell Hat for 150% more than the same hat is sold for other teams”… well that one is probably accurate. Same as if you see a headline “Rider Prophet Named World’s Greatest Sex Machine.” 

While you generally should not believe most of what you read on the internet (this site included) any day this is the day you definitely should not believe it. No the Riders aren’t changing their colours to blue and gold. No the league is not adopting a 5th down to get ahead of the curve. No Tom Brady is not coming out of retirement to finally throw for a Montreal sports team. No Pilsner intake has not been scientifically determined to be correlated with intelligence. And No, Rider Prophet did not get drunk and expose himself to bus full of seniors on a bingo tour (only part of that headline is correct but I’m not telling you which part). 

Let’s just try and keep our cool for one day. Please.  

Monday, March 25, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Hits and Misses

With the CFL Draft approaching, I thought it would be interesting (and only mildly depressing) to look back at the past 5 drafts for the Riders. Take a look at which picks we nailed, which one were not so great, and who we missed along the way. 

The rating system I will use to assess each draft class is based on comparisons to previous Rider QBs. 

2019

Early Round Success: This draft was about restocking the receiver shelves (which we needed). We took McInnis 6th overall and Lenius 15th. Both have proven to be starting caliber Canadian receivers (though both were only able to show it in flashes as a Rider)

Late Round Success: We only had 4 picks after the second round and we used one on Cam Judge’s mostly out of football brother (remember that?). But we did hit one home run in the 5th round when we selected Charbel Dabire. There were 9 DL’s drafted before him and a total of 3 of them you can maybe argue are legit better than Dabire. Great value pick who has been a valuable contributor for the Riders ever since.

Biggest Hit: Brayden Lenius

Biggest Miss: Honestly nothing major. Brady Olivera went one pick before Lenius which meant if we wanted him it would have had to be 6th overall. In retrospect, yes you do that. At the time, that’s super high for an RB.

Overall assessment: I would give this one a rating of Kevin Glenn… nothing flashy but pretty good overall.

2020

Early Round Success: None. We used the 7th overall pick on Mattland Riley who retired with one career game played (not sure he even got on the field). Even at the time Riley was “safe” pick, not a top end prospect, though it was a relatively weak draft class overall. The whole experience made O’Day so leery to take an OL high that he’ll never do it again (at least that’s what it seems).

Late Round Success: Rider fans are willing to forgive O’Day the Riley because in the 4th round he landed us Kian Schaefer-Baker… the steal of that entire draft.

Biggest Hit: Schaefer-Baker by a mile.

Biggest Miss: In the second round, there were only some moderately successful players taken like Marc Antoine-Dequoy and Nathan Rourke, that we could have used our first round pick on.

Overall assessment: This one rates a Michael Bishop… overall unmitigated disaster with one brief moment of brilliance thrown in there.

2021

Early Round Success: This was the Covid draft and it was a pretty thin class. We used the 2nd overall pick on Nelson Lokombo. In theory a great pick but injuries have greatly limited his impact so far. We used our second round pick on Terrell Jana. Again, in theory a good pick but he retired without ever playing a down. But hey, the first overall pick by Hamilton was TE Jake Burt… so by comparison we did OK.

Late Round Success: Continuing the theme of “in theory” we did get Logan Bandy in the 5th round. He’s been our 6th OL for a while and started due to injury. The team really seems to believe in his potential. I don’t think he’s good and would add that the fact that O’Day believes in Bandy may be an indication of why our OL has been a week point until his watch.

Biggest Hit: Bruno Labelle, not exactly a huge impact player but he’s at least been on the roster consistently and using a 3rd round pick on him was about bang on for his value.

Biggest Miss: Not a ton of big name players came out of this draft. Ben Hladik who went 22nd overall and is now a legit starter is probably someone who would go much higher in a redraft.

Overall assessment: This one rates a Kerry Jospeh starting the 2014 playoff game… it seemed like a good idea at time but in retrospect you have the regrets.

2022

Early Round Success: Early last season it became apparent that Sam Emilus was a very good use of our 7th overall pick. We grabbed OL Zach Fry in the second round who O’Day is still pumping up but who has yet to make a material impact on the team. Hopefully he’s on the Chris Best development path.

Late Round Success: Were it not for a home run in the 5th round, anything after Emilus in this draft would have been written off as a failure for the Riders. But with the 54th overall pick, O’Day landed a scrappy safety who has blossomed into a starting caliber player in Jayden Dalke.

Biggest Hit: Sam Emilus/Jayden Dalke

Biggest Miss: Honestly, none. Based on where they picked the Riders did not “miss” on anyone. In fact, it was not a super strong draft class once you got past the first round.

Overall assessment: I give this one a Cody Fajardo (while in green and white), was it the best? No. But it’s the best we’ve seen around here in a few years.

2023

Early Round Success: Still early to know the full impact but getting both Korte-Moore and Ford, who were defensive contributors as rookies, looks to be a good move at this point.

Late Round Success: In the fourth round we drafted a bruising RB out of Delaware by the name of Matthieu Bertrand-Hudon. In a mostly awful season, he was one of the few bright spots.

Biggest Hit: Hard to say at this point but Korte-Moore has so far lived up to the hype.

Biggest Miss: Too early to tell. Teams my regret letting the Stampeders get Clark Barnes at 24 but I would have lost it if the Riders used another high pick on a receiver with all their other needs.

Overall assessment: I’ll give this a Trevor Harris. On paper it looks okay and there have been some early flashes, but we will need to see a lot more in year 2 to be truly satisfied.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Make It Canadian

Note: I will warn you in advance that today’s post is very light on actual news and serious analysis and very heavy on the ridiculous and whimsical. Obviously if you are a regular reader here you are used to a fairly regular dose of the ridiculous but if that ain’t what you are after this morning then try again next week.

I, like many of you, fell in love with the Canadian football game. The unique rules set it apart from its American counterpart in so many good ways and it is steeped in tradition and heritage. But today I ask, is the game Canadian enough?

Sure we have bigger fields, unlimited motion, less downs and the beloved rouge (the rouge is wonderful and I will not her arguments to the contrary) but there are so many more ways the game could be made even more Canadian.

 

1.     Metric system – the most obvious place to start is by fully implementing the metric system. Yards should be replaced with meters. First and 9.144 will be the new standard starting point. Players will strive for a 914 metre season instead of 1000 yards. And we will ooh and aah as Bret Lauther bombs kicks from 46 metres out and further. All player heights and weights would also need to be converted to metres and kilograms.  

2.     Aboot - next we clearly need to fully incorporate Oot in the lingo. Failing to get a first down is a two and oot. GMs will send their scoots to go recruit new players. Receivers will run roots. And Sports Centre may report on the ootcome of a blowoot or even a shutoot.

3.     Apologies – Anytime a player is penalized the amount of the penalty should double if they don’t immediately apologize. If the opposing team does not reciprocate the apology the penalty should be negated.

4.     Tims – All Gatorade container will be replaced with Tim Horton’s coffee. The post game Gatorade shower will become quite dangerous and hydration levels will plummet but dammit if we won’t representing the awful coffee that our nation seems to adore.

5.     Royal Assent – In keeping with the rules of our constitutional democracy, all player transactions should be subject to approval by the King/Queen via the Governor General or Lieutenant Governors.

6.     Public Health Care – The team’s individual injured reserves should be replaced with one central injured reserve that is funded by the league through public taxation.

7.     Bilingual – All PA announcements and referee calls must be in both official languages. Trash talk between the players will only be allowed if it is also in both official languages. Coaches are also encouraged to have their play calls in both official languages. Watch for L’option de courrir passer avec un déroulé de quarterback. 

Do have any suggestions for how to further improve the Canadiana of the CFL?

Monday, March 11, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Delayed Random Quasi Coherent Thoughts

Apologies for not writing a post last week. Rest assured the person responsible has been admonished and given a fine equal to 50% of their salary. When this blog cannot even live up to the extremely low standards it holds itself to, we take that very seriously.

While much of this is dated, let’s get caught up on what’s been going on in Riderville…

 

-        The Riders’ marketing team got themselves in some hot water over a “Girl Math” promotion they sent out. This was clearly a case of trying to be trendy and just missing the mark. I think they honestly would have been fine with the “Girl Math” headline but each successive line just get worse and worse. The Riders have apologized and I say good enough and move on. They tried to be creative it flopped, they apologized, case closed. No need for a further witch hunt.


-        It does make me wonder who the hell reviews and approves their material though. I (an aging white male, with no marketing experience) could clearly tell that was not in good taste. Somehow a team of marketing professionals who are presumably younger and more female than me, did not see the issue. That is like the equivalent of your finance team producing a financial statement where all the numbers are replaced with 58008 and not thinking it will be a problem. If you don’t immediately get that reference then a) you are clearly much younger than me and b) should go ask you parents for a calculator (maybe first ask them what a calculator is), type in that number and turn the calculator up side down. (This is what we used to do for entertainment).


-        The Riders signed a new LB by the name of Diego Fagot. Now a younger and even less mature Prophet would have had a hay day with this back in the day. All I will say now is that it’s definitely not pronounced like you think but I hope he makes the team purely to make the play by play guys sweat bullets. One Freudian slip and there’s trouble.


-        Good on the Riders for honoring former president Jim Hopson by naming the Jim Hopson Auditorium at Mosaic Stadium. And given his health, good on them for doing the honour while he was still able to receive the honour in person. We may bemoan the current state of our Riders but look back in history at what the team was before Hopson. There were years where they would have killed for down years like ones we bemoan now. Hopson was key part of raising expectations.


-        Speaking of a key part of raising expectations, it remains criminal that Roy Shivers has not been honoured in a similar way by the team. No plaza induction, no in-stadium recognition. The freakin’ CFL saw fit to add him to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame but we have not. Let’s not wait until its too late.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Football-less Void

We have officially reached the painful final stretch of the offseason. Free agency is over, the draft is two months away and the NFL is even over so there is no football whatsoever. If we can just make it through this final stretch then football will be back and life will be good again.

God bless the Argos and Chad Kelly for trying to keep the CFL in the new cycle but there were likely better ways to go about it. A wrongful termination lawsuit was filed against them by a female trainer who Kelly allegedly made advances at. Since the news broke both the Argos and CFL have made themselves quieter than people who have run out of candy on Halloween and are trying to pretend like they aren’t home. It’s a media strategy that works about as well as Craig Dickenson’s coaching tactics in October.   

As someone whose day job involves human resources, things like this just make me shake my head. Rather than deal with an issue that was raised, they tried to sweep it under the carpet. Literally all they had to do was do some kind of internal discipline to Kelly for his alleged inappropriate behaviour and this probably never gets spoken of outside of Argo facilities. Instead they opted to make things much worse and turn it into a public story. The court of public opinion is always much harsher than actual court… and in the world of human resources both should be avoided.

I am willing to bet that since the Argos have no interest in losing Kelly’s services they will find a fall guy in management (John Murphy has previous experience getting turfed for doing dumb things) and give Kelly a slap on the wrist and have him do a super fake apology (that I can tell you right now will include “that’s not who I am”, “I found the lord through this” and maybe even “I have many friends who are women”). I will add a bonus prediction that given some people’s addiction to finding a way to tie the Riders to bad new stories, the headlines will read “Former Rider Assistant GM forced to resign in disgrace from current CFL team”.

In more positive CFL news, Vernon Adams signed a long-term extension in BC. Good for him. I am actually glad to see him have success. Remember that his CFL career started with more trades (BC->Montreal->Sask->Hamilton) than starts. Also remember that for a period in 2017 the Riders had him 3rd on the QB depth chart behind Kevin Glenn and Brandon Bridge. Excuse me while I go silently weep for a few seconds.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Big Additions

For the most part the official opening of free agency was about as exciting as most all-star games. Not a lot of real excitement and a whole lot of going through the motions. We made official all the deals we were expecting which was great, just not particularly exciting. I honestly thought that we were mostly done. But O’Day had other plans.

He made 2 more big (both literally and figuratively) signings. The first was bringing back Micah Johnson. Now I’ll be the first to admit that having Micah play for us in an even numbered year will be weird. He played for us in 2019, left for BC in 2020 when the season ended up being cancelled, returned for 2021, left for Hamilton in 2022 and returned in 2023. He was not due back in these parts until his 4th stint came around in 2025. But dammit am I happy he’s staying! I have been campaigning for this all offseason (you’re welcome). In a crap season, Micah was one of the few guys who gave it his all the whole year. Not only was he a strong veteran leader who demonstrated the heart you want to see from your key guys, he was pretty damn good still. At 35, he played a full 18 game season, notched his most sacks as a Rider and I contend, was our best defender (I get that the bar was pretty low but still, point remains, he was good). I think he is exactly the veteran leader we need to head up this revamped D-line under Coach Mace.

The second addition caught me completely by surprise. With Ferland and Blake back and young guys like Bandy, Fry and now Zerr, I assumed O’Day would be content at Canadian OL. In what might be the first time the term “pleasant surprise” has been used in conjunction with anything O’Day has done with Canadian OL in the past 3 years, he went out and landed Ryan Sceviour (I assume Mueller and Mace’s Calgary connections had some play in there as well). An 8th overall pick in the 2018 Draft who has locking down the RG position on the Stamps OL for a few years now, and was named a West Division all-star in 2022. This was a massive addition to our OL. The only downside here is that this makes me pretty confident that O'Day will now continue his streak of completely ignoring OL in the draft... but I guess that's a future us problem. For now let's focus on the good.  

Honestly, other than American receiver (which we can address through recruiting), I feel like O’Day has checked all the boxes in terms of our major needs. The cynic in me fears becoming hopeful because decades have history have shown that hope almost always precedes that hope being violently bashed to pieces. But like Michael Scott I am ready to get hurt again.

I don’t expect there is much more coming our way in free agency but there are a few names still out there that I would certainly at least be looking into to see if you can get some late value. Some names include receivers like Cam Phillips, Rasheed Bailey or Lucky Whitehead. Even a Canadian WR like Nate Behar or Tevaun Smith (we will need depth if we look at starting 3 Cdn WR). DBs like Roberson Daniel, Winston Rose, Alden Darby or Jeremy Clark. Or DL such Woody Barron or AC Leonard. For the right price there could be some good value here.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimoines: Successful Tampering

I hate the term “won free agency”. Teams that “win” free agency generally are terrible (good teams don’t need to sign a bunch of FAs because they already have a talented roster) and tend to not win the actual season.  That said I do think the Riders had a very successful tampering period. I had listed 5 primary needs and we managed to address 4 of those is a big way. I don’t think that suddenly makes us Cup contenders. I do feel better about our roster than I did a week ago.

I said needed LBs. We went out and got the best LB available in Jameer Thurman. Dude is a flat out stud and will definitely be a strong anchor for our D. We also got Adam Auclair. Basically he is a younger Teitz. Between Thurman, Auclair and Reavis we dropped the average age of LBs significantly.

I said we needed OT help. We went out and got the best one available in Jemarcus Hardrick. In the process we righted a historical wrong. Hardick was a Rider in 2015 and not deemed worth keeping in the new Chris Jones regime. To use a Jones term, he has been “moderately successful" since. Did we overpay? Probably, but when your option is spend a lot or suffer another season trying to fix out OT issue in-house, I say its money we needed to spend.

I said we needed a CB. We went out and got Jalon Edwards-Cooper. He kinda got overshadowed a bit in BC playing alongside some bigger names guy. I think he can be an impact player. The stat is that he did not give up a TD in 2023. That's good right?

I said we needed DL help. We went out and got Malik Carney. I’m still not exactly sure why we seem to be moving on from Robertson but Carney has 12 sacks over the past 2 seasons and I think instantly adds a proven pass rusher to our rotation.

RB wasn’t a priority but we went out and got Ouelette. He’s the second best RB in the CFL and will bring a hard nosed bruising style to our run game that we haven’t had in a while. I was always a big Morrow fan but I do think Ouelette is objectively a bit better.

This haul has Rider fans more excited for the season than soccer moms were to see Usher perform at half time. We still have some holes to fill but O’Day and Mace definitely did good job of aggressively going out and addressing our biggest needs.

Long road still ahead of us but good first step.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Waiting Game

In the week leading up to the negotiation window, the Riders had a huge week in terms of re-signing their own guys. We extended Milligan for an extra year (by far our best DB). We retained Lanier and Bane (arguably our top pending free agents on either side of the ball). We also extended Nelson Lokombo (not nearly as notable as their other 3 but Canadian depth is crucial and for an organization that has struggled to retain and develop draft picks at times Lokombo makes it 7 of our last 9 1st/2nd/3rd round picks still with the team). 

When healthy and not stupidly being played out of position at D-end, Lanier is among the most disruptive DTs in the league. I think Mace is a coach who can get Lanier to that next level of excellence. Bane is simply a massive piece to keep. Look at what he did last season and factor in the carousel of back-up QBs and underqualified OC he had to deal with. I don’t think we have seen his ceiling yet. Farhan Lalji reports his deal is around $175,000. That is really good value when you consider some other WR salary (i.e. Eugene Lewis $300k+, Rhyme $240K). 

As of right now, O’Day is busy legally tampering. We may yet see some of our guys re-sign after seeing the open market isn’t as lucrative as they hoped but for the most part this is the time to attract new guys to the team. 

Here’s what I see as our top area of needs.

 

1.     Linebackers

You can debate the quality, but at pretty much every position the Riders could field a team today if they needed to. The glaring exception is LB. We got nobody other than Reavis. If you trust your scouting you could maybe fill one spot with a new player but not 2. Obviously the top target should be Jameer Thurman. I expect us also to kick the tires on Adarius Pickett, Ben Hladik and Adam Auclair (drafting his brother didn’t pan out, maybe we can get some games out of an Auclair after all). I honestly would not rule out a Larry Dean return if we miss out on some of the top end targets but that is definitely not the preferred route.

 

2.     Offensive Tackle

As of today the starters would be Hawkins and Council (maybe old man Blake). So unless we get some upgrades here they might as well just pre-reserve a hospital bed for Trevor Harris. Biggest name on the market is Hardrick but he’s the only legit starter hitting the market so he will be fielding multiple calls. Trevon Tate and Tyrone Riley would be your other options. I am still holding out hope that Colin Kelly returns once he is healthy.

 

3.     Cornerback

We have Milligan, Henderson, Williams and Dalke. I expect Williams to take a step forward in year 2 but Henderson has always been inconsistent and even with him penciled in as a starter you need one more guy. Best case scenario is convincing Jamal Peters to follow Mace here. Or if you wanted to spend a bit less Robertson Daniel. Other names I’d be calling include Demario Houston, Ciante Williams and Damon Webb (I always felt we gave up on him too early).

 

4.     Interior OL Depth

Godber, Ferland and Blake (Assuming we aren’t forced to bump him out to tackle) should be solid on the inside but when (not if) we need someone else to fill in for a short or long term absence it gets scary again. The organization seems to love Logan Bandy, though I’m not seeing in him what they are yet. We are waiting for Fry to finally take the next step. And maybe Zerr gets his career on track (being dumped by 2 teams in 2 seasons is not a great omen for a high draft pick OL). Bottom line we need reinforcements and while logic would dictate we get some of that through the draft, O’Day has been about has willing to draft OL early as I am forgo my morning coffee. Geoff Gray, Sean Jamieson and Phillip Norman are options.

 

5.     D-line

My sense is that the team is banking on some combination of Albright and Cox to be able to lock down one DE spot. We have Lanier and Brown inside. With Korte-Moore and Dabire to rotate. At a minimum we need another DE to replace Robertson and likely more depth at DT with both Christmas and Micah not yet re-signed. I don’t see us paying for Betts (with other more pressing needs) so guys like Dewayne Hendrix, Sean Oakman, Ricky Walker, Dylan Wynn, Brandon Barlow and Malik Carney become the target list. Whoever we add I just hope it turns out better than last year’s D-line splash… Stefen Banks.

I know I left RB off the list. We will likely add one but its not really a pressing need and with so many hitting the market all at once, there will be a decent one available regardless of how long we wait.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Start Your Tampering

February 4th will mark the opening of the negotiation window. Put another way, it will mark the end of illegal tampering and the start of league sanctioned tampering. This all leads up to the opening on February 13.

The Riders stroked some important names of their pending free agent list. They re-signed two important  OL in Ferland and Blake. Ferland has long been our lone beacon of hope in a sea of terrible O-Linemen. He’s only going to improve and if you watched him the few times he got called on as an emergency tackle you saw a versatile and talented OL (who by the way will only turn 27 this season). Blake is over a decade older but is still versatile and talented. He might only have a year left in him (and maybe its only providing depth) but he’s a proven leader and we need that to rebuild this group. Lauther also re-signed which is hardly a shock to anyone.

What likely was a shock was a 2 year deal for Fine. While I’m sure many would have preferred Dolegala, here’s what it boiled down to. Dolegala likely will have other people bidding for his services. Fine probably didn’t. Also, Fine lacks the fanfare of Dolegala (what with not being a literal giant) but its not like Jake, you know, won a lot. Here’s some stats:

-        Yards per throw: Fine 7.7, Dolegala 7.9

-        Completion %: Fine 69.1%, Dolegala 64.9%

-        Wins: Fine 1, Dolegala 2

I’m not saying that Fine is the next superstar but for likely less money, he is of comparable value as a back-up.

Now let’s take a look position by position at the Riders’ needs and potential targets.

QB – Doubt we do much here as we already have Harris, Fine and Pipkin. Market is also pretty thin. It’s either try and bring back Dolegala or go for Arbuckle. Reality is QB is likely addressed through recruiting.

RB – Over half the league’s RBs are hitting FA all at once: Olivera, Fletcher, Stanback, Devonte Williams, Ouelette, Carey and Morrow. I still think we are targeting a big splash like Olivera or Ouelette but once people blow their money on those 2, there will be some insane value on the remaining guys, like say bringing back Morrow (who I am fond of) or even Williams.

WR – We need a #1 WR and its not a great year to be in the market for that. I am still hoping we are pushing for Bane. If not him then Schoen is the only other real bona fide #1.  I could see us targeting Coxie.

OL – While there are some good OLs slated to hit FA (Gagnon, Steward, Ciraco, Sceviour, Knevel, Norman), our issue is that we need tackles and they are not hitting the market. Only tackle to keep an eye on is Hardrick. I don’t see us landing him but you never know (recall he had him way back in the day and let him go). One reunion that could make sense is Bladek. He would add some nice depth to our interior and a little nastiness.

LB – I think this is our biggest question mark heading into the season. We have Reavis at cover LB… and then? No one. Some cold water was doused on the ridiculous theory that we would just pillage the Argos when McManis re-signed. There are still some quality names out there that I would have interest in. One in particular is Jameer Thurman. Stampeder connection to Mace and a guy you can build a LB core around. Others include: Avery Williams, Jonathan Jones, Adarius Pickett, Micah Awe (just kidding, screw that head targeting yet somehow un-suspendable dirty bastard), Titus Wall and Josh Woods.

DB – Ironically this is probably the deepest position in free agency but one of our lesser needs. I would love to find a lockdown corner to replace Marshall. Obviously Jamal Peters comes to mind. But you could also look at Cariel Brooks, Daniel Roberson, Demario Houston or Marcus Sayles.

DL – Next to LB this is our next biggest need. I still fully expect us to land one of Brandon Barlow, Shawn Oakman, or Dewayne Hendrix. But I think we need at least 2 DL signings to feel good about that group. Malik Carney, Dylan Wynn, Jackson Jeffcoat and Jake Thomas are of interest. I am still tooting the “bring back Micah” horn and wouldn’t mind seeing Robertson/Lanier back but Lanier is likely gone and Robertson is a good buddy of his so odds are not great.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Free Agency Getting Closer

Free agency is now a couple weeks away and the Riders continue to whittle down their list of pending FAs. This past week Frankie Hickson and Charbel Dabire were extended. I have damn near been a day 1 member of the Dabire fan club. He’s a quality Canadian that adds to our D-line rotation. He also boasts a 20 yard kick return to his stat line. Underrated athlete that I’m happy to keep for his 5th season since being drafted in the 5th round.  Hickson is a guy I would like to see more of. He’s shown flashes but hasn’t earned more playing time. This will be a make or break season for him. We also released Wieneke which surprised no one.  

So where does that leave us? Let’s look position by position at what is left for the Riders to address.

QB – We have our starter in Harris and our 3rd down QB in Pipkin. We need a back-up. I expect we re-sign one of Fine or Dolegala but not both. I still think there is value in continuing to develop Dolegala. He needs a lot of work but maybe a competent coaching staff can help with that. I think Fine lacks the upside potential of Dolegala but also lacks the rollercoaster lows. I think Fine could mark out a “fine” career a back-up (I’m sorry, its Monday, that the best I can do). 

RB – I expect we try and land Olivera or Outlette in free agency. Though if we miss out or the prices go to high, I could still see Morrow returning as a more cost effective option.

WR – We need a #1 WR. We all hope that is Bane. If its not him then its not like there is a ton of options in free agency (Schoen if you wanna drop massive $). I honestly don’t care if Tevin Jones is back. He puts up stats but still strikes me as a lazy, selfish player. I think we can do better. 

OL – A lot of concern at this point here. We have a great centre in Godber… and then? Nothing. Maybe Hawkins comes back healthy and turns out to be awesome. Maybe Fry finally develops into a rosterable player. But even if both of those maybes pan out we are still short 2 starters. I would like to see Ferland back. I would like to see Johnson go be a liability in another town for a while. I assume Kelly isn’t healthy yet. He was the only good tackle I’ve seen here in 2 years. We need him whenever he is cleared to play. I expect we sign at least one OL in free agency (though there is not a lot of options) but odds are, the bulk of the OL solution will need to be built in-house.

DL – Korte Moore looks like a baller. Albright showed some flashes. Brown and Dabire are competent DTs. But this is currently an area of need. Who knows if Mace wants Lanier or Robertson back. There has been much speculation that a DL or two will follow Mace from Toronto (at least one of Barlow, Oakman or Hendrix). I still hope we break the cycle and keep Micah for a second year in a row. He’s a heart and soul player who showed last season he can still contribute. 

LB – I would argue that outside of OL, LB is the biggest area of need on this team. Reavis can man the cover LB spot but then what? We got nothing. As much as I love Dean, I’m not sure he’s the answer anymore. As the season went on more and more of his tackles came after yards we gained. Teitz did not return as the same player as before his injury. Lots of questions here.

DB – A relative oasis of stability amid a lot of question marks on defense. We should be solid with Milligan, Williams, Dalke and Henderson. I could see us not doing a ton here and relying on drafting and scouting. O’Day has been able to find us one quality DB per season.

K – We need one. I think we all assume it will be Lauther and all that is delaying it is Lauther figuring out his true value come the negotiation window to ensure he doesn’t take a hometown discount.  

 

Canadian Depth – Guys like Lokombo, Okeyka, Awachie, Brescacin and Herdman remain unsigned. I expect one or two to be retained but change will be coming there.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Welcome to 2024

My first post of 2024 arrives exactly on brand… late, of questionable quality and with a distinct smell of day old rye. The good news is that if you clicked on this post you are either a longtime reader or so desperate for CFL news that you will literally read anything. In either case, I don’t see you being scared off.

Let’s get caught up on all the news people are talking about this January.


-        The Riders have been relatively quiet, at least from a volume perspective. Getting CJ Reavis back was a very important signing. Good to have Alford back in the fold. And Trevor Harris accepted a bit of a pay cut (well at least on paper. Due to US tax rules his gross may go down but his net might not change a whole ton).

-        Big one was letting Moncrief go. I get it but it still hurts. Moncrief has been one of my favourite players since he showed up here. Stan-up guy on and off the field who I don’t think people ever fully appreciated his skillset. The combination of Reavis and a noticeable dip in Moncrief’s play as the season wore on led to this. Wish him nothing but the best.

-        We haven’t done anything along the D-line yet. I know Micah Johnson is only contractually allowed to play for the Riders in odd numbered years but we also have Robertson, Christmas and Lanier headed to free agency. Be curious to see how Mace builds his D-line.

-        Another position I’m watching is RB. We have not re-signed Morrow or Hickson. I’m not a huge advocate of spending big on and RB but if you were inclined to spend Olivera and Ouelette would be solid investments. The fact that we have Hudon on the roster makes it more viable to start a Canadian RB. Also Mace would have connections to Ouelette. This is nothing but wild speculation but it does make you wonder.

-        Looking at our other pending FAs, the only ones I would categorize as priorities as Bane, Kelly (assuming he’s healthy) and Lauther.

-        We are playing the waiting game with Sam Emilus. He has now worked out for 5 NFL team (Ari, Den, NE, Ten, GB). O’Day kinda hinted that they expect him to be gone for at least a bit. Normally I would agree. With that many workouts its usually a lock to be gone. But this happened with Baker last year and he stayed (albeit injuries likely played a big role there).

-        Despite the speculation I don’t expect a mass pilfering of the Argos’ free agents. I bet one or two follow Mace here. But I don’t see us becoming Toronto-West. And given that they are already Calgary-East that would make us Dave Dickenson’s sloppy seconds.

-        The one news tidbit I loved hearing is that Mace asked permission to talk to Stamps Special Teams Coordinator Mark Kilam. He has long been a rising coaching prospect and even interviewed for our HC job. Calgary rightly said no (since its not a promotion) but it shows that Mace is not afraid to set his sights super high. If he doesn’t get a head coach job in 2025, I could definitely see Kilam finding his way here as Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator.

-        Speaking of special teams, one of the rule changes being discussed at the CFL winter meetings involves giving teams the option to take the ball at the 40 after a TD (same as FGs). I’m all for player safety (which they claim this is about) but there has to be other ways to address that that don’t eliminate the return game. Its one of the things the CFL does better than any other league. Its one of the most exciting plays. That’s why I will always be a supporter of the return game… and the rouge which encourages returns.