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.