Priorities may be a lot different for the Saskatchewan Roughriders entering this year’s free agency period compared to last. In 2012, they let one of their premier receivers, Andy Fantuz, walk but focused on improving their offensive line. They did so with purpose by signing guard Brendon LaBatte away from the rival Blue Bombers and centre Dominic Picard from the Toronto Argonauts.
This year, General Manager Brendan Taman has a bit more work to do. The Riders have the deepest list of starters still not under contract and with one more day before the market opens, expect him to be a busy man trying to lock key members of his roster down before Noon on Friday.
The work done so far:
If there has been an underlining theme for the Riders thus far in the ’13 off-season it is retaining Canadian talent. Receiver Rob Bagg, LB Cory Huclack, RB Neal Hughes, SB Scott McHenry, LB Mike McCullough and OL Patrick Neufeld all inked extensions.
Import DE Tay George and DB Eddie Russ also opted to remain in Rider Green.
Without a doubt, the most significant move Taman pulled off thus far was the acquisition of the league`s all-time leading receiver in Geroy Simon in late January.
A total of four starters – all on the defensive side of the ball – remain without contracts as of today. Perhaps the biggest name is linebacker Tyron Brackenridge who came into his own last season, having a career year in tackles and fumble recoveries.
The Rider pass rush may also be affected if they cannot sign one of its vocal leaders in Odell Willis or 2010’s first overall draft pick Shomari Williams who could test the waters for the first time since turning pro.
The other big name on defence is DB Chris McKenzie who is coming off another solid season in the Saskatchewan secondary.
Changing the pass rush?
Should non-import Shomari Williams or Odell Willis sign elsewhere, could Ricky Foley be a good fit in Green?
Other notables: Jordan Sisco, Alexander Krausnick-Groh
Who may be on the radar?:
A lot of who the Riders may be targeting may be based on who they cannot retain. Should Williams walk, they may be looking for another ratio buster that can play either defensive line or linebacker. Given the fact that Willis may also test the waters, Saskatchewan could go a long way in replacing both with veteran rush end Ricky Foley who remains unsigned in Toronto. Another option could be Calgary’s Brian Bulcke who could enter the market come Friday.
If the Riders want to go a similar route as last year and add to their offensive line, there is no better option than the reigning Most Outstanding Lineman Jovan Olafioye, however it is likely that the only team that is going to pull him out of Vancouver may be located down south as he has reportedly pursued NFL opportunities.
A team can never have enough receivers and although their starters are more or less set for next season, a player like Maurice Mann could be a good fit for depth purposes and perhaps challenge the emerging Taj Smith.