TORONTO – Free agency is only a week old, but the moves made across the league have already set the foundation for what’s surely to be an interesting season, full of homecomings and new rivalries.
On the surface, General Managers made these moves to make their respective rosters more competitive. But if you look a little deeper, you’ll notice that their actions mean a little more in the grand scheme of things.
Here now, are the eight things Free Agency has taught us so far.
1) The Ticats will have one of the most dangerous and depth-filled receiving corps in the league
Think about this. A team that already had Andy Fantuz, Bakari Grant, Sam Giguere, Greg Ellingson, Luke Tasker, and CJ Gable added another reliable and young piece in Cary Koch through free agency.
Simply put, Kent Austin has made sure that new QB Zach Collaros will be surrounded with a wealth of talent in his first year as a starting pivot.
2) Ottawa’s addition changed the climate of the entire market
REDBLACKS GM Marcel Desjardins may have been in the best position heading into his first free agency. With no money committed to anyone as of yet, Desjardins was free to spend as much as he wanted until reaching the $4.4 million salary cap.
And don’t think other teams didn’t take notice.
Argos GM Jim Barker, who is usually reserved on free agency (more on that later) had this to say about Ottawa’s introduction to the market:
“I don't believe in building teams through free agency but I think this year with Ottawa coming in, it changed the landscape a bit,'' Barker said on a conference call last week.
"We lost two really good Canadians and a good American and I think it became more apparent that free agency was going to be a part of what we're doing.''
3) Jim Barker isn’t afraid to hook a big fish after all
He’s been on record saying that he doesn’t believe in building a team through free agency (as mentioned above), but Barker couldn’t resist hauling in the likes of Shea Emry on day one of free agency.
Maybe it was the addition of Ottawa, or maybe Emry was just too good to pass up on. But Barker made it clear that he can play the market if he wants to.
Look at it this way; the biggest names added to Toronto’s roster last year through free agency were James Yurichuk, Romby Bryant and Jonathan Hood. All solid players, but they don’t hold the same weight as Emry does.
4) Bombers are proactively pursuing improvement immediately
They may still have some questions to answer on the offensive line, and they do have an unproven starting quarterback, but Kyle Walters is doing everything in his power to make the Blue Bombers a competitive force in the West.
To date, the Bombers have brought in through trades and free agency QB Drew Willy, receiver Nick Moore, DB Chris Randle, and veteran LB/DB Korey Banks.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it’s definitely a start.
5) BC wants to let fans in
How’s that for transparency?
On the eve of free agency, the fine people that run the BC Lions Twitter account let everyone know what Wally Buono’s intentions were for free agency, stating publicly that they’ve submitted offers to pending free agents Keron Williams and Joshua Bell.
But they weren’t done there. Shortly after free agency opened, the Lions sent out another information-filled tweet.
They then sent out yet another tweet, this one with a little bit more of a cryptic feel to it.
Buono had this to say of his team’s openness: “It's a new world out there and we wanted our fans to be part of the process this year. They support this club and they had a right to know what our plans were going to be today. We would have liked to have had a bit more success, but to think we would have signed every player we targeted would have been unrealistic. I don't regret letting them know we tried to sign these players and improve our team.”
6) The Lions aren’t afraid to let go
As much as the Lions aren’t afraid to let people in, they also aren’t afraid to let people go. Heading into free agency, they had five players that needed to be signed. As of now, three of them have signed with other teams (Josh Bell in Calgary, Nick Moore in Winnipeg and Steve Myddelton in Hamilton) while two others remain free for the taking (Keron Williams, Stu Foord).
It’s fairly evident that change is very much in the air in Vancouver.
7) Offensive line is a priority for Ed Hervey and the Esks
They gave up the second most sacks in the league with 60 last season, so it comes as no surprise that Hervey made it a priority to bulk up his offensive line.
The Esks went out and signed four free agents in the first six days, two of which were offensive linemen. It will be interesting to see how Andrew Jones and Justin Sorensen help improve a highly maligned Eskimos offensive line.
8) John Hufnagel is perfectly happy staying par for the course
Hufnagel had 20 free agents to make a decision on prior to the start of free agency, and based on the amount of extensions and re-signings he worked out, he seems perfectly happy with what he has.
As of now, Hufnagel has signed 11 players to new contracts, while five have either retired or signed elsewhere. Four remain without contracts, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Hufnagel managed to lure them back into Calgary.