The number one topic in the CFL right now, aside from the ever-revolving coaching carousel, is the 2013 Ottawa Expansion Draft to be held on Monday, December 16.
Roughriders Assistant GM Jeremy O'Day explained the process on SportsCage, including the situation with the team's 19 players facing free agency this February. The list includes Kory Sheets, Taj Smith, Weston Dressler, Craig Butler and Chris Milo.
"If you look across the league I think we're right in the middle of the pack as far as the number of free agents," O'Day explained. "I think it's larger than most years but I think there are two teams that have more than us, another team has the same amount and most of the teams are going by that philosophy."
O'Day explained that this was by design, as it makes things very difficult for REDBLACKS GM Marcel Desjardins in selecting players in two weeks' time.
"The reason for that is if you have free agents, and if Ottawa's not going to draft potential free agents for the fear of not being able to re-sign them, then you can end up protecting more guys than you would if you had them all under contract," O'Day continued. "That's something that each team will have to assess and is it worth the risk of losing a guy and Ottawa has a couple months to negotiate with him. Those are things you have to consider when planning for this expansion draft."
This means it's a gamble for teams on both sides of the draft. The Riders could leave their potential free agents unprotected, but face the risk of losing them in the draft. Ottawa's in a bind because if they take one of them, say Weston Dressler, he could re-sign with Saskatchewan once free agency hits on February 15.
"I would say it's probably what you're willing to risk and if you don't protect a guy there's always a potential they can draft him and they could 'wow' him," O'Day said regarding a courtship by the REDBLACKS.
"They don't have anybody under contract so they can afford to pay guys more money than teams that are near the cap. That's a definite risk and something we'll consider. You don't want to lose marquee guys whether they're under contract or not but we'll be prepared when we send in our list."
That list was provided to the CFL on Monday, and will not be made public. However coming up with the list could be quite a headache for the CFL and the other seven teams.
"It is," O'Day said. "We're coming off a year where we had nine all-stars and we had five or six more who we thought could have been all-stars. We're looking at having to lose a good couple of players regardless of their contractual status. We know that we'll lose some of our guys, but each team will have their strategy regarding age and salary."
For many the draft itself is somewhat confusing, and it's different from the 2003 expansion draft stage for the Ottawa Renegades.
"What's gonna happen is they'll have a draft where you can protect 10 import players and they get to draft one from each team in the first round," O'Day explained.
"You can protect only one quarterback too. In the second round you can protect six non-imports and they can then select one from each team. The last round you can protect an additional six non-imports and they can select one from each team. Ultimately you can protect a quarterback, 10 imports and 12 Canadians.
"They can take a quarterback and if they do that, you're able to protect two more Canadians so that's another rule people don't understand. Obviously the more you can protect is good. Again, they have to look at which QBs are under contract and which are free agents. If they take a potential free agent QB, they run the risk of not being able to sign him in February once his contract expires. They would basically lose a pick so there will be a lot of strategy involved with their side too."
Since 2011 the Roughriders have painstakingly built their Canadian depth but in the end will be stung by their success. Ottawa's going to get some great players.
"We'll definitely be confident once our list is done and we'll all sit down and determine the best-case going forward and who we're willing protect, and the potential of losing guys," O'Day admitted.
"The sad part is you know you'll lose three guys who were just on your Grey Cup team. We felt like we had very good depth in imports and non-imports so we know we'll lose quality players and more than likely they are starters. It's not anything you're excited for. You don't want to lose guys who've been here and just came away with a Grey Cup ring. I know there will be some guys that will be disappointed."
Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Saskatchean Roughriders on 620 CKRM. You can check out his award-winning blog at www.rodpedersen.com. Follow Rod on Twitter @sportscage.