Pedersen: Off-season exodus not a concern for Riders | | Official Site of the Canadian Football League

A comment by the maintenance man in the hallways of CKRM Radio caught me off-guard this week.

We brushed shoulders one sunny, cold, morning a few days back and as he passed, he smiled and said, “Did anyone leave the Riders today?”

It caught me off-guard because I hadn’t really thought of this off-season exodus as a daily occurrence, but you can’t blame the guy for asking the question.

Bye bye Butler

He had some options, including that of staying with the only CFL team he's ever played for, but Canadian linebacker Craig Butler ultimately decided to sign with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

With Tuesday evening’s news that kick returner/running back Jock Sanders signed with the Calgary Stampeders, that brings – by my count – the total number of players and coaches departing the Roughriders this winter to 19.

Yes folks, it’s an epidemic.  Although, not everyone left by choice.

Keith Shologan, Zack Evans and James Lee were claimed in the Ottawa Expansion Draft, Drew Willy was traded to Winnipeg and a handful of pending free agents weren’t offered contracts and signed elsewhere. That’s just to name a few.

Still, the 2014 version of the Saskatchewan Roughriders won’t resemble the 2013 Grey Cup championship team a great deal.  With offensive stars Weston Dressler and Kory Sheets jumping to the NFL and many of their past teammates now suiting up for other CFL teams, last year’s magical campaign is becoming a distant memory.

And no one within the walls of Mosaic Stadium seems that surprised by it.

“In this business you’re going to lose players each and every year no matter how good or bad you play,” shrugged Rider slotback Geroy Simon on CKRM this week. 

“But when you have a good team like we had last year, people are going to try to cherry pick as many players from your team as they can.  They’re trying to bring the same magic that you had, to their team.

“You kind of understand it but you hope that guys can see the value in sticking with the team that they were with because sometimes it’s not as good as you think it is playing for someone else.”

Those players are about to find out. Truthfully, it’s stunning to me that there’s been such a fire drill to the province’s exits.  It seems that in just about every scenario, players have left for better opportunities (i.e., more money and the promise of more playing time). 

Dressler Departs

A fan favourite, Weston Dressler's days as a Roughriders are over, for now, as the team released the receiver to allow him to pursue an opportunity in the NFL.

I suppose you can’t blame them for that but it’s still hard to understand what they wouldn’t want to stay in the heartland of the league and try to repeat the title.

The late-season quote from Rider defensive end Ricky Foley about signing as a free agent last year will always ring in my ears.  “If I’d have known what it was like to play here, I would have signed here a long time ago!” Foley smiled.

And, he’s not going anywhere. At least, not any time soon.  But almost half the team has bolted!

Because it’s the off-season I haven’t spent a great deal of time in the team’s offices but in pretty much every case in which I’ve spoken with team personnel and closely-associated alumni, they shrug their shoulders and say “We saw it coming”.

It’s true, they did.  With 19 free agents coming out of the 2013 season you had to know it would be virtually impossible to keep them all.  And then when you consider the club won the championship, you knew everyone would be coming to GM Brendan Taman looking for a raise in 2014.  That includes not only the free agents, but a few others who are under contract but felt they deserve more dough.

Coaches Khari Jones and Johnny Holland both bolted for the BC Lions but in each case it was for a more-elevated role and likely more money as well.

Roughrider President Jim Hopson said on CKRM a few weeks back that it can be considered a compliment that other teams are recognizing the Riders’ success.

That truly is finding a silver lining!  It’s frustrating no doubt, and perhaps even a little scary.

But the Riders are still the defending champions and will be on the top of the mountain until the trophy gets handed to someone else.  And you can take some solace in the words of CFL Coach of the Year Corey Chamblin when asked about the exodus and the team’s chances in 2014.

“We’ll still be good,” Chamblin smiled.

Right now we have no choice but to trust him.

Fan Poll
Which player should the Roughriders be most concerned about losing over the off-season?
1) Kory Sheets
2) Weston Dressler
3) Craig Butler
4) Jermaine McElveen
5) Other

About Rod

Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Saskatchewan Roughriders on 620 CKRM. You can check out his award-winning blog at Follow Rod on Twitter @sportscage.

Fan Comments
GC Bound
You heard it here First>>>>> My money is on Hamilton for second GreyCup appearance in a row in 2014!
Austin is EXCELLENT.
Go Riders Go!
March 01, 2014 - 12:23pm
Let me say to tabbiefan that I don't think the Cats will win the East to be in a grey cup. But my opinion right now is worth zero now just as your prediction. Get real.
March 01, 2014 - 10:20am
@saskman - What prediction?? I said that Austin is building his team and they MADE it to the GC. I made no prediction about this season although I think their chances of getting back to the GC are better than the Riders just now! Maybe you need to get real. @GC Bound - Thanks for the vote of confidence!
March 02, 2014 - 5:35pm
@Juggernot - See the 2nd comment by GC Bound - Austin is BUILDING his team! Even with a YOUNG (read - not top salary) team that was not quite complete made it to the GC last season. Don't worry - he can afford the players that he has signed - some of which come with a lower price tag than those he lost!
February 28, 2014 - 2:39pm
als rule
@TFmcb: as usual history is still not your major!! the only reason they made the EF was an official gave them a gift in the ESF and not because of their talent!! as for the price tag who really believes that!!
February 28, 2014 - 5:15pm
@ar - As usual history is not YOUR strength! An earlier missed PI call (3rd qtr) on Fantuz in the end zone and a defense that couldn't stop a Ticats offensive drive against the wind!
March 01, 2014 - 3:29pm
Lest we forget... Speaking of "gifts", SASK gave the ultimate gift to the Montreal Alouettes a couple of GC's ago.
March 02, 2014 - 10:36am
To those players & coaches who helped the Riders become 101 Grey Cup Champions - I thank you for last year, but this does not mean you will not feel the wrath of the Sunny Side of Taylor Field when you visit Rider Nation. Except for the first home game of ROUGE ET NOIR. LOL. Pretty pumped about that actually.

To the management who made it all happen - WOW what a year, perfect timing especially at home - IN THE HEARTLAND OF CANADIAN FOOTBALL ! Yes I am screaming that - get over it haters, the Riders & Rider Nation are a huge reason for the recent success of the CFL.

If the Riders were over the salary cap last year - not announced yet - it was worth every penny - IMHO.

You can not win a Grey Cup in Feb. June is still a long ways away.

February 28, 2014 - 12:59pm
Like all good cults you have those that drink the cool-aid which blurs their vision ... have another gulp @PLH of Rider Pride and spout your own version of hate, "this does not mean you will not feel the wrath", and the Rider Mob has spoken. The mob is fickle brother.
March 01, 2014 - 1:45am
als rule
green sign 2 DL: sumlin from the U of findlay and guyton from the U of california!!
February 28, 2014 - 11:45am
Orange & Black
Riders not concerned about the off-season exodus of good players. YA RIGHT!!! Typical Rod Pedersen verbal diarrhea!
February 28, 2014 - 4:24am
"Those players are about to find out. Truthfully, it’s stunning to me that there’s been such a fire drill to the province’s exits." Methinks thou dost protest too much! I mean really this sounds like sour grapes that players wanted to get paid more or actually see the field rather than hold for field goals. BTW what's with the heartland nonsense, it apparent players are saying what the media and fans want to hear until its time to move and they really don't buy into such platitudes.
February 27, 2014 - 8:06pm
Is there something between the lines to be read in Geroy's comment about sticking with your team? Just askin'
February 27, 2014 - 6:18pm
als rule
@N: ... geroy started his CFL career in winnipeg then left for wallyworld as a FA!! when wallyworld released him he signed with regina as a FA!! so why is geroy annoyed at his ex-team mates doing the same thing he did TWICE!! or is it: do as I say and not as I do!!
February 28, 2014 - 4:14pm
About the poll asking which player Riders should be concerned about losing, I don't get why Sheets is at the top. Yes, he is a good RB, but he is an American RB. Taman will be able to replace Sheets with a serviceable RB. Dressler and Butler are way bigger concerns, because of their dominance and nationality, respectively.
February 27, 2014 - 3:25pm
Dressler is a import.
February 28, 2014 - 1:43am
Respectively. As in Dressler's dominance and Butler's nationality.
March 01, 2014 - 3:36pm
GC Bound
Well that all sounds real nice, but make no mistake, If Riders don't make the playoffs, Big Brass Heads will role!!!
Go Riders Go!
February 27, 2014 - 12:20pm
As a fellow Rider fan, I have to disagree. This set of managers got us a Grey Cup and to do it, they had to overspend. Now they are watching the salary cap and letting a lot of players walk. Taman deserves some leeway with Rider fans. Also, as to not making the playoffs, we are going to have Winnipeg and Edmonton in our division. I doubt either of them will have a better record than Saskatchewan.
February 27, 2014 - 3:20pm
GC Bound
I can appreciate your point of view however I saw the 'Big Brass' BUY a Greycup team, not build it and now we stand to see the folly of such an approach. BUILD a team over a period of years and you stand to win repeats not just every few years.
Go Riders GO!!
February 27, 2014 - 7:00pm
I don't disagree with your idea that Taman 'bought' rather than 'built' a championship. However, I think you would have to agree that a bought GC is better than no GC.
February 27, 2014 - 10:29pm
« < 1 2 > »