February 22, 2012

Stephen: Stamps focus on internal improvements

Mark Stephen

The headlines have been numerous during this Canadian Football League free agency period. Whether it is the aggressive moves of Hamilton, the offensive line retooling in Saskatchewan, Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions cornering the market on defensive backs or Montreal grabbing defensive help, everyone has taken a turn in the spotlight.

Everyone that is, except for the Calgary Stampeders.

By design the Stamps have stayed out of the free agent game and have been busy with internal improvements.

They recently re-signed defensive lineman Charleston Hughes. The expectation is Hughes will improve on his 40 tackle, seven sack performance of last season. Hughes has led or co-led the Stampeders in sacks for the last four seasons.

The team also re-upped with place kicker Rene Paredes, who kicked thirty-five field goals for the Stampeders after taking over from the injured Rob Maver during the second week of the season.

Entering free agency, the Stampeders had the fewest free agents of any CFL team. Veteran offfensive lineman Tim O’Neill moved to Hamilton – taking the place of center Mark Dewit who was traded to his hometown Stampeders. 

Also, seven year punter Burke Dales stayed in Alberta but moved to Edmonton. The Stamps re-signed linebacker/special teamer Marc Calixte just prior to the arrival of free agency. The club is also working on re-signing linebacker Brandon Isaac.

The team has been busy creating their own headlines – just not via free agency. This off-season they dealt their career passing leader, Henry Burris, to Hamilton, while acquiring veteran Kevin Glenn and the aforementioned Dewit. 

A few weeks after the Burris deal, they released franchise rushing leader Joffrey Reynolds. 

While both moves had been widely anticipated, the pair will leave substantial legacies at McMahon Stadium.

The team also extended the contracts of franchise cornerstones, running back Jon Cornish and quarterback Drew Tate. Cornish was also accorded another honour as he was voted Calgary Booster Club’s 2011 Male Athlete of the Year. He will be saluted at a gala civic dinner in March.

The Stampeders’ big moves for 2012 may actually have taken place late in 2011. It isn’t without a lot of forethought that you replace the franchise passing and rushing leader in short order.

By building on their 11 wins of last year, securing many of the key contributors as well, the Calgary Stampeders hope they will be writing the big headlines at the end of 2012 in Toronto