March 14, 2017

Nye: Full marks for the Riders in free agency

David Chidley/

Vince Young certainly gets the headlines. People are talking all over North America about the former NFL star, trying to rekindle a career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

However, nobody knows what Vince Young will do in Rider green. The impact could be negligible and in fact, Chris Jones’ work before Young and his family landed in Regina is much more likely pay off more than the negotiations that got the University of Texas star to sign a contract.

Jones came into the off-season with a plan that was quickly put into motion. He continued to shed salary. The most notable move in all of that was Darian Durant’s trade to Montreal.

» View 2017 free agent tracker
» MMQB: Steinberg’s first read on Vince Young
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Walter Tychnowicz/

Eddie Steele is one of several key acquisitions by the Riders over the last 30 days (Walter Tychnowicz/

He then continued to fill the holes in the roster that were noticeable during the season.

One glaring problem was protecting the quarterback.

Derek Dennis and Ryan White bring in a veteran presence and though the retirement of Chris Best doesn’t help, the Riders do have a second overall pick in a draft year that is deep with offensive lineman.

When you are able to add the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in the league, for reasonable value, you are ahead of the game in improving the offensive line.

Jones next biggest coup is likely Marc-Olivier Brouillette. After going through a season of revolving door safeties with limited experience, Chris Jones sought the best available in free agency and goes from question mark to all-star calibre play.

Brouillette becomes a key player to the success of Chris Jones’ aggressive style defence that needs a safety who knows the speed and space in the Canadian game. Too often a long play was caused by bad positioning by inexperienced safety play.

Brouillette also helps address the other issue Jones knew he had to address: Canadian depth.

Johany Jutras/

National safety Marc-Olivier Brouillette spent seven seasons playing for the Als (Johany Jutras/

He started this late in 2016 with the signing of linebacker Henoc Muamba but he continued to build with other Canadian signings.

Kienan LaFrance, Eddie Steele and Aaron Milton.

LaFrance and Steele have the potential to become Canadian starters, let alone depth players for Saskatchewan.

Allowing Jones more flexibility with the roster would go a long way, when at times in 2016 it was a scramble during games to figure out the ratio, once leading to a fine for not playing the appropriate amount of Canadians.

LaFrance and Milton also can contribute on special teams, if nothing else. And also a little bit in the lackluster run game put on the field by the Riders’ offence.

Jones also chased that with not only LaFrance but former NFLer Daniel Thomas and former Blue Bomber Cameron Marshall. It appears to be a wide open battle for the running back spot.

Oh, you think that sounds like enough players for free agency? Jones wasn’t done.

Veteran CFLers Bakari Grant, Chad Owens, Zach Minter and Glenn Love were also added.

All add value in different areas. Minter may be the most underrated signing of free agency as he’s contributed nicely at the defensive tackle spot and at 26-years old could eventually become a dominant interior presence that was lacking in Saskatchewan last season.

Glenn Love is ready to take his career to the next level. The Riders also lost Jeff Knox Jr. to the NFL, so Love fills that hole more than adequately. A potential starting outside linebacker and most definitely a special teams ace.


6-foot-4 linebacker Glenn Love became a starter for the Stamps late in 2016 (The Canadian Press)

Special Teams Coordinator Craig Dickenson will love this signing.

Speaking of special teams, we can’t ignore the steady hands of Chad Owens. While Owens was pondering retirement, he’ll be a veteran influence on a young receiving corps who could use another mature presence in the room. Rob Bagg certainly can’t do it himself.

Which brings us to Bakari Grant. Another veteran receiver, which indicates that as much as there were plenty of receivers who showed promise at receiver in Saskatchewan, Jones wants results, not promise.

He also needs wins. All these CFL free agent players gives Jones a better chance at that, whether Vince Young ever takes a snap, or not.

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