TORONTO — There’s plenty of intrigue around the CFL trade deadline in 2019, which arrives Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET.
At a time when the contenders look to bolster their lineups, only one team has officially been eliminated from post-season contention in the Toronto Argonauts. The Argos have every reason to make some moves this week, coming off a blowout loss to BC and making a change at general manager.
Who are some names worth watching? For quarterback needy teams like Edmonton and Winnipeg, James Franklin and McLeod Bethel-Thompson immediately come to mind. The Argos could move on from either one of those pivots and turn their focus to one of Dakota Prukop, Zach Collaros or Canadian Michael O’Connor.
At receiver, Derel Walker signed a one-year deal with the Argos and is primed to become a free agent in the off-season. Walker is considered one of the top offensive talents in the CFL and would provide an immediate boost to any offence.
And there have already been trade rumours about James Wilder Jr. this season. Wilder has struggled to replicate his 2017 success, but could be of value for a team in need of a running back — a position stretched relatively thin across the nine-team league this year.
As the GM of a contending team, who would be your biggest trade deadline target?
Don Landry: It really depends on which team we’re talking about. But if it’s just straight up who’s the best guy, the biggest difference maker, who might possibly be available? Derel Walker.
Jim Morris: It’s no secret both the Blue Bombers and Eskimos need a quarterback. Easy to say, harder to do. At this time of year, it would be hard to pry a legitimate starting quarterback away from another team. Maybe the Argos would make a deal for either James Franklin or Bethel-Thompson, but whether either would help is questionable.
Chris O’Leary: If I’m Winnipeg, I’m thinking about getting a quarterback and McLeod Bethel-Thompson might be the only option. A few weeks ago I might have thought Antonio Pipkin could be pried from the Als, but I’d guess that Montreal isn’t going to help a potential playoff opponent at this point. Another thought that’s been in the back of my mind the last month or so: Should Calgary go after James Wilder Jr.? They’ve had injury issues at RB all year and physically, Wilder fits that Jon Cornish/Jerome Messam mold that the Stamps have utilized so well in the past.
Marshall Ferguson: Everyone has different needs.. Find you weakness and add depth or a fix NOW. Hamilton is a good example of a team who needed a less finesse run game. Enter Tyrell Sutton.
Matthew Cauz: Mike Reilly.
As the Riders and Stamps battle for first in the West, does home field matter between these teams?
Ferguson: YES! Calgary won in Regina earlier this season, but playoff environments are much more passionate.
O’Leary: Bigger picture, it absolutely does. Hosting the Western Final is the goal and either team hosting will be incredibly tough to knock off. The Stamps aren’t the juggernaut they’ve been in years past, but I still like their chances if they’re at home with a chance to host the Grey Cup a week later. For the Riders, the home field advantage that Mosaic would provide for a Western Final is unmatchable (sorry, Winnipeg).
Cauz: I think it matters more for the Riders. Bo Levi Mitchell isn’t going to be rattled playing on the road no matter how many watermelon wearing fans are yelling at him. Cody Fajardo will start his first ever playoff game, so home comfort would be a benefit.
Morris: For the Riders, yes. They gain a lot of energy playing in front of their fans in Regina. When the Stampeders are playing well, it doesn’t matter if they are at home or on the road.
Landry: It does, but not enough to be concerning to the team that doesn’t take first place. Football teams are well-versed in playing big games in hostile territory. What might be of more importance in this scenario is gaining the bye, as Calgary will have played five straight weeks of what amounts to playoff football when the regular season ends, and the Roughriders six.
Which quarterback situation is more concerning the rest of the season?
Ferguson: Winnipeg. Total inability to operate with consistency on second and long right now.
Landry: Edmonton’s is more concerning, provided Trevor Harris isn’t ready for the rest of the regular season. The Blue Bombers are set for a playoff spot and have time to try and straighten out their offensive woes with a more experienced quarterback. The Eskimos don’t have the luxury of time. They need Logan Kilgore to be productive right now.
Morris: I would say Edmonton. Winnipeg has a playoff spot wrapped up. They also have the league’s best running back in Andrew Harris. The Eskimos still haven’t secured a playoff spot and look to be spiraling in the wrong direction.
Cauz: If Trevor Harris can make it back than the bigger concern is on Winnipeg who have lost three in a row and have scored 19 points in their last two games.
O’Leary: I don’t know. I don’t think I can answer this, other than to say I came away from last week’s games wondering if either QB will play well enough to get a win the rest of the season. Winnipeg is more likely to win because they can get points from their defence and/or special teams. That won’t get you very far though.