Reading SJ Green’s recent chat with RDS fired up the thought cylinders for this week’s column. With the fate of the 2020 season still unknown, Green is in a strange career limbo. At the age of 35, Green would like to play one more season in the CFL (potentially even with the Als, where it all started). But if the next season doesn’t start until summer 2021, it puts the veteran receiver in a tough spot.
“I still have an itch to play this game,” Green said. “I still love it and I’m still looking to join a team in the fall if there is a season. But if not, I’m happy with how my career has been set forth and how it ended if it is over.”
If we do play in 2020, there’s no question in my mind Green belongs on a roster somewhere. First off, the guy can still ball. After a major knee injury ended his ten-year run with Montreal in 2016, Green has bounced back in a big way with three straight 1,000-yard seasons in Toronto. He remains one of the strongest and most physical receivers in the league and would be an asset to any team.
It goes beyond the fact Green can still play with the best of them, though. We’re also talking about a guy with 170 CFL regular season games to his name, which could go a long way in a potential shortened 2020 campaign. If we do play, veterans like Green will be huge with a scaled-down training camp and the increased priority on a quick start. Green is the type of player with the knowledge and experience to jump into any offence seamlessly.
More than anything, though, I’d like Green to go out on his terms. We’re talking about as close to a sure thing on the CFL All-Decade Team presented by LeoVegas. He’s one of the best and most consistent receivers over the last 15 years. As at peace with things as Green is, he deserves to get one more run in, even if it’s as part of a condensed season. Because of how football works, that opportunity might not be there if he has to wait until 2021.
Green’s situation got me thinking about a few other players in similar spots.
Much like Green, Odell Willis will likely find himself right near the top of his position list for the CFL All-Decade Team when it’s unveiled this fall. In fact, fellow defensive end John Bowman pointed out how he and Willis were the only players to participate in every season over the last decade. Also like Green, Willis is 35 years old, but I think there’s still a lot there.
Yes, Willis’s totals were down in 2019; he finished with four sacks in 18 games with the Lions. But he’s only one season removed from hitting double digits in that category for the fourth time in his career; Willis posted 11 sacks in 2018, his first season with BC. When you combine that with how much the Lions struggled in all areas last year, it gives me reason to believe Willis can still make an impact.
Oh, and don’t forget any team signing Willis would be signing one of the most imposing defensive ends in recent history with an added chip on his shoulder. The former Mayor of Swaggerville likely feels a little slighted to not have a contract by now, and I’d have no problem bringing him into training camp knowing he felt there was something to prove.
I know CJ Gable didn’t finish the 2019 season with gaudy touchdown totals, but he was still one of just five players to finish with more than 1,000 rushing yards. Gable will turn 33 in October, which is typically an age where teams start to shy away from players at his position. But Gable strikes me as a guy who can be an effective rusher into his mid-30’s.
In fact, Gable’s three most productive seasons have also been his three most recent. Ever since arriving in Edmonton at the 2017 trade deadline, Gable has really found his groove and is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, the only two of his career. With a career average of 5.5 yards per carry, Gable remains reliable and consistent and helps any team in pass protection.
With a younger Shaq Cooper ready to bust out and under contract, I understand why Edmonton has opted not to re-sign Gable. But with teams needing to get up to speed quickly in a potential shortened season, Gable would be a natural fit in any offence thanks to his reliability and versatility as a blocker.
Injuries have wreaked havoc on Cory Greenwood’s CFL career since he returned to Canada from the NFL for the 2014 season. But when this guy has been healthy, like he was for the first half of last year, Greenwood is still a very effective presence in the middle of any defence. If Greenwood is keen on playing in 2020, he’d be a savvy add to any defensive unit.
Prior to sustaining an injury in week 14, Greenwood was on pace for a career season in 2019, his second with the Stampeders. Greenwood was averaging more than six tackles per game and was on pace for around 118 had he played an entire year. In the end, he still finished tied for eighth in the league with 79 defensive tackles in 12 appearances.
Knowing all the experience Greenwood has under his belt, I believe he’d be a good addition on any defence. But in a theoretical short season, I feel like Greenwood’s value will be even higher with a less proven group where his experience could really come to the forefront. The fact Greenwood carries a Canadian passport is just an added bonus.