February 8, 2024

Nye: Riders making big moves before free agency

Peter Power/CFL.ca

Last year, the Saskatchewan Roughriders attacked free agency with a little less splash, outside of landing Trevor Harris from the Montreal Alouettes.

This year?

CANNONBALL! Or at least they’ve ‘agreed to terms’ with said cannonballs.

As general manager Jeremy O’Day went into the CFL Free Agency Communication Window there were clear needs for a team that went back-to-back seasons ending 0-7.

Now we have multiple reports on several players who fill many holes across the board.

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Indications point to offensive tackle Jermarcus Hardrick, running back AJ Ouellette, linebackers Jameer Thurman and Adam Auclair, and defensive back Jalon Edwards-Cooper.

And there are plenty of days before free agency even begins on Tuesday, February 13.

I can see O’Day and new head coach Corey Mace walking to the board and ticking the boxes on what they believe will help turn things around in year one in Saskatchewan.

Hardrick and Ouellette on offence are a sign of what is ahead for Trevor Harris in year two running the offence.

You’re going to see a bigger, strong, run oriented offence that should be able to utilize the play action to give Harris more time to fire down field on a talented receiving group with some of the best up and coming National receivers in the game, as well as another free agent signing last year in Shawn Bane Jr.

There is still see room in the receiving group for the Riders to add a veteran like Cam Phillips, Rasheed Bailey or potentially Lucky Whitehead. While Tim White is the biggest name available, I’m not sure the funds are in O’Day’s reach to pull that off.

Hardrick is a tireless ball of energy, power and intimidation. He plays the way Mace and offensive coordinator Marc Mueller want to see from their team. The addition to the offensive line will be massive, especially after seeing Zach Collaros’ thoughts in the Winnipeg Sun regarding losing his veteran right tackle.

Over on the defensive side of the ball, Jameer Thurman and Adam Auclair are younger versions of what appears to be the outgoing starting linebackers from 2023, Larry Dean and Micah Teitz.

Jalon Edwards-Cooper was an underrated member of the Lions defensive secondary in 2023 and will be a fantastic depth piece after the Riders released veteran Nic Marshall in the off-season.

Edwards-Cooper is another young defensive back that joins a formidable group forming in Saskatchewan with Rolan Milligan Jr., Deontai Williams, Amari Henderson and C.J. Reavis all showing tremendous promise, with Milligan and Reavis already showing All-Star calibre play.


The group on defence that I can still see the Riders looking to add next week when free agency officially begins is defensive line.

It’s the position group Corey Mace has been able to develop great pass rushers in Ja’Gared Davis, Mike Rose, Brandon Barlow, Folarin Orimolade, Cordarro Law … just to name a few.

You can see the Riders do have promising players off the edge in Christian Albright and Bryan Cox Jr. but I’m not sure Saskatchewan wants to head into the season with some unseasoned players to get after the quarterback.

The Riders need a strong pass rush again or things becoming much more difficult to set the tone of a football game.

There are a few players available, including Davis, Jackson Jeffcoat, Malik Carney, A.C. Leonard, and if they want to make another massive ripple Mathieu Betts has not yet made a decision. But again, they’re starting to run out of the massive money it would take to land Betts.

While you don’t hand out Grey Cups during the CFL Free Agency Communication Window, there is no denying the Roughriders haven’t been scared to spend some big money to make a move up the West Division standings this season.

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