Saturday, 20 December 2014

Don’t Mess Around With Jim!

With the Grey Cup in the rear-view mirror, the offseason is now in full swing. Every team faces different challenges, and over the course of the next nine days we will look at each team individually and what they need to do prior to the start of next season. Today, we look at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

What a difference a year makes.

At this time last year, the Montreal Alouettes were without a proven quarterback or anything resembling much of a coaching staff. To further frustrate the Als’ faithful, was the inaction and apparent lack of urgency on the part of general manager Jim Popp to remedy any of these situations.

‎These unresolved issues lingered well into the first few months of 2014, with many people beginning to question the veteran GM. While other teams were re-signing their free agents and acquiring new ones for the upcoming season, les Alouettes appeared more like Snowbirds on a winter hiatus while division opponents were actively moving forward.

Not that everything started off easy for Popp's Posse in 2014. The team fired offensive coordinator Rick Worman before the regular season even began, and replaced him tenderfoot apprentice Ryan Dinwiddie. After a rocky start to the regular season, especially offensively, directeur général‎ Popp parachuted in some veteran reinforcements in an effort to swing momentum in what appeared to be a losing battle not seen in the province since the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

‎Well, we all know what happened after that. One win and seven losses to begin the 2014 campaign got turned right around, as the Als finished at 9-9 and fell one win short of a making their ninth Grey Cup appearance since the turn of the millennium after losing in Hamilton to the Tiger-Cats in the East Division Final.

To quote American songwriter and balladeer Jim Croce;
You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim
Fast forward to the present: the Als have a stable coaching foundation; new additions to the staff are just that, additions, rather than scrambling for replacements; and they appear to be solidified in many more areas than they were at the start of the 2014 campaign.

The Alouettes have been the most active club thus far in the offseason by extending and re-signing some of their potential free agents. Veteran nationals Nicolas Boulay and Eric Deslauriers will return to the Larks in 2015. Keystone veteran internationals Tyrell Sutton and Chip Cox have also been inked to deals that will see them on Crescent Street as well as in Percival Molson Stadium.

Still, some important questions remain as far as their longer than normal list of attractive veteran free agents and some tough decisions will have to be made.

Firstly, as long as it took to write this sentence is the time that it took for Duron Carter to find a home with an NFL team. No need to waste any time discussing his CFL prospects.

SJ Green is another matter altogether. I fully expect to see him back in rouge, bleu, argent et blanc for the upcoming season. But Mssr. Jim will definitely have to pay and it will be worth every penny.

Much of Brandon Rutley’s future will depend upon the health and wellbeing of another Brandon: in the name of Whitaker. If No. 2 is healthy and ready to play, that spells release for No. 33. Either way, the Alouettes are set with two solid running backs.

The one thing that Montreal lacks is that smaller, faster, quicker and shiftier inside receiver that can turn a five-yard catch across the middle into a bigger, double-digit-yard gain. They ranked near the bottom of the league when it came to YAC offensively. Current Hamilton Tiger-Cat Samuel Giguère may be an interesting, yet not cheap, acquisition for Montreal at the inside receiver spot.

But it is much of the aggressive and opportunistic Alouette defense that could be a distant memory due to free agency. Front seven players Aaron Lavarias, Scott Paxson, Bear Woods and Winston Venable along with “wily” veteran secondary standouts Jerald Brown and Geoff Tisdale are set to hit the open market. In my mind, there simply is not enough money to pay all six players to stay in la belle province. Quite frankly, each and every one of the six would be welcome additions to most any and every team across the league.

My guesses are as good as anyone’s here, but I believe that the practitioner Popp will keep his field side secondary tandem of Tisdale and Brown intact. Tackling machine Bear Woods is a must sign in order to solidify the middle of the Als’ defense which allows the others to be aggressive. That leaves both Lavarias and Venable vulnerable in the open market. Both are extremely valuable players that I believe many other teams will target, but it comes down to numbers as it always does.

Another area where Montreal needs to improve is in punt returns and the resultant field position battle. The hiring and appointing of a dedicated special teams coach will undoubtedly help in this area, yet the need for a solid punt and kick returner remains a priority.

Yet as we have seen in years past, Popp is not one to be aggressive or spend foolishly in free agency. Of course, we will all see Jim garner some attention when he picks up other teams’ discarded veterans that consensus says are all worn out and finished. Some will work out – some will not.

One thing we can be sure of is that it is not wise to tug on Superman’s cape because if the last 20 years as a personnel executive has show us anything it is that...

You Don’t Mess Around with Jim!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Rough Ride Ahead for Saskatchewan

With the Grey Cup in the rear-view mirror, the offseason is now in full swing. Every team faces different challenges, and over the course of the next nine days we will look at each team individually and what they need to do prior to the start of next season. Today, we look at the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The 101st Grey Cup champions’ 2014 season was a tale of two halves. The Riders started the season 8-2 and looked primed to make a run at a repeat, but an unfortunate injury to Darian Durant saw the team stumble down the stretch and win just two games the rest of the season. The Riders started three different quarterbacks in the second half of the season, finally settling on 41-year-old former MOP Kerry Joseph, before they were eliminated in the West Division Semi-Final by the Edmonton Eskimos.

After a disappointing end to their season – and frankly, it was all undone because the team did not have a capable backup quarterback, which falls on the talent evaluators – the Riders decided not to bring back both their coordinators. They said goodbye to a ton of experience by not renewing offensive coordinator George Cortez's contact and stripping defensive coordinator Richie Hall of his duties. Whomever is tasked with replacing them – signs are currently pointing to former BC Lions offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine replacing Cortez – will have big, championship-winning shoes to fill.

But finding new coaches isn’t the only challenge facing the Riders this offseason. The Riders have a league-high 23 players currently headed for free agency in February, with big names such as Tyron Brackenridge, Weston Dressler and Ben Heenan being among them. Brackenridge is a two-time CFL All-Star and will command a hefty salary, while both Dressler and Heenan might push to be the highest-paid players at their respective positions. The team inked two other pending free agents to new contracts in the past week, re-upping with Tearrius George last Friday and Ricky Foley yesterday, so the Riders might be hard pressed to find room under the cap to bring back their three other All-Star-calibre players. And on top of that, breakout linebacker Brian Peters needs a new contract. Add it all up and I don't know how the Riders are going to be able to bring everyone back. The decision might be made for them if Dressler or Heenan sign in the NFL, but with so many good players looking for raises, at least one of these players will not be wearing green and white next year.

Depending on what happens with their own free agents, the Riders might not have a lot of room under the cap to upgrade the talent at other positions via free agency. One area they drastically need to find an upgrade at is backup quarterback. Tino Sunseri is a free agent and we may have seen the last of him in the CFL; Kerry Joseph retired following the season; Seth Doege looked completely out of his element in the one game he started; and Keith Price never saw the field, so he is a complete unknown. Going into next season with a similar quarterback stable is simply not an option for the Roughriders.

The two quarterbacks scheduled to hit the open market that should draw interest from Saskatchewan are Kevin Glenn and Dan LeFevour. I expect the Riders to go hard after Glenn, but adding Lefevour must interest the Riders. Unlike Glenn, you can play LeFevour every week with special packages that take advantage of his skills, as the Ti-Cats have done the last two years, so you would probably get more each week out of signing LeFevour than you would out of signing Glenn. But signing Glenn has its advantages as well. You know what you are getting out of Glenn, and that is comforting to have in a backup quarterback. Signing either player would be an upgrade for a Rider team that desperately needs one at backup quarterback.

Brandon Banks is a free agent that would intrigue every team, but especially the Riders. He has yet to show his full potential at receiver, but he is undoubtedly the best returnman in the league (and whomever you want to say is second isn’t even close) and that is worth its weight in gold. He can flip the field in an instant, and is capable of scoring every time he touches the ball. He would add a dimension the Riders have been lacking for some time. Banks has said that if he returns to the CFL – he seems to want to give the NFL another shot – his desire is to return to Hamilton, but the Riders might want to kick the tires to see if Banks has any interest in moving west.

With a new coaching staff and what could be a mass exodus of players, including some really good ones, this Rider team could look nothing like the one that won the Grey Cup just 13 months ago. In an always tough, West Division, Saskatchewan could be in for a rough ride in 2015.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Righting the Good Ship Argonaut

With the Grey Cup in the rear-view mirror, the offseason is now in full swing. Every team faces different challenges, and over the course of the next nine days we will look at each team individually and what they need to do prior to the start of next season. Today, we look at the Toronto Argonauts.
"You are what your record says you are!"
While I agree with Hall of Famer Bill Parcells in his now famous assessment, I will say this: I believe the 2014 Toronto Argonauts were a better team than their results indicated.

I realize that injuries, and player and coaching departures ‎happen to all teams, but the Argos' ship was pirated and ransacked at this time last year. Chris Jones' move out west and subsequent plundering of his former vessel was borderline larceny. In a way I actually felt sorry for Toronto and that is coming from a Tiger-Cats Fan!

That being said, the Double Blue controlled their own fate much of the season and had every opportunity to clinch first place in the East or at least lock-up a playoff position. All of which makes missing out on the playoffs an obvious disappointment for the Boatmen and spells out that they were exactly what their record says they were.

We now know that Ricky Ray was playing with an injured shoulder during the 2014 campaign. That’s not meant to be an excuse for the team's poor performance, but obviously a 100 per cent healthy Ricky Ray at the helm makes the Argos automatically better.

Having many of their other oars repaired and in the water will also greatly help the Boatmen. A healthy Chad Owens, Andre Durie and Anthony Coombs ‎gives the league's best pure passer the weapons he needs to set sail down field and score a boatload of points.

That’s not to say that there will not be any changes to the Double Blue Offense. Five Receivers: Darvin Adams, Jason Barnes, John Chiles, Maurice Mann and Spencer Watt, are set to become free agents in February. Of those, I believe retaining Chiles and Watt is critical for general manager Jim Barker. I don’t see The Gambler Jim being tremendously active in free agency, especially at the receiver position. Barker has found a knack, and a well-deserved reputation, for finding speedsters, playmakers and game-breakers south of the border.

Changes will occur to the boys up front as three of those who were tasked with protecting their franchise quarterback are also poised to hit the open market in 2015. There will be significant interest in Tyler Holmes and it may very well take more money than they are willing to part with in order to keep him from going home to Ottawa. Having former first-round picks Matt Sewell and Scott Mitchell on the roster, and being able to step into starting roles, will help offset such a loss, while keeping the all-important ratio intact.

Offensive linemen SirVincent Rogers and Jarriel King are also slated to hit the open market this winter. While Rogers has been solid at left tackle, I see King as being more important in retaining since he has played multiple positions along the line during his tenure with Toronto.

Yet, it was not the offense or scoring that sunk the Argos in 2014. It was a very leaky defense that ranked near the bottom of every category that was the leading contributor to their swamping and ultimate submerging.

Toronto needs to improve drastically in getting after the opposition quarterback, taking the ball away and not‎ giving up so many big plays. In a sentence, the Double Blue needs more playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive back Jalil Carter is drawing attention down south as a wide receiver. If they cannot get the versatile standout to stay in the Big Smoke, his ball skills will have to be replaced. Strong-side linebacker Matthew Ware was also solid in his return to professional football. But at 32-years old, and questions about his future firefighting career, it is unclear whether he will be back in Double Blue.

Odell Willis would be a very interesting acquisition should owner David Braley be willing to loosen the purse strings. Willis has relationships with both Jim Barker, who brought him into the league in Calgary, as well as Defensive Coordinator Tim Burke and Line/Linebackers coach Casey Creehan, thanks to the time the three of them spent in Winnipeg. Toronto has had some flamboyant and controversial mayors in their past – how about another one?

Jerald Brown or Geoff Tisdale would be attractive acquisitions for a sub-par secondary. Montreal may be hard pressed to retain both of these All-Star calibre defenders once they dole out the dollars to S.J. Green and Bear Woods. Having already spent their 2014 salary cap savings on four higher-priced players – Chip Cox, Eric Deslauriers, Nicolas Boulay, and Tyrell Sutton – there might not be enough room under the cap for Brown and/or Tisdale.

However, the biggest challenge that Toronto faces may very well be the turbulent waters that they attempt to navigate going forward off the field. Continued turmoil as far as where they will play in the future needs to be remedied, and the futures of both head coach Scott Milanovich and general manager Jim Barker also have to be solidified.

With an uncertain and cloudy view on the horizon from the quarterdeck, it could be a challenge for Toronto to acquire the recognizable free agents necessary to right the good ship Argonaut.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Bombers Must Look to Recruit the Enemy

With the Grey Cup in the rear-view mirror, the offseason is now in full swing. Every team faces different challenges, and over the course of the next nine days we will look at each team individually and assess what they need to do prior to the start of next season. Today, we look at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Around this time last year, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were in the dumps. They were coming off an embarrassing 3-15 season and had cut ties with almost all of their staff. But then in came new general manager Kyle Walters, and the reshaping of the boys in blue began.

The Bombers got off to a great start in 2014, starting the season at 5-1. But then the wheels came off, and Winnipeg went 2-10 over their last 12 games, including a seven game losing streak, and missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

However, the Bombers still took two steps forward in year one of the post-Joe Mack rebuild. They found a quarterback in Drew Willy, a running back in Paris Cotton, a decent receiving corps, several defensive backs and a taste of what it's like to be on top of the CFL. Many core players are in place, so now all Walters needs to do is find a few more and build around them. Turns out, those players may have been wearing green and white in Riderville this past season.

Not all players took a step forward in 2014. Many failed to capitalize on opportunities or found there was no room for them to succeed from a roster standpoint. The majority are defensive players, as I'm sure defensive coordinator Gary Etcheverry and Walters realize Big Blue needs bigger players. Etcheverry's odd scheme that included small and speedy players was solved by teams in the second half of the season. The solution was easy: give the ball to your backs to power up the middle. Walters will need to let go of his smaller defenders, as well as move on from certain underachieving offensive players in order to find success in 2015.

Time to say goodbye to

Demond Washington, defensive back
Washington is an extremely talented athlete, as was shown against Calgary when he was used as a slotback on end-arounds, but the same cannot be said regarding his game as a cover-man. Washington is 5'9”, making him useless in nickel packages and against bigger slotbacks. It's time to move on from him and bring in someone bigger.

Desia Dunn, linebacker/defensive back
Again, talent is not the issue, size is. Also at 5'9”, Dunn is no more useful than Washington as a defensive back, and at SAM linebacker, the Bombers are better off with both Johnny Sears and Teague Sherman.

Aaron Kelly, receiver
Kelly seemed like a reliable target for Drew Willy early on – he had the first 100-yard receving game of the 2014 season – but then flashed the same inconsistency that plagued him in Hamilton, and was virtually useless when going across the middle. Kelly was scratched in a handful of games near the end of the season in favour of Rory Kohlert and Cory Watson. The Bombers are better off cutting ties with Kelly and signing a receiver in free agency.

Zach Andersen, defensive tackle
Defensive line is a position I expect Walters to make drastic changes in. They need a true stud big man in middle, and Andersen, coming off a severe knee injury, is not the guy. He had flashes as a solid defensive tackle behind Bryant Turner, Jr., however I think Turner, Jr. will be pushed into a No. 2 role after Walters brings in a new lineman.

Carl Volny, running back
There are simply way too many good backup running backs out there. The Bombers could bring in one or two for a reasonable cost.

Players to bring back

A successful rebuild does not happen without certain players having breakout seasons. The Bombers had numerous players who came out of nowhere, and it's time for them to get paid.

Ian Wild, linebacker
Wild registered 73 tackles, despite missing a month due to injury. Wild is a tackle machine – he recorded an astounding 14 tackles in the 2014 Banjo Bowl – who would benefit greatly with a move to outside linebacker. This would allow Winnipeg to import a big middle linebacker to clean up the run defence. Wild is an obvious re-sign.

Matt Bucknor, defensive back
There aren't very many positions more valuable than a starting Canadian strong side cornerback. Bucknor is a solid corner who managed to play and start all 18 games after coming over in a trade with Hamilton. If Washington is in fact not re-signed, the Bombers would need Bucknor even more. No doubt, re-signing Bucknor is near the top of Kyle Walters' to-do list.

Glenn January, offensive tackle
January didn't have a good season by any means, but he was playing through injuries for the most of the year. The Bombers will need a veteran presence on a young offensive line next year, including someone who will likely end up taking over his spot in one or two seasons. A two-year deal for "The Manuary" would be ideal, but he would also probably have to accept a reduced salary from what he has been paid in years past.

Brian Brohm, quarterback
What's better than one good backup quarterback? Two good backup quarterbacks! I would like to see Robert Marve take over in games if Willy gets hurt, as teams will not have game planned for his unique skill set; however, should Willy be forced to sit out a week, Brohm would get the start as he fits the scheme better. Winnipeg needs a second drop-back passer on the depth chart, Brohm will return.

Johnny Sears, linebacker/defensive back
The Bombers need Sears' hard hitting body on the field at all times, whether he is at SAM linebacker on passing downs or free safety in cover 2 coverages. Sears was limited due to injuries in 2014, but made the most of his return late in the season.

Potential new faces in the Blue and Gold

Tristan Jackson, defensive back, Saskatchewan
Jackson is officially listed as a defensive back despite playing all of 2014 at corner, where his coverage skills have now matched his return skills. The Bombers should make room for Jackson; whether they need to move him to DB, put him ahead of Bucknor at corner or simply move Bucknor entirely to DB. Jackson is an upgrade in all phases compared to Washington, and is likely not going to be back in Riderville considering all the free agents they need to sign.

Ben Heenan, offensive lineman, Saskatchewan
If Weston Dressler stays, Ben Heenan goes. The Riders can afford to let him walk as Dan Clark, should he be re-signed, is capable of replacing him. In Winnipeg, Patrick Neufeld would be pushed to right tackle, as Mathias Goossen will take over newly re-signed Chris Greaves' spot at right guard while Heenan will replace Neufeld at guard.

Shawn Lemon, defensive end, Calgary
Winnipeg's greatest weak point was the defensive line, as the team finished last in sacks in 2014. Lemon would boost that stat tremendously, as he finished tied for second in the league with 13 sacks. In Winnipeg, Jason Vega struggled all year opposite Greg Peach at defensive end and no depth players stepped up. Lemon would transform Winnipeg's pass rush immediately.

Korey Williams, receiver, Saskatchewan
Williams showed flashes of potential after starting receiver Taj Smith went down with a broken collarbone. A tall wide receiver could help Winnipeg's red zone woes. Williams would be a huge upgrade for the Bombers at receiver.

Trevor Guyton, defensive tackle, Saskatchewan
Guyton was mainly a backup for the Riders behind Tearrius George in 2014, but he still managed to record 36 tackles and three sacks in a limited role. Guyton would be a good replacement for Andersen, and would help with the Bombers' run defence problems.

If Walters can sign even three of the above players, and add some depth players, expectations in Winnipeg will skyrocket.

Other offseason "To-Do's" for Winnipeg would be to fire both defensive and offensive coordinators before it's too late. George Cortez and Richie Hall, both formerly of the Roughriders, would be great fits for Winnipeg. Gary Etcheverry's and Marcel Bellefeuille’s schemes certainly slowed down the Bombers in 2014. There is a good group of players in Winnipeg, so to maximize the roster changes must be made to the coaching staff.

While it may be unrealistic to expect a Grey Cup championship in 2015 – when the game will be played at Winnipeg’s Investors Group Field – expecting a playoff appearance, and at least one victory, isn’t unreasonable.

Fans can no longer blame the team’s failures on Joe Mack, as Winnipeg has cut ties with a vast majority of the coaches and players who have ever had his name of their contract. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers now rest in the hands of Kyle Walters and his coach, Mike O'Shea. The success or failure of the franchise rests solely on their shoulders.

This winter, the Bombers should look to steal some players from one province west to make their Grey Cup aspirations that much more realistic.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Getting Out of The Red and Into The Black.

With the Grey Cup in the rear-view mirror, the offseason is now in full swing. Every team faces different challenges, and over the course of the next nine days we will look at each team individually and what they need to do prior to the start of next season. Today, we look at the Ottawa RedBlacks.

Anyone with any sense of logic knew that the Ottawa RedBlacks would be hard pressed to win many games in their inaugural season. While many people's predictions of six or more wins ‎was a little too optimistic, the two victories they did manage had to be considered a huge disappointment.

That is not to say that the 2014 season was a failure for the CFL's newest franchise. A brand new stadium, sold out games, vibrant crowds and competitive performances were a welcomed highlight in the return of professional football to the capital region.

Yet, the challenges will only get harder and expectations will ‎only get bigger going forward. With the shine and good feeling of the inaugural season in the rear-view mirror, the RedBlacks will have to make significant strides in their 2015 on-field product.

Ottawa did not capitalize sufficiently during last December’s Expansion Draft. Some of it by poor decisions, while some of it due to bad luck. The Kevin Glenn-Henry Burris mess actually worked out well for the RedBlacks, as they turned the draft pick acquired from the BC Lions into solid rookie starter Antoine Pruneau. Trading the No. 1 pick in the draft to Calgary for John Gott was also a wise choice as they received a valuable, veteran offensive lineman that was able to start from Day 1.

Injuries to quarterback Thomas DeMarco, defensive linemen Moton Hopkins and Jonathan Williams, running back Chevon Walker and receiver Carlton Mitchell saw them get very little production value from five of their eight import round selections. That was both unfortunate and simply not good enough for a team trying to make an impact in their opening season.

Yet, some odd decisions also prevailed. Selecting an injured Joe Eppele, as well as Marwan Hage and Rory Kohlert (both of whom had expressed indecision about even reporting to the team) were definite head-scratchers. Hage would retire and Kohlert would re-sign with the Blue Bombers, both never playing a down for Ottawa.

‎Before any talk of free agent acquisitions, if I were general manager Marcel Desjardins, I would start my off-season by sitting down with veteran quarterback Henry Burris and seriously discuss restructuring his contract. The reported $475,000 that is tied up paying an aging and no-longer-elite quarterback has to be amended or eliminated. Otherwise the Rouge et Noir will never climb out of the basement.

Smilin' Hank is not a half-a-million dollar quarterback in this league anymore, and any money the team could get from restructuring Hank’s deal could be used to get what he needs most: weapons. If he were smart, Henry would become part of the solution rather than remain part of the problem.

The good news along the banks of the Rideau Canal is that the RedBlacks do not face a lot of potential free agent losses in 2015. As far as their pending free agents, Joe Eppele and Jason Pottinger are expected to retire while Moton Hopkins appears to be testing the waters south of the border.

Alex Krausnick-Groh is valuable, as he can play multiple positions along the line of scrimmage and also has long-snapping capabilities. The Calgary native may get some attention from other teams around the league in need of Canadian depth up front, but his best opportunity to start remains in Ottawa.

It becomes interesting when evaluating receivers Miles Wallace and Dobson Collins, the RedBlacks second- and fourth-most productive receivers respectively. I don’t see Collins having many suitors elsewhere and if given the opportunity to re-sign in Ottawa, I would think he takes it.

The same question exists regarding Wallace Miles. While I do believe he would garner attention from other teams, his 2014 campaign was not stellar as he battled with the dreaded “dropsies” for much of the season. He simply did not capitalize upon the opportunity presented him and that could hurt him as he seeks a new contract.

A team that finished 2-16 obviously has a ton of holes to fill – basically, Ottawa needs help everywhere – but realistically all of their needs cannot be address in one off-season, so Desjardins will have to prioritize.

The RedBlacks three highest priorities should be at receiver, offensive lineman and defensive end. They simply need guys to catch the ball, protect the quarterback and get to the quarterback.

Ottawa native Tyler Holmes would be an excellent acquisition for the RedBlacks. The former first-round pick of the Argos is only 26 years of age and just entering the prime of his career. Holmes would prove to be a solidifying leader along the offensive line for many years to come should he leave the double blue and head home.

At receiver, the one prospect the RedBlacks should target is Hamilton’s Greg Ellingson. Ellingson had difficulty cracking the Tiger-Cats’ lineup in 2014 after returning from injury and a change of scenery could do the former Florida International and Arena League star some good. Durability is an issue, but when healthy, he can be a difference maker. He has a pair of the best hands to come north of the border in years, and is more elusive and quick than people think. His connection with Henry Burris – they were teammates with the Ti-Cats in 2013 – should not be overlooked.

Here is a big, bold prognostication – And they get no bigger or bolder than in the form of one Nikolas Lewis! Yes! Nik Lewis. Geronimo Jones. Simon Sleepwalker. Lewis Mangenius. Nikelo Dymes. Dexter Dundidit. I think there is still mileage left on his tires, but I do not believe it will be with the Stampeders. Why not Ottawa? Reuniting “Thik Nik” with Smilin’ Hank would provide solid veteran leadership and a level of toughness and edge that the RedBlacks could desperately use, especially on offense.

Finally, some assistance is needed on the defensive side of the ball, especially in getting to the quarterback. Former Ti-Cat & Roughrider Brandon Boudreaux could finally find a home and the stability needed to get his once blossoming career back on track. I believe he would come in at a cap-friendly number and provide some much needed pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

I also would not count it out of the realm of possibility to see Ricky Foley make his way back across the country and trade in his green and white for some red and black. Saskatchewan has a grain silo full of free agents to re-sign and not everyone will be brought back. Pairing Foley with Justin Capicciotti as National bookends or in a rotational platoon would most definitely help with ratio issues elsewhere on the roster.

The 2015 RedBlacks season will prove to be crucial in its franchise history. The sweet feelings of the inaugural season will turn sour if they cannot get out of the Red and into the Black.