At the free agent deadline last year, the CFL Players Association and league were embroiled in acrimonious negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement. That made for a lot of labour uncertainty, with players and teams reluctant to commit to long-term deals before a salary cap was in place. The agreement that was eventually reached also did away with the option year on CFL contracts so deals that previously had been a minimum of two years could now be one year.
As a result, there’s plenty of CFL players eligible to declare free agency as of 11 a.m. this morning. At the end of the 2014 season, the Riders alone had 29 free agents, but the league total exceeded 200, so lots of teams are in the same boat.
It’s already been an eventful off-season in Riderville, what with coach Corey Chamblin jettisoning offensive coordinator George Cortez and long-time defensive coordinator Richie Hall. In a post-season interview, Chamblin indicated that he’d run the defense in the Riders 18-10 playoff loss in Edmonton (game photo above) where the D more than held its own. When former Montreal linebacker coach Greg Quick was signed as the new DC in early January Chamblin indicated that, at the start of the season anyway, he would handle the defensive signals. So that puts a fair bit of responsibility on new OC Jacques Chapedelaine.
In the playoff game the Green & White were done in, as they were for most of the season, by shoddy special teams play and an anemic offense, with major uncertainty at running back all year, and huge problems at QB after Darian Durant went down in the Banjo Bowl.
In the last few months, GM Brendan Taman has whittled down the Riders’ free agent total. D-linemen Tearrius George, D-back Terrell Maze, linebacker Weldon Brown, receiver Kory Williams, all-star safety Tyron Brackenridge and receiver Weston Dressler have all re-signed. D-lineman Ricky Foley re-signed, but then was traded to Toronto for middle linebacker Shea Emery, which should help the Riders fill a big hole from last year on defence. Finally, centre Dominc Picard was released and signed with Winnipeg; and tackle Ben Heenan was also released to pursue an NFL opportunity with the Indianapolis Colts.
One big question mark among the remaining free agents is QB Tino Sunseri. In only his second year with the team, he was forced into a starter role when Durant got injured. While he showed flashes of good play, he mostly struggled, and was ultimately replaced (in a panic move, Earl Camembert said in our November pre-playoff Rider Fan Forum) by 41-year old retired QB Kerry Joseph. Overall, Sunseri’s performance was disappointing. But critics have said that Cortez’s extremely conservative play-calling didn’t do him any favours either.
You can find out more on the Rider and CFL free agents here.