The memo from Commissioner Randy Ambrosie to create more interest in the CFL in the off-season appears to be having an impact.
With 11 days and counting until the start of CFL free agency, teams looking to get into a position to capitalize felt obligated to make moves to clear room to sign important pieces.
What was interesting was Toronto started the day with Ricky Ray signing a one year contract. Ray coming back allows him to mentor James Franklin, whom Toronto got from Edmonton, and act as the transition guy so Franklin can learn and then move into the drivers seat when Ray finally steps aside.
Toronto has a Plan A and Plan B to help the Argos move into a period of sustained success at quarterback. It also likely takes Johnny Manziel off the board as a potential option.
Speaking of Hamilton, they extended defensi ve back Demond Washington after earlier extending Justin Capicciotti and released defensive back Emanuel Davis. Then it was announced that Calgary had traded Charleston Hughes to Hamilton along with the 34th overall pick for the 28th overall pick this year and a fourth round pick next year.
Hughes may be 34, but he led the CFL in sacks lack year and has recorded double digit sack seasons in five of his last six seasons. It seems like Calgary was free cup salary cap room for upcoming free agents and wanted to trade Hughes outside of the western conference.
Calgary also saw the retirement of Josh Bell who brings his red painted face to the sidelines as a coach. Bell who was a star in the Stamps defensive backfield, brings a certain intensity but his retirement combined with the Stamps dropping to straight Grey Cups indicates GM John Hufnagel wants to tinker with the teams lineup and get some salary cap flexibility. The trade of Hughes indicates Calgary is looking to get younger and hungrier and sending Hughes to the East was an acknowledgment that the Stamps did not want him haunting them this season.
But three hours later so much for that thought as Hamilton flipped Hughes to the Riders in exchange for back up quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. Adams was doing third down plays for the Riders and actually won his three starts with Montreal, but with Brandon Bridge coming on and then the trade for Collaros, the Riders had assets they could move at quarterback and the trade for Adams may have been either a shot across the bow of the Manziel camp, or an acknowledgement that Manziel is delusional and not likely to come to Canada.
Adams and Jeremiah Masoli are essentially the same type of quarterback at different stages of development, but Adams moves up the ladder towards starting and the Riders get the bookend defensive end they needed opposite Willie Jefferson. While it has not been announced Jefferson has signed with the Riders, it appears that he has and that leaves the Riders with maybe looking at a Canadian interior defensive lineman or maybe offensive lineman in free agency.
This move has the feel of the Riders loading up for a run at the Grey Cup and we’ll see what the next couple of weeks shows when free agency opens. The Riders released running backs Kienan LaFrance and Shakir Bell after picking up Johnny Augustine at running back.
Augustine is an interesting case because I remember watching him during the CFL combine and being impressed with his blocking ability. However there is more to being a player and Augustine wasn’t picked up during the draft going as a free agent pickup to Edmonton, then getting released and going back to the University of Guelph.
It was thought that maybe Augustine wasn’t mature enough to justify a pick up as a draft pick and needed to develop more as a person. Also LFrance was making in the area of $110,000 which is a bit much considering he was injured in training camp and did not really impress when he got into action.
That was not the end of moves as Edmonton sent Odell Willis to Ottawa for defensive lineman John Ceresna but then flipped Willis to BC for a draft pick and a negotiation list player. Willis is reunited with his former GM Ed Hervey who signed Willis from the Riders and is building a defensive line that will put Willis with Gabriel Knapton who BC got from Montreal.
BC extended Canadian offensive lineman Hunter Steward for another year, looking to build on their offensive line which had the consistency of Swiss cheese last year. BC then announced they were releasing Micah Awe to pursue NFL opportunities but kept defensive lineman Maxx Forde.
However the Awe release drew a response from Ambrosie, saying there should be no situations where players are released to try the NFL and come back to their CFL team if they don’t make it. The CFL seems to be drawing a line in the sand as negotiations start for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the two year entry level contract may be a bone of contention.
Then Toronto announced they were releasing receiver DeVier Posey to look at NFL opportunities even though he was looking at free agency anyways. Considering Toronto would not let Victor Butler look at NFL opportunities and running back James Wilder said he was sitting out 2018 unless his contract was renegotiated, well, Jim Popp does things his own way.
The signing of Darian Durant by Winnipeg led tp the release of Dominique Davis and it makes things interesting for Dan LeFeavour who is a free agent in a few days. Winnipeg signed Durant because when Matt Nichols went down, their quarterbacking was pretty shoddy and Winnipeg feels a need to break their 0-27 streak in not being Grey Cup champs.
Josh Straughan and Phillip Nelson are the other two Winnipeg quarterbacks on the roster and they will likely duke it out for a spot on the developmental squad. The Bombers looked to improve their defense by signing former BC Lion Anthony Gaitor who left the team to try his luck with New Orleans.
Then let’s talk about the not one, but two marijuana possession charges Duron Carter of the Riders is facing in Winnipeg and Saskatoon. Marijuana is not a banned substance for the CFL, but Carter showed poor judgement by flying with weed and getting searched at an airport.
On July 1 it all becomes relatively academic when marijuana becomes legal but in the meantime, Carter should have used a bit of common sense when traveling with his own private stash. The anti-Riders will say suspend him like Bruce Campbell for performance enhancing supplements, but again, marijuana is not a performance enhancing supplement.
On the larger scale of things, this is pretty much much ado about nothing, but it adds to the perception of Carter as a flake and that can’t help his NFL aspirations, if he still has them. The signing of Carter and now the trade for Hughes is giving the Riders the look of a team loading up for a serious Grey Cup run, and even though it is February, they seem to be making the right moves to get there.
Join the Discussion
We are happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules: Keep it clean, keep it civil, keep it truthful, stay on topic, be responsible, share your knowledge, and please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. See full commenting rules.