A Week Before Free Agency & Riders Still Have the Pedal to the Metal

February 1, 2016 - 4:49pm

February 9th is when the next round of fun should start in Riderville as the CFL free agency period takes hold.

Unlike the NHL, which has much ado about nothing but its dressed-up-in-a-day long show, the CFL free agency is more longer playing record than anything else, as teams try to sign their own free agents and bargain hunt for players who might fit in under their cap.

These are the Chris Jones Riders and after having 40 people down for the Senior Bowl preparations last week, they appear to have buggered off the day of the game to hold free agent camps in Texas.

Chris Jones, Head Coach of the Riders and Mayor of Jonestown, the new suburb of Riderville, appeared at an Estevan dinner and did a question and answer session which you can read in its entirety, mostly, on Rodpedersen.com.

I say mostly because the comments appear to be split over a couple of days, but then Rod was on vacation so you can’t really blame him. What Jones says is pretty interesting,with his working day running from 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. He is also looking at a Rider team that controls the football, controls the clock and plays great defense which is more or less what we saw in Edmonton?

Jones met with two or three quarterbacks down in Houston which makes me think that Keith Price, who is a free agent, is not coming back, and Brent Smith is not guaranteed a back-up role behind Darian Durant.

Jones gave an idea of where he will be concentrating his look at Canadians with emphasis on the centre, guard and receiver spots on offense and nose tackle and safety on defense.

So looking at free agency, Jermaine Gabriel of Toronto is a Canadian safety that is entering his prime and would help nail down that position assuming Gabriel keeps away from the injury bug. Ted Laurent of Hamilton is the defense lineman who can change a game on his own, but rumor has it he is headed to Montreal where his mother lives.

Justin Capiccotti of Ottawa emerged as a premier defensive lineman, but another defensive lineman playing for Ottawa might also be available in Keith Shologan. Shologan’s father passed away and he is looking to come west, either to Edmonton or to Regina where his wife is from.

There are two running backs up for grabs in Andrew Harris of BC Lions who is rumored to be headed to Winnipeg where he is from and where his daughter lives, and Jerome Messam, formerly of the Riders who when he was good, was very good, but when he dropped a pass, you could hear the clank as far away as Brandon.

Jones says the Riders will not go crazy in free agency, and he wouldn’t speculate on how many Edmonton Eskimo free agents will find their way to Saskatchewan. That’s called tampering and good for Jones for not biting on that teaser.

But the Riders emphasis on scouting and making each round count is promising. Jones is looking for character players who put the team first over individual statistics and the Riders signed four players, one of whom is very interesting.

The Riders signed international wide receiver Shay Hodge, national wide receiver Jordan Reaves, international defensive back Robert Sands and international defensive back Marte Sears have signed with the team. As per club policy, details of the contracts were not released.

 Hodge (6'2 – 207) was originally signed by the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2010 out of Ole Miss. The 28-year-old also spent time with the Washington Redskins before joining the Cincinnati Bengals practice roster for his rookie season. He signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in April, 2013 and has also spent time in the Arena Football League. 

 Before pro, Hodge finished his NCAA career at Mississippi with the most receiving yards in school history (2,646) while ranking second in receptions (173), receiving touchdowns (22) and 100-yard receiving games (8).       

 Reaves (6'4 – 220) signs with the Riders after originally signing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in April, 2015. The Winnipeg native attended training camp with the Bombers, playing two preseason games collecting two receptions for 10 yards. 

 Sands (6'4 – 215) joins the Riders after spending time with the Edmonton Eskimos in 2014 playing one regular season game, recording two special teams tackles. Previously, the West Virginia product spent parts of two seasons in the NFL after being selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 5th round (134th overall) of the 2011 Draft.     

 Sears (6'5 – 220) comes to the Green and White after attending training camp with the Edmonton Eskimos last season, playing two preseason games. The Fresno, California native previously had signed with the Cleveland Browns as undrafted free agent in May, 2015 after two seasons at Faulkner University collecting 102 tackles and 10 interceptions in 18 collegiate games.

What is interesting is two of the players, Sands and Sears, were former Eskimos cut by Jones. The other thing to keep in mind is look at the size of these guys. Jones wants a big, physical team. By bringing over almost his entire staff, Jones has no need to implement new plans with his staff as they all know what he is looking for. The players from the Eskimos are familiar with what he wants.

The curious and interesting part of this puzzle is Reaves, who is the son of Willard Reeves, the former Bomber running back. This Reaves played basketball until turning to football late in his career and getting a look see from the Bombers. If Reaves has improved his football skills, and he was a former basketball player, he could well see jump balls as a receiver, and if he has the bulk, could also help out with blocking.

The Riders signed Rob Bagg, who Jones extols for his leadership and setting an example in the locker room. Chris Getzlaf is apparently being sent to a foot specialist in the States to determine the extent of his injury and the best way of coming back.

Jones came out in Estevan and said his goal in 2016 is to win the Grey Cup and he has never missed the playoffs.

As I wear my Seth Dogge signature jersey, I hope he is right. It may be an interesting week in Riderville and probably very interesting as we see who is left on the roster and who is not getting an offer.

This will be an interesting year!

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