The CFL off-season is a month in and already one of the most active in recent memory. Teams are addressing question marks or bringing back personnel after a solid campaign. The potential is there for more big moves, but those would also have strings attached to them.
Strings Attached to CFL Off-season moves
Air Canada not departing
The Saskatchewan Roughriders brought back quarterback Brandon Bridge on a one-year contract. Prior to that, the entire CFL universe assumed Chris Jones would lure James Franklin back into his arms. Don’t forget Jones was the head coach of Edmonton when Franklin first appeared. It could still happen as the Riders endgame.
The Canadian (Bridge) showed flashes of his abilities in his split time with Kevin Glenn. He continues to develop in the right direction, which earned him a tryout with the New York Giants. Air Canada, as he is affectionally nicknamed, and Franklin share characteristics of being tall, a big arm and playmaking abilities. What Bridge needs to work on is his progression. It seemed too often when defences took away the first option, the pivot would scramble and try to make a big play. The end results would often end up as a big play or near disaster. It goes without saying the massive upside is there and the next logical step for the Canadian is to start full time.
Bridge deserves the opportunity to be the leader. He even mentioned in his signing press conference that the Giants want to see him start.
Air Canada needs the chance to take the captain’s seat to try and fly the franchise to Edmonton for Grey Cup next November. All he needs to do is keep developing.
Montreal needs to get younger
The Alouettes went off the board naming Mike Sherman the new head coach. No CFL experience, but spent six years as head coach with the Green Bay Packers and most of that time as the general manager too. A similar move to what the Hamilton Tiger-Cats did with June Jones in the middle of 2017 and the results have so far been favourable.
The 63-year-old Sherman is an offensive mind who has a tall task ahead of him. He has to retool the Canadian Football League’s retirement home roster and find a starting quarterback. During his press conference he said all the right things such as attempting to align the franchise with the winning culture of Montreal and mentioned the quarterback job is up for grabs. His history in recruiting Johnny Manziel to Texas A & M makes it intriguing to wonder who he ends up bringing in for that critical role.
No matter how one slices it, the Als’ front office is known for having a quick trigger finger. This time around they need to give Sherman a chance to implement his system. So don’t fire him for at least two years.
Good things come to those who wait. Montreal needs to do this with their 24th head coach.
Argos brought in the future
From worst to first. The Argos went from the tailspin failure to Grey Cup Champions in the first year under Jim Popp and Marc Trestman. A big reason was the resurgence of Ricky Ray. Now it’s unsure if he’ll sail into the sunset to retirement or board the good ship Argo for another season to try and defend his title. Just in case he waves goodbye, the boatmen went out and got the best pivot prospect in James Franklin from the Eskimos.
Seems like the 26-year-old’s name always pops up. He has the size, arm strength and play-making abilities to be the next star. Plus he spent the previous three years learning from Mike Reilly, one of the best. It’s a great move if the Argonauts can sign him before he becomes a free agent on February 13th. Franklin did say he’s going to talk to Trestman and Popp and think about his future. If anyone can sell him on putting down roots in the big smoke it’s those two.
The positives seem pretty good for Franklin in the six. He’s that exciting player who can make the Argos relevant again and be the face of the franchise for years to come.
Impressive move by the Argos, if he stays.
Another chance for Williams
The Chris Williams experiment in BC went down as a dismal failure. He didn’t debut for the Lions until week 7 because of an ACL injury. From the very beginning, the 30-year-old wasn’t the explosive player that struck fear into opposing teams earlier in his career. Williams only caught 38 passes for 415 yards and one score. The year prior in the nation’s capital he tallied over 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns.
This led to him being traded across the country to Montreal for defensive-end Gabriel Knapton. This could be the best thing for Williams, reuniting with former Ottawa teammate Ernest Jackson, who also had a down year. Throw BJ Cunningham into the mix and it could turn into an explosive receiving core. The only thing missing is the quarterback to throw the ball to them.
It takes time for athletes to fully recover from major injuries. This is in the context of the mental side compared to the physical one. Becoming fully confident after a significant injury puts a serious toll mentally. Not every athlete can be 2012, Adrian Peterson, when he won MVP eight months after tearing his ACL and MCL.
Williams should be in line for bouncing back. Unlike last year he gets an off-season to train properly. He was once known as the most explosive receiver from to coast-to-coast. It remains to be seen if he can revitalize his career after his 30th birthday.
But if the rest of the CFL off-season is anything like the first month, the musical chairs of players switching teams just might be the craziest we’ve ever seen.