Jerome Messam will give the Saskatchewan Roughriders more than just a star Canadian running back.
No, I’m not talking about the splashy headline it created on the first day of free agency. Nor am I referring to the “bruising, downhill, north-south” style of running Messam brings which head coach Chris Jones reportedly just raves about. I’m not even bringing up the fact Jerome gives the team options on how to retool its beleaguered offensive line with the import/non-import ratio. Although that’ll undeniably help.
I’m talking about the intel he brings from a division rival who just so happened to have the greatest offense in the CFL over the past 2 seasons.
It’s unlikely the Stampeders aren’t aware of the optics here. A division rival who you’ve dominated (save for the Duron Carter pick 6 game) in the time you’ve had Jerome Messam as your running back since late 2015 is standing above the crowd with a better offer for him than anyone else. All this, despite the perception that running back is a position Saskatchewan is already set at.
Hmm. Does anyone smell a rat? Well, you should.
It’s perfectly within the rules and part of football gamesmanship to acquire players from another team for no other purpose than to gain valuable information about the other side’s game plan. Heck, we just saw it late in the NFL season that just ended when the New England Patriots nabbed over-the-hill 39-year-old free agent defensive lineman James Harrison right after he was released from the Pittsburgh Steelers for their own championship run knowing Harrison’s advice on the Steelers defensive game-plan could help New England.
Calgary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson is well aware of all this. He knows all about changing plays and making adjustments on the fly and in the offseason so other teams can’t figure out his own plays. But revamping the structure of an entire offense just from losing one guy? That never happens.
Riders Already Have Running Backs
What makes this whole scenario so bizarre to some–including me at first–is the fact Saskatchewan has not one (Cameron Marshall averaged a solid 5.38 years/carry behind some shotty O-line play last year), not 2 (Trent Richardson looked like a reliable sledgehammer in his limited duty), but 3 (Marcus Thigpen has tremendous speed and versatility wherever you put him) suitable running backs under contract going into the 2018 season.
Signing a Canadian helps you with the ratio but then you need to back him up with other Canadians too. Wouldn’t that deem the 3 import running backs you have as useless? On the surface, it would seem like a waste of one of your strongest assets.
Trent Richardson and Chad Owens on Their Way Out?
Thigpen could switch to his more natural position of receiver and demote Rob Bagg to the backup role he started in last year behind the now-departed Nic Demski who bolted to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on the first day of free agency. As a former NFL kick returner, Thigpen could also become an insurance policy for Christion Jones who normally does that job for Saskatchewan.
Keeping Marshall around in case of injury to Messam in training camp and leaving him on the reserve list during the season is also an option.
But where do Trent Richardson or Chad Owens fit in?
Jerome Messam’s signing might not indirectly push them out of Riverville right away but barring injury will make it very hard for them to stick around past training camp.
But more importantly, it gives the Riders a leg up on how to stop a Stampeder offense which has piled up a league-best 30.8 points per game over the past two seasons.
And if you plan on going through the Stamps in the west to compete for a Grey Cup like the Roughriders do, that’s a pretty nice thing to have.