The hard work for the Edmonton Eskimos is just beginning.
With the Calgary Stampeders winning the Grey Cup a couple of weeks ago, so begins the off-season in the CFL. For the CFL, the winter months have historically been a black hole of nothingness when it comes to exciting storylines. This year that will not be the case.
For the 2018-2019 CFL off-season, there is a lengthy laundry list of to-do items that the CFL, its players, and teams must tackle before the 2019 season can kick off. The list includes- a new CBA for the league and its players, significant coaching changes due to a new non-player salary cap, extensive competition with new upstart football leagues south of the border, and so on.
While there is much to do for the league and every team inside of it, I wanted to take a closer look at the Edmonton Eskimos this off-season.
Eskimos Coaching Requirements
The 2018 season was nothing short of a disappointing one for the Edmonton Eskimos. In a year that saw Edmonton host the Grey Cup, expectations were obviously high for the hometown Eskimos. After starting the season 6-3, the Eskimos struggled in the back half of the season ending with a 9-9 record. The Eskimos were the only team in the western division to miss the playoffs.
While there was much speculation that head coach and offensive coordinator Jason Maas might lose his job, this didn’t happen. Maas will remain the Eskimos head coach for 2019 but will relinquish the offensive coordinator role. The replacement for that job will likely be quarterback coach and pass game coordinator Jordan Maksymic.
Last September, the Eskimos fired special teams coordinator Cory McDiarmid after a 30-3 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. And on Friday, the Eskimos cited the newly implemented non-player salary cap as the reason for parting ways with defensive coordinator Mike Benevides.
Because of these changes, the Eskimos are heading into the off-season with vacancies in all three coordinator positions. Not a great scenario to be sure.
Non-Player Salary Cap
Mike Benevides was not the only casualty on the Eskimos staff to the non-player salary cap. The Eskimos also severed ties with Rob Ralph their director of Canadian scouting on Saturday.
The non-player salary cap limits teams to spending $2,588,000 for coaches and football operations staff. This cap has been set for both the 2019 and 2020 CFL seasons. In addition, the cap limits the number of coaches to 11 and football operations staff to 14 per team. Football operations are defined to include general managers, scouting staff, as well as video and equipment personnel.
According to the Edmonton Eskimos website, the team has 7 coaches and 14 individuals employed on the football operations side. The team will need to be busy this off-season in filling the vacancies in the coaching ranks.
The list of free agents this year in the CFL is astronomical. With over 300 potential free agents in the nine-team league, there will be plenty of work that has to be done by every team. Of course, the Eskimos are not immune to their own giant list of unsigned players.
The Eskimos have a list of free agents that is 35 players deep. Of course, it is no secret that the largest free agent priority is re-signing 2017 MOP quarterback Mike Reilly. Mike Reilly is the key cog when it comes to running this Eskimos team. Not only is he the premier quarterback in the CFL, but he is also a tremendous leader on the field and in the locker room. The Eskimos simply cannot afford to have Reilly sign elsewhere.
While Reilly headlines the Eskimos list of free agents, there is still a number of key names that should be re-signed. On defence players like Kwaku Boateng, Aaron Grymes, Forrest Hightower, and Chris Edwards are just some of the names the Eskimos could use back in the fold for 2019. On offence, the key names would be Duke Williams, Derel Walker and Bryant Mitchell to name a few.
This year more than any other year, CFL free agency will be a wild ride when it officially opens at noon EST on February 12, 2019.
The Last Word
Not unlike other teams, the Edmonton Eskimos have a lot of work to do this off-season. For the Eskimos though, the biggest priority must be signing quarterback Mike Reilly. This likely won’t get done until a new CBA has been signed by the league and the CFLPA. However, it cannot be understated that this has to be priority one, two and three for the Edmonton club.
If the Eskimos cannot sign Reilly, this would certainly impact the on-field product in a negative way. Not to mention it would be a difficult sell to this fan base considering the way the 2018 season ended.
The off-season may have just ended, but the hard work is just beginning.
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