It’s amazing how fast things change in one year. In 2019, the Saskatchewan Roughriders free agency period was blanketed with a cloud of uncertainty. Chris Jones, the VP of Football Operations, Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator headed south to Cleveland for an opportunity in the NFL. Both of the Riders quarterbacks were free agents leaving many to wonder what this team would look like come kick-off.
Fast forward one year, Craig Dickenson earned himself a Coach of the Year nomination and Cody Fajardo was a finalist for Most Outstanding Player. There’s less stress in 2020 for the Riders but that doesn’t mean there isn’t business to take care of.
Saskatchewan Roughriders Current Free Agents
Emmanuel Arceneaux, Denzel Radford, Naaman Roosevelt, Cory Watson
Dariusz Bladek, Philip Blake, Thaddeus Coleman, Jeremy Zver
Lavar Edwards, Micah Johnson, Jordan Reaves
Brandyn Bartlett, DyShawn Davis, Solomon Elimimian, Alexandre Gagne, Sam Hurl
The Saskatchewan Roughriders free agency period got off to a hot start with a flurry of re-signings before the doors swing open Tuesday. There were plenty of big names that many Rider fans feared would be testing the open market. Ed Gainey, Nick Marshall, Shaq Evans, AC Leonard and Cameron Judge will all be back in green & white for 2020.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) October 6, 2019
Saskatchewan has also done a good job of retaining the likes of Dan Clark, Jon Ryan, Kienan LaFrance, Takoby Coefield, Chad Geter & Elie Bouka. While there has been plenty of chaos surrounding the likes of Matt Nichols, Nick Arbuckle, Willie Jefferson and Zach Collaros (rightfully so), the Riders have quietly gone about retaining a majority of their roster that propelled them to 13 wins and a West Final appearance.
Reports have been surfacing that two big names will not be returning to Saskatchewan in 2020. Naaman Roosevelt and Solomon Elimimian. After extending Shaq Evans to a deal reportedly worth $175,000, it seems likely that Saskatchewan will run with the younger receivers they have in the pipeline that includes Paul McRoberts, Justin McInnis, Kyran Moore, Jordan Williams-Lambert & Kenny Stafford.
Upfront, Dariusz Bladek, Thaddeus Coleman and Philip Blake remain unsigned, it remains to be seen if deals will be reached before free agency opens. All three started at various points throughout the 2019 season.
On the defensive side of the ball, prized free agent from 2019, Micah Johnson remains a pending free agent. Jordan Reaves, Sam Hurl and DyShawn Davis round out key contributors who are set to hit the market.
What do the Riders need?
With Jeremy O’Day taking care of business by re-signing a range of star players and key role players, the Riders don’t exactly have to make a giant splash this free agency. While it may not put them at the top of any “Who had the best Free Agency?” lists, it was vital that they got this done before February 11th.
Additional Pass Rushers
That being said, it wouldn’t hurt Saskatchewan to add additional pass-rushers to rotate with Charleston Hughes and Leonard. If Johnson does leave in free agency, it appears Zack Evans and Makana Henry would fill in at the tackle spots.
— Saskatchewan Roughriders (@sskroughriders) July 5, 2019
Re-signing Judge was massive for the Riders, however, with the departure of Derrick Moncrief and likely Elimimian, they’ll need to add to this group once free agency opens. Finding someone of Moncrief’s diversity of talents at linebacker in coverage will be difficult but this free-agent class boasts a solid crop of talent that the Riders can target that includes but is not limited to Maleki Harris, Micah Awe, Kevin Brown II and Marcus Ball.
Offensive Line Depth
As mentioned earlier, there are a number of their own free agents the Riders can re-sign that would alleviate the urgency of this need. However, at the moment, Terran Vaughn, Brendon LaBatte, Dan Clark, Dakoda Shepley and Takoby Coefield are who make up the Riders crop of proven offensive linemen under contract.
Free agents such as Ryker Matthews and Derek Dennis may come at too steep of a price-tag for the Riders. However, there is a number of pending free agent offensive linemen that Saskatchewan can target. Such as Justin Renfrow, Spencer Wilson, Jean-Simon Roy or Tyler Holmes.
Sit Back and Wait
The cliche saying goes “the Grey Cup isn’t won in February!” but that doesn’t mean a team can’t help their chances. Saskatchewan has done the most important thing before free agency has opened and that’s securing their franchise quarterback and retaining their star-calibre players. Anything they do after that is the icing on the cake. Don’t mistake that statement with complacency.
If the Riders want to hoist the Grey Cup on home soil in nine-months, they’ll need to add difference makers at linebacker and depth at other key spots. But for the time being, Saskatchewan Roughriders’ free agency in 2020 is much need departure from the chaos that surrounded this franchise last year at this time.
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