When the Calgary Stampeders took national linebacker Alex Singleton in the first round of this year’s CFL draft, they hoped he could emerge into a bonafide starter on a veteran defence.
No one really predicted it would happen this quickly.
On Monday, the Stamps made a bold move by releasing veteran international linebacker Taylor Reed, who actually played pretty well for the team in 10 games this season, recording 40 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
But over the past two games, Singleton has been the one getting the time at the middle linebacker position, and the Stamps have played well in wins over the Edmonton Eskimos.
Singleton gives the coaching staff some flexibility because of his Canadian designation to adjust the roster at other position, and the fact he’s played just as well as Reed meant the veteran was shown the door.
The 22-year-old has 25 tackles and two forced fumbles this season, and he seems to be around the ball a lot, which is what you want from your man in the middle.
The Stamps can back up Singleton with Maleki Harris and Glenn Love, both decent options in case of injury, so the decision on Reed becomes obvious. The move can save the team some money and it clears the path for Singleton to play even more.
“The situation at middle linebacker has evolved over the course of the season,” said Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson in a statement. “The health and depth of our linebacking corps as well the development of rookie Alex Singleton have factored into this decision. We wish Taylor the best of luck in the future.”
Reed signed as a free agent immediately after the signing period opened this February. He was coming off two solid years with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, although his most famous play was getting flagged on the Brandon Banks would-be touchdown in the 2014 Grey Cup.
At least the 25-year-old went out with class, tweeting how much he respected the organization and enjoyed the team in his short stay in Calgary.
This is an unusual move by the Stamps in the John Hufnagel era. Rarely does Hufnagel cut a player mid-season, but the GM has taken steps to turn over the defence in the past nine months, and it has continued more than halfway into the regular season.
Linebackers Keon Raymond and Juwan Simpson and defensive end Freddie Bishop all departed during the off-season, with Raymond allowed to leave via free agency and Simpson released outright while Bishop went to the NFL.
During the first half of the season, Hufnagel then traded cornerbacks Brandon McDonald and Fred Bennett, as well as safety Jeff Hecht, to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in two separate deals.
This isn’t a full-scale rebuild, but there are great signs for the future on the defensive side of the ball. Singleton is now the man in the middle, while Tommie Campbell and Ciante Evans are the young cornerbacks who look like solid starters for a long time.
Last week, the Stamps let go of veteran defensive tackle Demonte Bolden, who was part of the 2014 Grey Cup team and brought back for some depth this season. It turned out the Stamps didn’t need to worry — at least not yet.
Even with defensive tackle Quinn Smith’s three-game suspension for a second drug offence dealing a blow to that side of the ball, the Stamps have a great mix of youth and experience and are really doing a number on some of the best offensive teams in the league over the past month.
DeVone Claybrooks’ crew could easily make the argument they are the best in the CFL, and they can prove that again by not skipping a beat after putting another veteran on the free-agent market.
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