It was no surprise all was quiet on the Western front once CFL free-agency opened.
The Calgary Stampeders generally sit on their wallets and don’t make panic decisions when it comes to playing the market, so Tuesday’s silence comes as no real shocker.
Early this morning, they officially announced new deals for two key international players, receiver Marquay McDaniel and defensive tackle Micah Johnson, both considered core players.
Once the bidding started for real, one of the most lauded players on the 2016 Stamps went and cashed in. International offensive lineman Derek Dennis took a deal from the Saskatchewan Roughriders and will move in as their left tackle next season in all likelihood.
On the surface, it’s a blow to the Stamps, but in actuality, replacing the CFL lineman of the year isn’t going to be that difficult. That player is likely already on the Stampeders roster, whether that’s former Rider Randy Richards or second-year international Ucambre Williams or newcomer Ruben Carter (can we give him the nickname Hurricane?).
There is no question that Dennis is an impact player, but the Stamps have been down this road many times and know the path to wins isn’t paved with high-priced Americans in positions where there an abundance of options.
Let’s take some recent history as an example. After Ben Archibald won the CFL’s top lineman award for the Stamps in 2010, he hit free agency and the Stamps let him go to the B.C. Lions. Stanley Bryant eventually took over the role at left tackle, was their nominee for the top lineman award, but hit free agency and signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
There is no doubt both those players did well with their new teams and added value, but the Stampeders didn’t suffer. They kept on winning games. GM John Hufnagel has a formula, and he will stick with it as long as it keeps working. Part of that formula is to let international offensive lineman get paid well elsewhere.
Hufnagel said he would be quiet on Day 1 of free agency and he wasn’t lying. He also said there is a good chance he would be active once the insanity stops. The reality is that once a handful of players get the big dollars early in free agency, the purse strings tighten and there are some deals to be had.
Again, the focus will likely be on their own players. Fullback Rob Cote and offensive tackle Dan Federkeil could find themselves back in Red and White.
Federkeil declared on Twitter that he would like to keep playing but hinted that no one wants to invest in a 33-year-old with some injury problems that have plagued him the past couple of seasons.
Still, the Stamps did well by sitting back and waiting. Their patience is likely to pay off again.