Not for the Best: retirement leaves big hole for Riders (& it might not get better)

It’s not quite back to square one for the Saskatchewan Roughriders but it’s feels pretty close.

Since the free agent market opened on Valentine’s Day, the Riders had made some pretty big strides when it comes to their Canadian content. General manager and head coach Chris Jones signed running back Keinan LaFrance and safety Marc Olivier Brouillette, giving the team at least seven quality starting Canadians when you include three offensive lineman, middle linebacker Henoc Muamba and receiver Rob Bagg. Jones had options to play around with the ratio if he wanted to as well with the likes of Nic Demski, Ivan Brown, Linden Gaydosh and so on.

All of that is now out the window after right guard Chris Best announced his retirement earlier this week. Best along with Dan Clark and Brendon LaBatte would have been the foundation of the team’s starting Canadians. Even with the signing of left tackle Derek Dennis, the questions about the Riders offensive line are back.

The good news is Jones knew this was coming. He basically told reporter so last week when he said there would news on Best in the coming days. So, he’s been planning for life without Best for most of the offseason, so he should have a plan. The problem? It’s not an easy hole to fill. Even though Best has had bad hips since 2009, there was a noticeable difference in the Riders line play when he was in the line-up compared to when he wasn’t. Best was the cog that made the team’s running game work, even during the Kory Sheets days, when Best missed time the run game struggled. Sure, no one is rushing for 1,500 yards in the CFL anymore thanks to some rule changes but you still need to be able to run the ball.

Since we don’t the full picture when it comes to player salaries, we don’t know if Jones has already spent Best’s salary or not. Either way, a replacement will have to be found. If he hasn’t spent the money, someone like J’Michael Deane could be a good stop-gap, if he or LaBatte can move to the right side. If there isn’t room on the cap, then it will be up to the likes of Matt Vonk, Ryan White or Josiah St. John to take that next step.

What’s extra worrisome about the current state of the Riders offensive line is the unknown status of LaBatte. At that same news conference last week, Jones didn’t exactly paint a rosy picture when it comes to the Weyburn, Saskatchewan native. LaBatte missed most of last season with a concussion and Jones wasn’t ready to say if he would be good to go at the start of training camp or not.

If LaBatte isn’t ready to go? Oh boy.

Joel Gasson

Joel Gasson

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic.
Joel Gasson
Joel Gasson
About Joel Gasson (144 Articles)
Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic.

62 Comments on Not for the Best: retirement leaves big hole for Riders (& it might not get better)

  1. i think the riders may sign either deane or maybe someone like jeff keeping

  2. Jim Sutherland // February 25, 2017 at 6:24 pm //

    I don’t agree with this article. Best’s absence means the team can move forward and advance the search for a replacement. The moves made by the team in 2017 are already a big step forward on the O-line. No need to sound the alarm for 2017 until we see the results on the field.

  3. This is exactly right and what I’ve been saying.Jones seems to think buying expensive international receivers and O line men is they way to build a championship team.It’s not.It’s strong Canadian talent and depth. Dennis is not the solution for this team nor is thinking all these receivers will provide great trade bait.
    If J Michael Deane was going to sign he would have done it by now (I say he’s Toronto bound).
    Rider may be able to field 7 Canadians but inevitable injuries and too high of expectations for Lafrance will quickly put this team in a very bad place. This team could run into ratio problems where Dennis or Carter may be healthy scratches (see how long those guys stand for that).
    Considering Jones past indiscretions there’s no telling what he might do when in that much trouble.

    • Being clueless and a basement dweller doesn’t support the notion that one actually knows what one is talking about, or anyone else other than their mother actually cares. I bet she’s real proud.

      Best will be missed but others will take his place and start their legacy.

      • WOW .I love how rider fans take constructive criticism of their team and turn it into person insults on those who make them. I’ve been insulted degraded and had my life threatened by VOR.

        • And you’re surprised by that?? Rider fans don’t disparage other teams. They don’t care about them. What you do is called trolling. It’s an internet phenomenon where an individual hides behind anonymity and their mom’s skirt and take shots and low blows at a team they have no interest in. Clearly it’s be done to be a douche and for no other reason. Can you understand why you get the replies you do? Everyone else does.

          • WHAT!! This coming from a fan base that can’t get over BLM?.A fan base that’s playing in a home grey cup game and several fans are still holding up (7 yrs later)their expensive posters of Burris wearing a bra?(BTW,Burris bra story was a non story everywhere but for bitter sask fans).You guys are so vengeful and disrespectful.

        • Threatened? Lol. Go get your head checked. You called me a chicken. If that’s not antagonist I don’t know what is. If you can’t handle people questioning your rational and calling you an idiot then get off the site pumpkin. Wa wa wa. You can add big cry baby to your resume as well. Boo hoo. Cry me a river!

          • NumeroTreize // February 27, 2017 at 10:46 am //

            Stamplandfill at it again. Probably an out of work Albertan who’s just bitter and trolls Riders articles to make himself feel better.

          • you still threatened me.Unacceptable.You creep me out with your constant inquires into my sex life too…totally creeped .

  4. Bo van Ulsen // February 25, 2017 at 7:35 pm //

    Man, I am soooo sick of those negative people about the Riders and Chris Jones. Leave the man alone and let him do his job. If there is no improvement during the season, than go after him. For now he is rebuilding and there should not be any interference. The public does not know what goes on behind the scene. MHO.

  5. You’re right but its the stuff we all see that makes us question.A tiger rarely changes his stripes .As a fan I’m going to do my part to make sure this guy doesn’t continue to make this league look bad. His cheating,disrespect,refusal to accept responsibility and and his general unsportsmanlike conduct shall not go unnoted

    • Todd Racette // February 25, 2017 at 8:37 pm //

      And you don’t think this happens anywhere else in the league. Give your head a shake.

      • if it does then where? no one else has been caught with 95 bodies at practice.How do you explain that?

    • Stampland. You are a goner . Go find another team to root against. Or ???? Maybe go get some acition! Your pathetic in your relentless pursuit to put down Riders. Goodnight!

      • a goner? Actually my last check up says I’m quite healthy..So what did you mean by that,Its that a threat?

        • I think you should get your melon(head) checked. The amount of garbage you spew out is incredible. Where do you find the time?
          Goner= someone who is so far out there that the more they write the more idiotic they sound. Hence why I called you a goner. Maybe change your name, oh, wait a second…. from what I’ve read you have already tried that. Am I right Larry?

          • in all seriousness I have no idea who Larry name is Jeff..Believe me the list of people tired of riders obnoxious and false sense of arrogance is immense, its not just Larry
            BTW nice try on saving your ass on the goner comment..

      • VOR,,Its you’re not your……a free English lesson for you..stop being a coward reply to me a give excellent rebuttals and you chicken away

      • Well said. But he’s not getting it. You don’t see or read any Riders fans on other team sites running them down on a daily, every story, basis. Just seems to be Stamp fans. I get the jealousy, but get over it already. The guy’s pathetic is a gross understatement.

        • You’re right I don’t get it.Please explain to me how and why we are jealous.Seriously I want to know .I just can’t grasp it

        • George Porge // February 27, 2017 at 11:30 am //

          “You don’t see or read any Riders fans on other team sites running them down on a daily”

          Last I saw, this site was not a “Riders” site, but covers the entire CFL. I’ve also seen plenty of cases where Nicky and co. have jumped in on threads about other teams (just look at the Drew Tate threads, for instance).

          Your shit stinks, just like everyone else’s.

          • Let me get you a whinebulance, you’re clearly hemorrhaging at the keyboard. Not the point Porge. The point is if the comments are always and only negative, running down the Riders and for no purpose other than to fill the boots of the haters, it gets a little much and you all look pretty base doing so. My point is you don’t see Rider fans doing the same. Because we don’t care about other teams. Clearly yourself and stampland are two such examples that Rider fans have to endure.

          • George Porge // February 28, 2017 at 2:13 pm //

            You’re complaining that Stamps fans are constantly bagging on the Riders and you want to call *me* a “whinebulance”? That’s pretty rich.

            You guys need to grow a spine.

    • You say Jones “is rebuilding” and because he is rebuilding “there should not be any interference”. What about Jobes’ cheating and blatent disregard for the rules (and on more then one occasion). No interference (as you call it) means no “checks and balances” for all coaches and GM’s who should be held accountable and answer to All fans of the CFL no matter which team a particular fan supports (even stampland).

  6. Perry Pachkowski // February 25, 2017 at 8:27 pm //

    I also am tired of all the so called pros on here!!!
    In Jones we trust!

  7. Lionsfan4life // February 25, 2017 at 9:01 pm //

    In Jones we trust to take the Riders to last place…again.

  8. The Leader Post ran a story last year March 2 detailing the Rider roster after the FA haul, all 79 players. Of those named 66 are gone. This year Jones has signed more FA’s than anyone & only re-signed 3 of his own pending FA’s which seems to me a clear sign of where he thinks his roster is at. No let’s not be negative but this looks like déjà vu. I expect we’ll see another 100 invited to camp from reports of all the mini camps he’s running – what’s the plan Mr Jones?

  9. Me and Mr., Mr. Jones, Mr. Jones, Mr. Jones
    Mr. Jones got a thing going on
    We both know that it’s wrong
    But it’s much too strong to let it cool down now

    [Verse 2]
    We gotta be extra careful
    That we don’t build our hopes too high
    Cause the Taylor Field faithful will crucify!

  10. Phil Miller // February 26, 2017 at 3:17 am //

    We did now at least as far back as late September that there was a better than good possibility that neither Best or LaBatte would play another game. None of this is catching the team off guard right now. (a little pun there)

    • then why is does Jones appear so unprepared.His first priority should have been Deane not Dennis,,He is going to be juggling his roster week to week

      • You are alone in your basement and mind. Mom is calling for you to take your meds. I can hear her cry and explain they have done all they can but you seem to be lost. I can understand her plight. Sad little boy.

  11. Jones does have the upcoming draft plus he can make a trade to upgrade his Canadian talent. I don’t things are quite so dire. It does take time. I would think the biggest issue for the Riders is QB. Glenn can win some games but in a very tough western division it will be difficult. I still think Jones will eventually get the job done.

  12. stampland why do you think deane will sign in toronto look at all the canadian o linemen they have allreadyy signed or resigned i still think deane will sign with the riders

    • Jones seems to think an abundance of import receivers is smart. I say an abundance of Canadian O line is smarter ,If he wants to sign there what is he waiting for? You guys have this laughable arrogance thinking every big name is going to sign with you

  13. Losing Best can be overcome for the 2017 season by either/or signing J’Michael Deane or a competition between JSJ, Dillon Guy and Matt Vonk to fill the RG spot. If Labatte plays, this would have Nationals starting at RG, C, LG, MLB, WR, FS and RB. If Campbell can start at field CB, that is eight National starters. If Gaydosh is ready to start at DT, nine.

    So if Labatte does hang it up, it doesn’t appear to be that bleak of an outlook. The Riders could still conceivably put seven National starters, if not eight, without a lot of difficulty.

    Now how this would all translate in terms of wins and loses would remain to be seen. Starting JSJ, Guy and Campbell would put a lot of inexperienced people on the field. Gaydosh may have a lot of rust after sitting for awhile.

    Regardless of the creativity used in meeting the ratio, there are still so many massive question marks around the Riders for 2017 that it is hard to imagine them winning more than seven games.

    Slow progress, but still progress. Good thing for Jones there are $600k to $700k reasons why he’ll still be at the helm in 2018.

  14. The riders like most teams can find 7 starters. To say the riders have 8-9 is debatable. The problems occur as injuries start to happen

  15. Agreed.
    I think most likely Campbell will backup at FS this year and maybe start a National at field CB when/if Eli Bouka returns from the NFL. The DT spot can only happen if Gaydosh is healthy and they draft a quality DT to backup.
    The biggest worry is the quality of the National starters for 2017 outside of the WR, MLB, FS and C positions. Being forced to start Guy, JSJ or heaven forbid Vonk would be a disaster.
    Actually even the quality of the Internationals on the OL is a concern. RT could be a battle between Thaddeus Campbell and Kenny Horsley. The Riders’ scouts have done such a horrible job of finding talent that they had to convert Horsley from DT to OT.

  16. Jones must have had a good idea that the Riders would be without Best and/ or LaBatte. Deane is the obvious fit for the O Line. I don’t buy the notion that he is Toronto bound. His stock just went up with Best’s retirement and the uncertainty surrounding LaBatte. Five years ago I would have thought Gaydosh would have been a lock to be a starter in the CFL if he was not in the NFL. However, injuries have really derailed his career. If he isn’t ready, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Jones take a run at Laing. Last I heard, he was seeking NFL opportunities but he would be a strong national starter on the D Line. I think the Riders will only be in real trouble if LaFrance doesn’t pan out. Morris most certainly would not become an every down back so the ratio would be in worse shape. And I don’t see Bagg and Demski both starting with so many quality American receivers under contract.

  17. This will be Chris Jones last year as a HC.

  18. last year best case scenario for this.I say he’s gone by labor day or before if there is anymore proof of wrong doing

  19. Riders can’t afford to fire him. They only got Greg Marshall’s contract off the books last year and still have to finish paying Chamblin and Taman. They’re stuck with him, for better or worse, until 2018.

  20. Financially it will be a disaster. Logistically it will be even worse. However anymore wrong doing this organization will have no choice.That’s what you get for making poor decisions. No gm no one in charge of football operations.

    • Jones is coming into his 15th CFL season. Considering he has everything he could possibly want – hand-picked coaching staff, hand-picked team, brand new stadium, and complete control over what many consider the league’s flagship franchise – I can’t feature him doing anything further to jeopardise that. Yes he’s had missteps, and been a little TOO ambitious at times, but IMO he’s on the right track as far as rebuilding our team. Sorry to burst your bubble but I don’t foresee him going anywhere anytime soon. The only ones who do are those itching to see him fail – Like yourself.

      As for the above article (and the comments that ensued), clearly some need reminding that it’s effing February. We’re only 2 weeks into free agency, and the draft is 2 months away. A lot can, and will undoubtedly happen between now and training camp. Between Jones, Murphy, and O’Day, I’m sure the ratio situation is well in hand.

      • and you just keeping hold onto that hope saskwatch!.The best predictor of the future is the past. This year will mirror last..on the field and off..Boy I’ll bet tomorrow you’ll wish you were the Argos!

        • “The best predictor of the future is the past.” I like that philosophy, and I hope it holds true. Jones has had a great deal of success in the past with other clubs; that’s why the Riders hired him. I’m confident year 2 of his rebuild will be a vast improvement over the first.

          As for the Argos, I wish them the very best with Popp and Trestman. I’m more than content however with Jones and company.

          BTW, noticed you criticised VOR’s grammar above. Judging by your response to me you may want to brush up on yours.

          Good talk.

          • Thank You Saskwatch.
            I’ll be sure to review my old high school English notes.Yes Jones has had success.As a DC. As a head coach he took over a team on the up swing that only became really good 2nd half of 2015 as Reilly regained his health.As a GM ,VP he has proven to be over his head .Look at all the turnover this team has under his leadership.The mess at QB.Head scratching headlines. You are like the women who continually goes back to her husband after repeated beatings.”no he’s not really violent,you don’t know him like I do.He’s changed.”

          • @stampland: Comparing Rider fans to battered women, well, that’s real class right there. My mother was a victim of domestic violence – I’m sure she’d appreciate your analogy. Putz

          • George Porge // February 28, 2017 at 4:35 pm //

            The 2015 Eskimos were a force to be reckoned with, but I would attribute the team’s success more to Ed Hervey than to Chris Jones. Jones’ biggest contribution was that he wasn’t Kavis Reed (god help the Als), and any half-decent head coach would probably have been able to take over that team. If you look at the teams Jones left, most of them stayed pretty strong without him.

            The Eskimos are still a strong team. As long as Hervey’s still in the GM spot, I expect the Esks to remain strong in the coming seasons. Heck, even last year I didn’t expect Calgary to sweep Edmonton and had made my usual bets with Esk-fan-friends expecting I could lose them. Unfortunately, though, they are once again being hampered by a pretty ineffective head coach. Hopefully Edmonton can improve this year under Maas and Maas smartens up a bit with the belligerence to the league (ie, the whole microphone fiasco).

          • Lionsfan4life // February 28, 2017 at 11:05 pm //

            I doubt that year two of Jones rebuild will be any better then his first year; especially with an unproven QB. The last time Glenn had any success in the CFL was when he was with Calgary in 2012. Glenn single handily quarterbacked the Stamps to victory over the Lions in the 2012 West Final. After that Glenn has never played to the same high standard. Just ask Lions fans in 2014 (which is why he only lasted one season in BC). The Riders and Jones are so desperate for a QB with any CFL experience that this is Glenn’s second stint with the Sliders since 2015. I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures (which also explains why Jones cheated last season). BTW, your glowing comments about Jones SaskWatch are the same comments that Rider fans continuously spewed out about Chamblin got sacked in August 2015. The reality is as Evan states the Riders are stuck with Jones until 2018. When Jones gets fired from the Riders hopefully he’s out of the CFL for good. It would serve him right for cheating so blatantly last season on multiple occassions.

  21. George Porge // February 27, 2017 at 11:24 am //

    “Sure, no one is rushing for 1,500 yards in the CFL anymore thanks to some rule changes but you still need to be able to run the ball.”

    I’d like to have my old league back, thanks. Please get rid of the “illegal contact after 5 yards” rule in particular. The league was at its most entertaining back in 2012/2013 before someone decided it wasn’t “offensive” enough.

  22. stampland // March 1, 2017 at 3:17 pm //

    I fully support battered women and all causes to fight it.If my analogy offended anyone I’m truly sorry

    • SaskWatch // March 2, 2017 at 7:17 pm //

      I’m not letting you off that easy. I’ve things to get off my chest.

      Battered Woman Syndrome is far reaching. Case in point, when I was 12 my mother went to the hotel where her abuser worked, checked into a room, took a boatload of pills, and quietly passed away. Sad as that is, where one victim of domestic violence perished, 4 were left behind – Myself and 3 siblings.

      THINK before you post such BS in the future. Battered Woman Syndrome isn’t something you use to shame – of all things – sports fans.

      The last thing I’d point out is this: FOOTBALL IS A GOD DAMN GAME! You seem to revel in disparaging the Riders and its fanbase. Lighten the hell up! Life’s too god damn short to spend it hating people you don’t even know.

      Enough said.

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