Have you seen the list of CFL players who become free agents when their contracts expire Feb. 9?
All-stars. Offensive game-breakers. Defensive stalwarts. Ratio changers. First-rate Canadian starters.
In eight weeks they can join the Saskatchewan Roughriders, whose new boss has cleared roster space and cap space by waiving 19 players. Minutes after revealing his new football operations department, Chris Jones, Saskatchewan’s vice-president of football operations (and general manager, head coach and defensive co-ordinator) announced that 12 of his new team’s potential free agents and seven other under-contract players were being released so they could pursue other opportunities.
How’s that for an invitation to the CFL’s pending free agents? Free agents from Jones’ former team, the Grey Cup-winning Edmonton Eskimos, may soon be following him to Saskatchewan, who no longer have salary-cap issues.
Jones said the released players didn’t fit into his team’s new philosophy and, admittedly, under the Roughriders’ Salary Management System. Translation: He had already decided they were old, ineffective, overpaid, not committed to the Riders or a combination of those four things.
It’s a ruthless business. The players evidently weren’t told they had been released.
While some fans and players were bemoaning the departure of well-known veterans like Tryon Brackenridge, Terrell Maze, Weldon Brown, Anthony Allen and Macho Harris, the Roughriders were already poised to bolster a roster that posted a 3-15 record last season.
Jones has planned free-agent camps throughout the U.S. Along with his assistant vice-presidents John Murphy (football operations and player personnel) and Jeremy O’Day (football operations and administration), they will be seeking bigger, faster, younger defensive players who excel at man-to-man coverage and younger offensive players with size and breakaway speed.
Jones and Murphy are well-respected in CFL circles for their abilities to assess and recruit players. O’Day, one of the few holdovers from last year’s football operations department, is going to help and evidently make sure the team adheres to next season’s $5.1-million salary cap. Heck, Murphy and O’Day interviewed for the Riders’ GM position, didn’t get the job and were hired by the guy who did.
Jones joined the 4-14 Eskimos after their dismal 2013 season. Two years later the Eskimos won the Grey Cup, with Jones serving solely as the head coach. The Roughriders hired him eight days after he hoisted the 2015 Grey Cup. Jones is bringing along almost his entire coaching staff from Edmonton. They must be caught in his jet-stream.