Kory Sheets wants to return to the CFL, but is there a place for him?

It appears as if former Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets is looking to make a return to the CFL.

When Sheets was in the CFL, he was legitimately in the conversation as the best running back in the league. In his two seasons in Saskatchewan, Sheets ran for 2,875 yards on 516 carries and rushed for 23 touchdowns. He was also named the Grey Cup MVP when he rushed for a Grey Cup record 197 yards and two touchdowns in Saskatchewan’s 45-23 thrashing of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2013.

But that great Grey Cup in 2013 game was also the last time Kory Sheets played in a CFL game. He left the Riders following that season and signed with the Oakland Raiders, but after tearing his Achilles in a preseason game, his NFL hopes were extinguished. And since then, he has not done much of anything. Word last year was that he was interested in a comeback, but all that came of that was a work out with the Ottawa Redblacks and that was it.

We only give Sheets the time of day with something like this because of how good he was in 2012 and 2013. But he is still a player that hasn’t played any meaningful football in three years, so while he might want to return, the question remains if there is a spot for him. So let’s take a look at the nine CFL teams and see if any would have a spot for Sheets.

Incredibly unlikely

Let’s get the ones out of the way that I would be shocked would have any interest in Sheets: Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg.

All three teams have established ball carriers on their squad. The Stamps have reigning Most Outstanding Canadian Jerome Messam, the Esks have the other-worldly John White, and the Bombers have last season’s free agent prize Andrew Harris. I just don’t see any way in which any of these three teams would bring Sheets in for anything more than a cursory look, and I doubt Sheets would sign somewhere without being given some guarantee that he would be the No. 1 guy. So we can eliminate these three teams right off the bat. That leaves six.

Perhaps, but probably not

Hamilton, B.C. and Montreal might take a look at Sheets, but I would be surprised if any of these teams pounced. The Ticats have C.J. Gable, and yes he comes with the injury history, but Gable was mostly healthy last year and put up respectable numbers (693 yards on 126 carries, good for sixth in the league). The Ticats are also among the teams that run the ball the least, so bringing in Sheets doesn’t really mesh with their offense. Also, say what you want about Gable, but if the Ticats were going to move on from him, they would have done so during the two injury-riddled seasons he had in 2014 and 2015.

The Lions employed a 1-2 punch of Jeremiah Johnson and Anthony Allen last year, and with Johnson just inking a contract extension, it seems as if they are happy with what they have in their backfield. They could be tempted to take a shot on Sheets, but would he really be that much of an upgrade on a guy like Johnson, who put up 809 yards in just 11 games? I don’t think so.

Montreal is a team that has always been known to bring in veterans, but that was under the Jim Popp regime and he is no longer calling the shots in la belle province. The Als also have two very capable backs in Tyrell Sutton, who led the league in rushing in 2015 but missed most of the 2016 season due to injury, and Brandon Rutley. Rutley is schedule to become a free agent in February, but they still have Sutton, which means they don’t really have a place for Sheets.

That is three more teams down, which leaves just three others.


This is where things get a little interesting, but it still doesn’t look good for Sheets.

The Riders are an obvious landing spot since that was where he played when he was last in the CFL, and they still have not found an adequate replacement for him, but there is only one problem with a Sheets return to Riderville: they told him they were not interested in his services last year. If they said no to Sheets last year — when the also lacked a bell cow back — why would they change their tune a year later? While I know many fans in Saskatchewan would love to see their Grey Cup hero return, it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

The Redblacks would offer him a good opportunity and they don’t seem 100 per cent set at running back. That said, they got great production out of Mossis Madu, decent production out of Travon Van and may have the next Canadian running back star in Kienan LaFrance. And don’t forget about everyone’s breakout player heading into 2016, William Powell. Many thought after a great late season run, that Powell would be a star in 2016, but an unfortunate knee injury in training camp ended his season before it could start. Now Van, LaFrance and Powell are all still unsigned for 2017, so perhaps Ottawa would let them all walk and bring in Sheets. So far this is the closest I see to a fit, but even then, I’m not entirely sold.

That leaves us with the Toronto Argonauts. Their starting running back last year was Brandon Whitaker. Whitaker is no spring chicken, but he finished second in the CFL in rushing last year, was one of two players to cross the 1,000-yard mark (the other was Messam) and was Toronto’s Most Outstanding Player. He is also scheduled to be a free agent in February and is likely due a decent raise after his two very productive years in the Ontario capital. Could the Argos part ways with Whitaker and replace him with Sheets? It would be a very Toronto thing to bring in a big name to attract interest, so from a marketing standpoint it makes sense. From a football one, trading in your MOP from a year ago for a guy who hasn’t played in three years does not make a heck of a lot of sense.

The outlook does not look good for a Sheets return. It looks like his options are down to Ottawa and Toronto. But if we are being honest, I can’t see either team tripping over themselves to sign him. Sheets was a great player to watch during his two-year run in Saskatchewan, but it looks like he may just have to accept the fact that his career is over. Football is a cruel business, and formerly great players get discarded all the time. Yes, Sheets was awesome three years ago, but it was still three years ago. That is a lifetime in professional football. I wish him all the luck in the world in his comeback attempt, but, based on team needs, I do not see a huge market for his services.

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