Adding Hughes helps now but have Riders abandoned the long game?

Has your head stopped spinning yet? No? Me either. That was some kind of day in the CFL.

CFL news came fast and furious on Friday, with the biggest news coming in the afternoon when the Calgary Stampeders dealt potential future hall of fame defensive lineman Charleston Hughes to the Hamilton Ticats, along with a draft pick for a couple of other picks. That alone was enough to send shock waves throughout the CFL. Hughes is a long-time member of the Stamps who has been an all-star for most of his career. His play has basically propelled a number of other defensive linemen to land big CFL contracts or shots in the NFL.

But wait….there’s more. A few hours later, Hughes was dealt to the Saskatchewan Roughriders by Hamilton for quarterback Vernon Adams. Whoa.

There’s a lot to process here. Hughes has been a thorn in the Riders side for basically his entire career and now he’s in green and white? That’s good news for Rider fans (if you ignore that Calgary probably has someone younger and cheaper ready to go, because that’s what they do). It’s pretty clear that under Chris Jones the Riders plan on using three defensive linemen a lot. If you have Hughes on one end, Willie Jefferson on the other and a young, promising player in Nick James in the middle, then suddenly they’re onto something.

In the short term, there’s no question this trade makes the Riders a better team in 2018.  If the only thing that matters to this team right now is to win a Grey Cup this season, at all costs, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

However, I keep going back to the day that team president and CEO Craig Reynolds fired then head coach Corey Chamblin and general manager Brendan Taman mid-way through the 2015 season. Reynolds wanted the Riders to be the next Calgary Stampeders. He wanted them to consistently develop players and to compete for Grey Cup year in and year out like the team in red out of Alberta. A thought that I shared early last season and continue to stand by. 

In the short term, adding proven players from various teams across the CFL makes sense, no one wants to lose week after week.

After the 2015 season, Jones had little to work with when he took over and some short-term moves were needed. We’re now in year three of the Jones era and who exactly has the team developed themselves? Their drafts have mostly been irrelevant. Most of their best players remain players that already established themselves elsewhere or were already on the team.

Teams that wish to compete for Grey Cups year and after year, develop from within. Hughes is 34-years-old and, eventually, his play is going to tail off. Right now, given John Hufnagel’s track record in these matters, I’m inclined to believe it’s coming sooner rather than later.

At some point, the Riders are going to have to start hitting on some draft picks and their neg list or another 2015 season will be here sooner rather than later.

If the goal has changed and it’s “all in” once again, then someone needs to step forward and let us know.