“Next man up!” has been the mantra of the Calgary Stampeders during the John Hufnagel era during which the team has suffered year after year of injury-plagued football. They have embraced the feeling that the guy-behind-the-guy can be “the guy” given the chance. Now, fresh off winning the 106th Grey Cup they suddenly find themselves putting this feeling to the test.
In the Grey Cup game the Calgary Stampeders dressed 44 players and submitted a 46 man roster.
Headed into the offseason, Hufnagel had just 16 players under contract for next year and only eight of those were starters. Here is a look at the Stamps free agency landscape headed into the final days of team rights.
The big decision
The Stampeders priority list starts and ends with Bo Levi Mitchell, the league’s best-ever quarterback when it comes to winning percentage, Mitchell is rumoured to have had interest from almost half the teams in the NFL and has tested those waters. Whether he finds a pool to swim in may be a different story as he has repeatedly said he isn’t interested in being a clipboard jockey. Other rumour mill fodder has him open to returning to any CFL team should the price be right.
While Mitchell is often part of a 1/1A conversation with fellow free agent to be Mike Reilly, Mitchell is six years younger and has to be at the top of any GM’s wish list. Look for the big bucks to be thrown at Bo and all the wooing that comes along with it.
Alex Singleton – The all-world linebacker for the Stampeders is sure to get a look after signing with the Philadelphia Eagles in December on the heels of piling up back to back seasons of 100 plus tackles and a Most Outstanding Defensive Player award. Singleton has had a cup of coffee with three teams in the NFL already but expect this one to be an extra large.
Marken Michel – The former rookie of the year nominee for the Stampeders is also headed to Philly. After suffering a broken scapula that cost him the tail end of the season, look for the diminutive receiver with speed to burn to make a name for himself downfield for the Eagles.
Jameer Thurman – Limited league wide recognition for the LB who had 83 tackles while playing next to the stat vacuum that was Singleton this year. When it wasn’t the MLB making the stop Thurman had a whopping 13 per cent of the defensive plays remaining. He was also was a key contributor on special teams. Signed in Chicago to play for the Bears.
James Vaughters – The Stampeders string of sending a defensive lineman to the NFL every year continues with James Vaughters signing in Chicago. He will team alongside Jameer Thurman looking to make an impression. Vaughters had five sacks as part of the DE rotation while also contributing on special teams.
Kamar Jorden – Last year the chemistry between BLM and Kamar Jorden was palpable and had Jorden setting a Stampeders record for single game receiving yards during a stretch that ended with Jorden’s year ending injury. Having him back, although maybe not ready for camp, is still a huge lure towards getting Mitchell to re-sign.
Terry Williams – A Grey Cup clinching touchdown followed a season f that was derailed by injury. He was still able to boast the third highest punt return yardage total and had regular season TD’s to go with the play in the Grey Cup that snuffed out the Redblacks comeback chances. As a change of pace back beside Don Jackson, Williams is dangerous in the open field. They don’t call him “Scary Terry” for no reason.
The offensive line – Shane Bergman, Brad Erdos, and Ucambre Williams have all re-upped in the last few weeks which has to be a sigh of relief for Stamps fans. Statistically one of the best offensive lines in the league over the last few seasons, the Stamps need only to confirm a right tackle to pencil in the starters. One might have thought that job would go to everyman Spencer Wilson, but the rumour mill has him headed out of town for a more stable situation. Losing Wilson could really hurt.
Brandon Smith – I can’t be sure if it has been said elsewhere or not, but Brandon Smith is headed to the Hall of Fame. This unusually quiet defensive back has been here for the entire Hufnagel era dating back to 2008 and shows zero signs of a decline in his game. Looking for his fourth ring, Smith brings a lead by example mentality that helped Calgary to be one of the best units in the loop under first year coach Joshua Bell.
Jamar Wall – Another stalwart in the defensive backfield for Calgary, Wall is a two time all-star and has appeared in four Grey Cup games for Calgary. Wall is a consistent performer who was a team captain at SAM this past season.
Depth signings – Riley Jones, Wynton McManis, and Cory Greenwood have all been extended so far this offseason. Expect to see a few more of these in the days to come.
Still work to do
Receivers – Despite the return of Kamar Jorden, the Stamps receiving corps is still a little bare with the free agents that are available. Eric Rogers, first among them, may be headed to retirement if his knee doesn’t heal up in a hurry. DaVaris Daniels, Chris Matthews, Juwan Brescacin and Lemar Durant all remain big pieces that are looking for a new contract. Matthews was released to look for opportunities south of the border but as yet hasn’t found a new home.
Defensive line – This may be where Calgary takes one of its biggest hits. With the exception of Derek Wiggan, the entire line is set to explore the free agent market. Micah Johnson will command all of the dollars after one of the most dominant seasons a defensive tackle has had in a very long time while Ja’Gared Davis also did nothing to hurt his pocketbook during the playoffs.
Defensive backs – Brandon Smith and Jamar Wall join Tre Roberson as the only starting DB’s under contract. Ciante Evans has had NFL workouts in the past and may explore those options again. The Stampeders have proven that they aren’t in the market of paying large money to cornerbacks which is why Tommie Campbell is now in Montreal. Last year’s signing of Emmanuel Davis proved to be excellent but will he stay here another year?
It may prove harder to retain free agents in Calgary than in the past because the need to stay to finish what they started has been fulfilled. The question will be whether or not repeating as champs at home provides the same motivation.