The Riders signed Jon Ryan, but why?

I have a bit of a reputation at times when it comes to my coverage of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and I’m about to live up to it.

I don’t really understand why the Riders signed punter Jon Ryan.

Ok, I do. He’s a great punter and local guy that will bring a lot of positive buzz to the Riders. Something they’ve kind of been missing in the player personnel department over the last few years. As I write this, I know pretty much every fan, reporter, columnist, and radio host is going to like the move. Ryan is a much-needed face that the team has kind of been lacking over the last few years when it felt like Chris Jones and gang.

They’ll sell jerseys, he’ll be great in front of the microphone and in the community. He’ll be great to promote the brand.

I get why Ryan would want to come to Saskatchewan. It seems the NFL has moved on from him and it’s a wonderful opportunity to wrap his career at home and complete the circle of football life.

That’s all fine and dandy but, and perhaps I’m heartless, whatever.

Don’t get me wrong, Ryan is an outstanding punter and (perhaps) becomes the best one in the CFL upon his return to the league. His track record at the U of R, with the Bombers and the Seattle Seahawks speaks for itself.

Did the Riders really need an upgrade there though? I’m not saying this will keep them from improving the team in other areas, I just think what they had there was working.

While Josh Bartel doesn’t have the overall leg strength that Ryan has, he was doing exactly what Craig Dickenson asked of him. Over the last two seasons, Bartel has been the master at pinning teams deep. He punted for precisely zero rouges last year. Systematically, Dickenson is far more concerned with placement than distance and Bartel has been very good at it. Bartel’s average punt was basically four yards shorter than anyone else, head coach Craig Dickenson admitted this was by design. Bartel was also only called for an illegal punt once.

According to the CFL, Bartel’s field position adjusted ranking was nine of 10 qualifying punters, but his offence did him little favours.

Dickenson also said recently that he felt Bartel didn’t do a good enough job getting down field, and that’s fair enough, but to blame a few returns caused by missed tackles, on the punter seems like a bit much.

It’s possible Ryan will be good at everything Bartel is good at but how much better? And directional punting is not exactly a huge thing in the NFL. Will this really make the team that much better on the field? Is it worth releasing a guy who has been good? Especially when it costs you more cap space and you’re not flipping the ratio?

Feel free to save this post if (when) I’m proven wrong later.

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