Jeremy O’Day has the Riders ready for whatever 2021 may bring

In this business, sometimes you write or say something and end up being completely wrong.

For me, this was one of those times.

In this space before the opening of CFL free agency, I anticipated that Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Jeremy O’Day probably wouldn’t be all that busy when the market opened on February 9. The former offensive lineman more or less said so in his media availability prior to the opening of the negotiation window.

O’Day ended up adding seven players on the first day of free agency.

Things can change in a hurry though and if there’s one thing we know about O’Day, he doesn’t sit around and wait. He’ll release veterans early to give them a jump on free agency. It also allows him to focus on the moves he needs to make after such a departure.

We saw that this time around with the departure of defensive end Charleston Hughes, who went on to sign with the Argos, which more or less led to the team being able to sign defensive tackle Micah Johnson.

Star linebacker Cameron Judge remains unsigned but did have a workout with the Las Vegas Raiders.

At this point, we know that Judge won’t be returning to Saskatchewan, no matter what may come of that workout. So, O’Day went ahead and signed twin brothers Jordan and Justin Herdman-Reed. Rather than continuing to try and woo Judge back to the Green and White, O’Day just moved forward with what he thought was the best move for the team.

So, what do these moves mean for the Riders? O’Day has set them up for whatever the 2021 season looks like.

In a normal season, where we know for sure it’s going to start on time with a full camp and slate of pre-season games, perhaps the Riders decide to roll the dice on some young American talent at defensive tackle, for example.

It’s entirely possible that we could see a shortened camp with no pre-season games. Adding veterans like Johnson, offensive lineman Evan Johnson and linebacker Larry Dean leaves the team in a spot to be prepared should that happen. The last thing you’d want is for a first-year player to make their CFL debut in Week 1 with no pre-season games.

You can look at the Rider roster at this point and there isn’t really an opening that jumps off the page, other than placekicker. Without much of a training camp, that’s a good spot to be in. If things do go on as normal? You can still take a look at your younger players and go from there.

The signing of the Herman-Reed twins not only fills a roster need with the departure of Judge, but it also gives the Riders some flexibility with their Canadians.

Head coach Craig Dickenson will have options when it comes to his starting Canadians. At this point, Dan Clark, Brendon LaBatte, and Evan Johnson are locks to start. Defensive lineman Makana Henry and safety Mike Edem are very likely to be starters. That leaves the Herdman-Reeds, offensive lineman Mattland Reilly, receivers Jake Harty and Justin McInnis, along with defensive back Elie Bouka to fill out the final two starter spots.

As it stands, the Riders are flexible heading into the 2021 season. As the last year has taught us, that’s more important than ever.

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