With free agency right around the corner, teams around the CFL are already wheeling and dealing to get ready for the 2022 season, but for some on the prairies, the hunt for the 109th Grey Cup means just a little more.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders will host the event in Mosaic Stadium and a chance at a home Grey Cup win doesn’t come around very often. In the eyes of long-time Rider turned CFL broadcaster Glen Suitor, the team must pull out all the stops to make it happen, even if that means bending the rules.
“You’ve got to load up this year if you’re Saskatchewan. If you were ever in a year where you were going to push the cap and push the restrictions and maybe even pay a little bit of a fine for going over, this is the year to do it,” Suitor told guest host Clayton Kroeker during his regular appearance on the SportsCage.
“I mean, you’ve got the game and the countdown is on. We’re playing the Grey Cup in Regina this year, so you get those playmakers back, as many as you possibly can, and continue to add.”
During the Chris Jones era, the Riders became notorious for bending league roster rules and incurred more than $110,000 in fines. The team has stuck to the straight and narrow since Craig Dickenson and Jeremy O’Day took over operations, but Suitor believes it is the right time to press their luck, particularly when it comes to offensive playmakers.
Saskatchewan’s offence faltered for much of the 2021 season and star quarterback Cody Fajardo struggled to get any semblance of a deep passing game going. The focus of the offseason is on getting him the weapons necessary to change that trend, with the team re-signing top receiver Kyran Moore on Friday and working towards retaining late season acquisition Duke Williams. A return for 2019 all-star Shaq Evans hasn’t been ruled out either and Suitor believes the team shouldn’t stop there.
“Don’t just be satisfied with re-signing Duke, Shaq and now Kyran Moore today. Look at the free agent market, can Kenny Lawler get there?” Suitor said, mentioning the CFL’s top receiver last season. “I’m kicking the tires there too. Just look at what the budget will bear and try and load up.”
While Suitor wants to see a Riders’ team four deep with all-stars at American receiver, he admits there will be a balancing act. Some of the money will be needed to strengthen the roster elsewhere.
“You want to pay Micah Johnson some money because you’d like to get him back. I think you want to continue to make sure you strengthen your defensive front seven. If a real good offensive lineman hits the free agent market, I think you’ve got to take a look at that too,” he explained.
“There’s a balancing act to be had here obviously and every team’s got to deal with that in their own budget and take a look at where are they going to be able to push the envelope.”
To win a Grey Cup at home, push it they must, even if that means some official consequences. Luckily for any Rider subscribing to Suitor’s big spender philosophy, the last CFL team to surpass the cap suffered no fines at all.