Craig Dickenson says Riders have ‘gotta make improvements’ in CFL free agency

Courtesy: Brett Holmes/CFL

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach Craig Dickenson knows that his team needs to improve coming off a disappointing season in 2022 and it appears the club plans to use free agency to help make that happen.

“We were a 6-12 team and we’ve gotta make improvements. We’ve gotta look outside of our own building for some of these guys and we’ve gotta do a great job of recruiting guys either in the States that are free agents or drafting Canadians in this next year,” Dickenson told Brendan McGuire on the Sportscage.

Saskatchewan has over 25 players scheduled to hit the open market on Feb. 14, including franchise quarterback Cody Fajardo, receivers Shaq Evans and Duke Williams, linebackers Larry Dean and Darnell Sankey, and veteran offensive lineman Dan Clark.

Dickenson indicated that the club remains in communication with the players they’d most like to re-sign for 2023 while acknowledging that the Riders plan to move on from others.

“We’ll sign as many of our good ones back as we can and we’ve been in discussion with them but there’s some guys we’re going to move on from and we feel like it’s the right thing to do. We weren’t satisfied just as Rider Nation wasn’t with 6-12 and we’ve gotta do everything we can to make sure we get better,” he said.

“We’ve reached out to a lot of our guys that we’ve identified as priorities and we’ve been in discussion with them and I think what you’re going to see is a lot of action here in the last week to ten days before free agency and we’re going to sign some guys back.”

The Riders signed Sankey away from the Calgary Stampeders on the first day of free agency last winter and he had an excellent season, recording 120 defensive tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception over 18 starts at middle linebacker.

Saskatchewan also brought back Derrick Moncrief following a stint with the Edmonton Elks and he made 49 defensive tackles and four interceptions over 17 starts at strong-side linebacker.

General manager Jeremy O’Day has been active in free agency at times in the past. In 2019, the club added Fajardo, A.C. Leonard, William Powell, Micah Johnson, and Emmanuel Arceneaux among others. In 2021, the Riders used free agency to sign Dean along with Evan Johnson, Godfrey Onyeka, and Justin and Jordan Herdman-Reed.

Most of 3DownNation’s top 25 free agents remain scheduled to hit the open market as of Tuesday morning, including Eugene Lewis, Folarin Orimolade, Trevor Harris, Wynton McManis, and Kenny Lawler.

Dickenson also indicated that the team hopes to announce its coaching staff for the upcoming season before the end of the month. The club has two spots left to fill following the departure of Ben Olson to the University of the Incarnate Word.