Look! It’s the annual Rider Fan Forum offseason update! Woo!
Sports | by Gregory Beatty
Like last year, there’s been plenty of activity in Riderville this off-season. The biggest move, obviously, was trading quarterback Darian Durant to Montreal for two mid-round draft picks after contract negotiations broke down.
To share their thoughts on the trade — plus other moves the Riders have made since last November — we’re joined by Cal Corduroy, Earl Camembert, Ron Mexico and newly rechristened Ivanka Trudeau, formerly John’s Chick.
So panel, what about the Durant trade?
IVANKA TRUDEAU I wasn’t shocked because it seemed negotiations had stalled, but I was a bit heartbroken. Darian is a Rider legend and an elite CFL QB, but I tend to remember 2013 Darian. When you consider his 2014-2016 seasons, it made sense the Riders would want a performance-based contract instead of a large signing bonus and guaranteed salary. Logically, my head agrees with the trade, but it will be hard to see him in an Alouettes jersey. Good on the Riders to get something for him before he went to free agency though.
EARL CAMEMBERT Like a lot of people, I see a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s too bad because he’s been here for a long time and is one of the Riders’ all-timers. On the other hand, I’m okay with it because he was too expensive, was too hurt and, as Chris Jones aptly pointed out, was only moderately successful. I know that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but if you’re shooting for sustained excellence, that’s the way you have to assess your personnel.
CAL CORDUROY Fine by me. Word was Durant was self-centered. It was always about him. He wouldn’t make an appearance without a big fee. I don’t like Bo-Levi Mitchell in Calgary, but apparently he makes countless appearances — all without an additional nickel of salary. Good riddance Darian.
RON MEXICO No problem with it at all. I think everything Jones said was accurate. The Riders have been setting aside starting QB money for a guy who’s played very few games. He wasn’t getting better, and he wasn’t getting younger. His salary demands were out of line.
Sticking with the positive, what other moves did you like?
IT Signing Kevin Glenn (again!) may be ridiculed by some, but it only made sense with our uncertainty at QB. I also like the Duron Carter signing. He’s a talented receiver, and hopefully any behavioural issues are behind him (it’s my nature as a Rider fan to be eternally optimistic!)
I was impressed with the free agent signings too — although I was impressed last year, and almost all of them didn’t pan out. In particular, I like 2016 O-lineman of the year Derek Dennis, National DB Marc-Olivier Brouillette, National RB Kienan Lafrance… and hottie Chad Owens! We do seem stacked with International receivers now, so I wonder if Jones is trying to make a trade with Edmonton (who lost Derel Walker to the NFL) for back-up QB James Franklin. Otherwise, I’m not sure who’s going to be throwing the ball to all our receivers!
EC The free agent signings, I thought, were very good. Of course, we said the same thing last year, then hardly any of them panned out. Signing Dennis, the consensus prime free agent, was big. The other signing I liked was Brouillette. Safety is a good position to play a National, which the Riders haven’t done since Craig Butler. The Riders have a real good receiving corps so Owens may not be that big. When he’s healthy, though, he’s pretty good at returning punts.
CC Obviously, signing the best O-lineman in the league has to help. Our receiving corps, defensive backs and defensive line all improved.
RM I like Brouillette. He’s good, and he plays a position that should be played by a National. The Dennis signing is good, but shouldn’t be overstated. If we’re going to play an International at tackle, there should be lots available at a fraction of the cost. Basically, that one was just spending money instead of our personnel guys finding a player. However, we know he’s good so you can’t complain.
Any off-season moves hurt the Riders?
IT I wouldn’t call it a “move”, but the tragic passing of Joe McKnight was obviously terrible, and hurts the Riders at running back. The Riders also lost some good players to the NFL (LBs Jeff Knox Jr and Otha Foster), but that’s the reality of the CFL. The Johnny Manziel rumours made Chris Jones look bad, whether they were true or not. And I’m not convinced that pursuing Vince Young is a good idea, given that he hasn’t played in over five years!
EC Losing Foster to an NFL tryout probably will hurt the worst. Chris Best retiring would be a bad thing if he’d been playing the last two years, but the Riders have already moved on.
CC Obviously, losing Durant hurts on the field (although you never knew if he was going to be healthy). I’m not sure there was anyone else who left that the Riders would’ve loved to retain. Losing a pile of linebackers still leaves the Riders with a pile of linebackers.
RM I think signing Duron Carter was a mistake. Locker room jerks don’t change. I have it from a credible source that Montreal’s players took a vote last year, with the majority voting to kick him off the team. I also think spending one minute of time on Vince Young is a mistake. Ditto Bakari Grant. We must have some trades in mind given all the receivers they’re signing.
The Riders have the #2 and #11 picks in the CFL draft. For you, what are priorities?
IT We need National depth on the O-line, especially since Best retired and we don’t know if Brendon LaBatte will be healthy for 2017.
EC I’d use both picks on O-linemen. They have National linebacker skill with Henoc Muamba, and have added DB depth with Brouillette.
CC When you’re in dire need of everything, start with the lines. Four out of the first six in the rankings are lineman. Let’s get a couple of good ones.
RM Justin Senior, big interior O-lineman who plays in the SEC. There’s also 6’5”, 250-plus pound inside receiver Anthony Auclair, who played for Laval. We are guaranteed to get one of the two, but will never get both at #2 and #11.
Outside of the Riders, which teams took steps forward this off-season? Which teams fell back?
IT Montreal made a big splash signing Durant and Ottawa receiver Ernest Jackson, but they are taking a risk with Durant. If he’s healthy, they could be very successful because their defense was pretty good last year. I think Toronto fell back initially, but now that they have Jim Popp and Marc Trestman as GM and coach they should be able to start turning things around.
EC Calgary is always Calgary, and even though they lost Dennis that won’t matter much since they can find players. B.C. lost some guys to the NFL, I believe. But Wally always seems to get them into position. Edmonton did very little this off-season, and weren’t that good last year. GM Ed Hervey signed RB Kendial Lawrence? Come on, man. The Argos are a mess, which isn’t good for the league. Hopefully Popp and Trestman will be able to straighten things out.
CC Montreal and B.C. improved. Calgary took a bit of a beating, but that never seems to slow them down.
RM Toronto fell back by not having a GM during free agency. Montreal and Ottawa seemed to lose some bodies.