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Confessions of a Rider Fan: Free Agency Edition

Published: Thursday, Feb 14th 2019, 3:02pm

By: Sheldon Jones (@SheldonJones83)

Feb 12, 2019 could have been a date that would have forever went down in history for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Let’s take you back to the end of the 2018. With the collective bargaining agreement between the CFL and the CFLPA coming to an end on the eve of training camp for the 2019 season, there were 3 big name Quarterbacks that were on the verge of becoming free agents. 

While Mike Reilly had a typical Mike Reilly-like year throwing for over 5500 yards and and almost 2-1 TD to INT ratio, the Eskimos didn’t not have a great year missing the playoffs while hosting the Grey Cup. After the last regular season game Mike made it clear that while he loved Edmonton he was looking forward to testing free agency, saying that money wasn’t the most important factor he was looking to win championships and was going to look out for what was best for his family. 

Bo Levi Mitchell not only won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player of the year award, he was also the Most Valuable Player in the 2018 Grey Cup after leading the Calgary Stampeders to victory in Edmonton over the Ottawa REDBLACKS. He had definately earned his shot at the NFL and had scheduled work outs for several teams but stated he needed receive a contract offer that he felt showed him that he was going to get a legitimate shot at competing for at least a 2nd string position. If all else fails he would almost certainly return to the Stamps.

Trevor Harris had a career year for Ottawa throwing for over 5000 yards for the first time and had a 2-1 TD to INT ratio. He also led the REDBLACKS to the grey cup (their 3rd appearance in 4 years) there’s no doubt that Harris was looking to get a big raise in the offseason but early on it looked like Ottawa would be able to re-sign their starting QB.

After a disastrous season offensively, the Saskatchewan Roughriders were on the market for a new starting QB. Zach Collaros could not stay healthy after suffering a concussion early in the season and Brandon Bridge failed to do anything when he was given the opportunity to be the starter. Reports were going around saying the HC and GM Chris Jones was going to make a very enticing offer to Mike Reilly, whom he had a previous relationship with as they won the Grey Cup together in Edmonton in 2015. Now we all know what happened on Jan 15th, 2019 Chris Jones used his “out clause” in his newly signed extension to sign with Cleveland in the NFL as a Senior Defensive Specialist. Fast forward a couple weeks and Jeromy O’Day is named the new General Manager and he in turn promotes Special Teams Coordinator Craig Dickenson to head Coach. 

The week before Feb 12 comes and rumours are running rampant about not only these top 3 FA QB’s but for  alot of big ticket FA’s aswell. It has become almost a certainty the Reilly will sign in BC. Close to home and has a special connection to GM Ed Hervey but this Rider fan was still holding out hope. Sources start saying Bo Levi’s camp are telling them that he has not received a strong enough offer from any NFL team an is open to all offers and not necessarily going back to the Stamps. This Rider fan gets excited at the prospect of Bo signing in Regina. News comes that Harris’s agent and Ottawa are further apart in their negotiations than initially thought and could entertain free agency. I think Harris would look great in Rider green, would be cheaper than Bo and Mike and the thought of possibly getting Ellingson along with him is enough to get me very excited. 

For some reason this Rider fan bought into the Hype and thought we might have a shot landing one of these 3. Tuesday comes and as anticipated Mike Reilly signs in BC, going back to where he started in the CFL and only a short 2 hour drive from his home in Seattle. He signs a 4 year 2.9 million dollar deal. With Reilly off the table I start to get excited that while the Riders didn’t sign him, at least the Eskimos are without a starter now… Then word comes that not only has Trevor Harris signed in Edmonton but as expected Greg Ellingson has joined him. Well crap. There goes that idea. Lost in the shuffle the Roughriders have signed RB William Powell from the REDBLACKS. I am happy we have signed this all-star but am more concerned about getting a QB. The next hour seems to be a back and forth chess match between announcements of signing between the Lions and the Eskimos. Both teams are getting better and better by the moment and the Riders seem to be on the outside looking in. The Riders announce that they have signed Micah Johnson from the Stamps. He is quite possibly the best defensive player in the league. I am excited!! But we still need a QB!! Justin Dunk reports that Bo Levi has been given a monster offer from the Toronto Argo’s and his decision is down to 3 teams, along with the Riders and the Stamps. Looking back it was obviously a great strategy by Bo’s agent to drive up the price he would ultimately get to re-sign in Cow town. 

To say I am diaspointed that the Riders were unable to sign one of the three headed monster known as “Mike – Levi Harris” is an understatement. However it was not likely from the start and I now see that. The silver lining in not getting one of those 3 is the cap savings the Riders have to spread around the rest of the team hopefully being able to supplement the lack of a top tier QB as they have brought back Zach Collaros one a one year contract. 

We still need to sign a #1 and # 2 receiver and now need to find someone to replace a very versatile Tobi Antigua who has signed with the Argos. Losing Willie Jefferson to the Bombers was tough enough but last year Tobi was all over the field making spectacular plays and will be the Riders biggest loss this offseason. 

All in all this was a crazy 24 hours of free agency but I along with the rest of Rider Nation need to realize that Grey Cup championships are not won on the first day of free agency. We have to have faith in our GM, coaches and scouts to get the job done in order to field a competitive team in the ultra competitive Western Division of the CFL. One thing I know for certain is I will be in the stands at Mosaic Stadium come June and will be standing with Rider Nation cheering on our 2019 Saskatchewan Roughriders. Will you?


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