Riders Free Agents – Who Stays and Who Goes
Published: Thursday, Feb 2nd 2023, 2:02pm
By Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)
Free Agency in the CFL opens up in less than two weeks and since the end of the 2022 season, all of Saskatchewan is wondering what the heck is going on with the team and WHERE ARE ALL THE (RE-)SIGNINGS??
Well, there have been a few, but after a 6-12 season that saw the team completely bottom out in the final few months of the year, do you REALLY want the same team back? I know I sure don’t. They’ll never admit it, but let’s face it: the Saskatchewan Roughriders are in a full rebuild. Not re-tooling, like they may say… this is a full on rebuild. Much like after the 2015 season when Chris Jones came in and took over.
First off, for the first time in a long time, we actually have no indication who will be the starting QB in Riderville. It could literally be anybody at this point. When you don’t know that, you have problems. More on that in the coming days after the official tampering window opens in the CFL.
But now, let’s look at the current pending free agents for the Saskatchewan Roughriders (all according to the CFL free agent dashboard) and what I think should be done with each of them.
*listed in alphabetical order*
- DB Blace Brown – I’m a bit surprised he hasn’t been signed, but I’m also fine with it. I’d let him hit free agency and maybe bring him for camp if you have the room.
- OL Jamal Campbell – What was supposed to be a shrewd signing in 2022, Campbell flopped and couldn’t even beat Na’Ty Rodgers out for a starting spot until Rodgers was just SO. BAD. that the team had no choice but to cut him. See ya, Jamal. I’m sure his passport will land him a job this season.
- OL Dan Clark – At first I was surprised that Clark hasn’t been re-signed yet. But it makes sense now. We all know Clark is a Roughrider for life. They love him here and he loves it in green and white as well. I sense that the contract is signed, but the salary spot is blank. Clark will get paid decently, but if he needs to take a pay cut to make the team around him better, he will. Once the tampering window is closed and General Manager Jeremy O’Day has a better idea of the cap situation, the deal will be done. Clark will be a Rider in 2023.
- RB Shaq Cooper – How many times can a guy be signed, cut, signed again and cut in a year? He’s a phone call away at all times to provide RB depth. You let him go and bring a young guy in to camp.
- LB Larry Dean – If the CFL had a Comeback Player of the Year award, Dean would have won last year. He was surprisingly great. We all knew he was good, but after missing 2021 due to a torn ACL, we all questioned how 2022 would go for him. He slaughtered any expectations and SHOULD be brought back. O’Day has apparently low-balled an offer to Dean, so I expect Dean to go elsewhere for 2023. Sad, he was one of the few bright spots on a rather dull team.
- S Mike Edem – Edem was just on the Sportscage with Ballsy and said that it’s likely 2023 will be his last year. Injuries have started to catch up to Edem over the last couple of years, but I’d bring him back. I expect him to be a re-signing before free agency opens
- WR Shaq Evans – Also on the Sportscage, Evans has said that he doesn’t think he’ll be back in Riderville. He tweeted out that someone is going to “get a dawg who is hungry af”. I hope all these injuries are in the past, but if I were O’Day, I’d let Shaq walk too. Besides the injury concerns, I’d just go cheaper and younger.
- QB Cody Fajardo – This bridge is broken to the point that it is unrepairable… unless no one else wants Fajardo (though, I can’t see that being the case). It was clear at the end of 2022 that the team moved on from him and on Feb. 14, I hope he moves on from them too and signs somewhere else. The Riders caught lightning in a bottle with Fajardo and, as much as he gave everything he had to the team, he just isn’t a franchise QB in the CFL. Teams learned that he has incredibly happy feet and he spins out to his left every play. He’ll be a solid backup, but his days as a starter and a Rider, are done.
- LB Nigel Harris – An American LB who only plays special teams? See ya.
- WR Jake Harty – What a comeback story for Harty the last few years after all those injuries. But I’m confident he’s moving on to his post-football career.
- LB Jordan Herdman-Reed – Fine enough special teams player, but that’s about it. Pass.
- LB Justin Herdman-Reed – See Herdman-Reed, Jordan.
- DE Charleston Hughes – Someone will give him a contract, right? I would have moved on from him after 2021 and I’m doing the same now. See you in the Hall of Fame, Chuck.
- LB Gary Johnson Jr. – See Harris, Nigel.
- DL Anthony Lanier II – We still never really got an answer as to what the heck happened with Lanier in 2022. It was obvious he sustained a concussion, but put on the 1-game list for months? Why not 6-gamed? Anyways, now that the Riders cut A.C. Leonard and have some extra funds, they HAVE to sign Lanier. It’s not a coincidence that the D-Line sucked after he got hurt. Break the bank, O’Day!
- WR Wesley Lewis – Let him go. He has great size, but the team is more than fine with their Canadian receiving depth (assuming the next name on the list returns).
- WR Justin McInnis – I wouldn’t say McInnis is a MUST SIGN, but he’s close. It’s clear that the team is revamping their American receivers, so keeping the good group of young Canadians at the position is important. I hope they re-sign him.
- WR Kyran Moore – When he came back in 2022 from injury, I was hoping he could provide a spark to the offence. He never really got that chance to be used the way he was in 2019 and 2021. I’d personally try and bring him back, but like I just said, the Riders are revamping their American receivers, so I don’t expect Swerve to be back.
- DB Godfrey Onyeka – I wouldn’t rush, but I’d put a contract offer out to Onyeka. If he wants to leave, I wouldn’t be heartbroken.
- WR Mitch Picton – Surprised this hasn’t been done yet. Picton was the Riders best receiver at times in 2022 (though that might be more of a “how bad was this team” thing than anything else. Still, I’d bring him back and continue to develop him. He’ll provide good depth.
- DE Pete Robertson – Much like Lanier, this is a MUST SIGN. Use that $40,000 bonus that you didn’t give A.C. Leonard and up Robertson’s already increasing salary by that much. KEEP HIM AROUND, O’DAY! While this team has never really had a problem recruiting American pass rushers, you don’t let this one get away.
- LB Darnell Sankey – O’Day’s prized free agent pickup from 2022 was everything and more for the Riders D last year. Yet, here’s O’Day low-balling him and getting called out on Twitter by Sankey for the ‘disrespect’ shown. I don’t know if O’Day can rebuild that relationship (I seriously doubt it and I expect Sankey to be one and done in Saskatchewan), but I do know there will be 8 other teams putting in their pitch to sign him. Good one, O’Day…
- OL Josiah St. John – In 2022, I questioned why you are bringing him back (I think I did that in 2021, 2019, etc, etc), but in 2023 I say why not. He actually wasn’t that bad last year in limited playing time. If he gets beat out for the 6th man spot, so be it, but I’d give him the chance to win it.
- FB James Tuck – The new Offensive Coordinator was last year’s Running Backs Coach, Kelly Jeffrey. I’d imagine that both Jamaal Morrow and Frankie Hickson will be an important part of the 2023 team, so I’d also imagine that Tuck is as well. He was really good in his fullback role. Bring him back. Why the Tuck not?
- OL Terran Vaughn – Had high expectations for him coming back from injury, but he just didn’t look like the same guy. O’Day seems to be pretty high on the new American tackles he’s signed and I’d go full Chris Jones here and keep replacing them until you find a good one. Goodbye, Mr. Vaughn.
- WR Duke Williams – We all know this one. He’s gone and it’s VERY obvious the team moved on from him. He couldn’t regain his 2021 play and if you couple in the (alleged) spitting incident, the helmet throw in Touchdown Atlantic, his sideline antics… it’s time to say goodbye. Which sucks, because you KNOW he’s going to sign somewhere and put up 100 yard games against Saskatchewan for years to come.
To date, the Riders have only re-signed 6 of their pending 32 free agents. After a 6-12 season, there will be quite a few that you want to let go… but that’s a SMALL number. Before free agency officially opens on Valentine’s Day, we will see this list of pending names get a bit smaller, but I’m really curious who is going to show their love back to the Riders on February 14 when money gets tossed around in the CFL.
If you're having trouble subscribing, subscribe here instead.