Monday, March 5, 2018
OUT OF THE TUNNEL: A FOOTBALL BUFFET
By: RodPedersen.com Staff
Welcome to the heart of the off-season.
The bulk of free agency is done, the CFL Combine in Winnipeg is a few weeks away, and the draft is still a dot on the calendar that is two months from now.
Now that we have some time, let’s go through a small buffet of topics that have been floating around the CFL over the last couple of months:
UNVEILING THE NEG LISTS
There have been a few things that have whet the appetite of football fans across the CFL but the only real topic of discussion was a very carefully culled set of names that are on each team’s American negotiation list.
Let’s be honest with ourselves when looking at the list; of the 90 players mentioned, there might be two or three that will ever play in the CFL. The other 200 or so players that weren’t listed, now that would be something to see. Those would be the names we'd see at training camps and after NFL cuts in September.
Of the players that were mentioned in the article, some are retired (like quarterback Aaron Murray), some have changed positions, and some will probably make more as future coaches than toiling in the CFL.
The last point of all of this is, if these 90 players were ok to be released, why not the rest? Now that would be cause for some real excitement.
FREE AGENCY DONE, ROSTER SHAPING TIME
With the bulk of free agency over, it’s interesting to see how teams have built their rosters. This begs the question regarding whether or not teams are over the salary cap. This isn’t easy to explain in a few lines, but let’s give it a shot.
Unlike the NFL, where a team’s salary cap is the calculation of the total contracted salaries and must be in compliance with the cap by no later than the first day of the league year (this year that is March 14th).
This makes it easy for fans to know whether their favourite team is at or around the salary cap at any time of the year (it also helps that the contracts are a little more public, unlike the CFL) because it’s the amount of the contracts, not the amount actually paid out.
The CFL’s salary cap is the total amount of money that is spent on player contracts in a single calendar year. Say the B.C. Lions currently have $6.8 million in contracts. That means they are not over the salary cap. They have another 10 months to cut down their salary to get under the cap. As long as the total amount of player expenditures is below $5.2 million on December 31st, there will be no penalty.
It does lead to some shenanigans, most glaring being the signing of a player just to keep him away from a rival. It’s hard to tell for sure who those players or teams are, but when you ask, “Did they really need to sign another linebacker?” Well, you can let your imagination run wild.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT, CFLPA TALKS
The current CFL CBA expires in May 2019 making the 2018 season the final one under the current deal.
Other than the myriad of the usual discussions (salaries, player safety, contract lengths) one of the topics that is a favourite for CFL fans is whether or not having a Canadian quarterback will count towards the amount of “Nationals” on a game roster. Currently it doesn’t, but it should. If a player is a Canadian by the CFL rule, he should count as one, no matter the position.
The other question that pops up that usually comes after this is, “Why aren’t there more Canadian quarterbacks?”
Other than the current rules, there are a couple of reasons:
The first is training at a young age. Just watch the show Elite 11. This takes the top high school senior quarterbacks from across the United States and after a series of camps, narrows them down to the top 11. They then head to a 7-on-7 tournament with the top receivers in the country.
This allows the elite players at every age to get better. There are camps, quarterback whisperers (former Rider Dennis Gile is one of them) and football 24/7 for any hopeful pivot.
Things are improving with the different levels of Football Canada tournaments, and camps are popping up across the country (Jay Prepchuk and Canada Football Academy are two of the biggest), but there is still a long way to go to catch up.
Next is the level of competition. Canada is improving and is the second-best football playing country in the world, but there is still a long way to go to catch up to the United States. Even at a college level, the CIS is low NCAA Division two or high Division three level football. So, if you want the best quarterbacks, you have to mine the top levels first.
This means many players at the high school level who have hopes of playing quarterback will head south. Two examples are current UBC Thunderbirds (and former Penn State) quarterback Michael O’Connor and Ohio University Bobcat pivot Nathan Rourke.
O’Connor finished his high school career at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida and Rourke went to Edgewood Academy in Elmwood, Alabama. Both felt that going south to finish their prep career was a better option than staying at home.
One of the other reasons is more of a residual from not having Canadian quarterbacks at the CFL level. When the best athletes see that there isn’t the potential of playing in the CFL as a quarterback, they tend to switch positions. This is slowly changing.
But, it is improving in Canada and with Brandon Bridge and Andrew Buckley leading the way and with O’Connor and Rourke waiting in the wings it will only get better.