Realty One

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

DAY 1 OF CFL FREE AGENCY WAS A WILD ONE

Mike Reilly and Trevor Harris were both on the move, while Bo Levi Mitchell stayed put on a wild opening day of CFL free agency.

The three quarterbacks were the top players available when the free-agent frenzy began Tuesday at noon ET. Reilly was the first of the big three to go, signing a huge four-year, $2.9-million deal (average annual value $725,000) with the B.C. Lions following six seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos.

Reilly, 34, was the CFL's highest-paid player last season at over $500,000. The Kennewick, Wash., native is now closer to home and returns to the franchise he began his CFL career with in 2010.

As stunning as Reilly's contract was, more surprising was the inclusion of the deal's value on the press release. Traditionally, CFL contracts don't include monetary details. What's more, B.C. signed Reilly to the big deal unsure what this year's salary cap will be.

It was $5.2 million in 2018, but the league and its players must still negotiate this year's figure. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in May.

Shortly after Reilly's deal, Harris signed a two-year contract with Edmonton reportedly worth $1.1 million. The 32-year-old established career highs with Ottawa last year in pass attempts (615), completions (431) and yards (5,116), then had a playoff-record six TD strikes in the East Division final before the Redblacks lost 27-16 to the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup.

Mitchell was the last to decide his future, accepting a four-year deal to remain in Calgary after reportedly also weighing offers from Toronto and Saskatchewan. The 28-year-old native of Katy, Texas is a stellar 69-15-2 since becoming the Stampeders' full-time starter in 2014 and has led the franchise to four Grey Cup appearances (winning two) and captured the CFL's outstanding player award twice (2016, '18).

"Yeah, I think Mike, Trevor and I kind of knew it could be a whirlwind of teams and locations on where we landed,'' said Mitchell. "We'd all been talking, so it's kind of funny that way. We're looking forward to what can happen.''

Mitchell, who threw a CFL-high 35 TD passes last season, worked out for seven NFL teams this winter but never signed a contract.

When asked if his deal was worth just under $3 million (there were reports of $2.8 million) for four years, Mitchell said, "If math serves correctly, that's correct.

"It was a crazy morning. First time for myself ever being in free agency. Fielded offers from a lot of teams and had some very, very good offers out there. I told Calgary I'd give them last right of refusal and once I found the second offer that I liked the most, give them a chance to get close to it or beat it or whatnot, they did just that.

"I gave Calgary the last chance and they got very close to where I wanted to be and where I thought I was very well paid, but we can still put a team together.''

The defending Grey Cup champions took some hits, though, losing all-star defensive tackle Micah Johnson (Saskatchewan), defensive backs Patrick Levels (Montreal) and Tunde Adeleke (Hamilton), offensive lineman Spencer Wilson (Montreal) and receivers DaVaris Daniels (Edmonton) and Lemar Durant (B.C.). Wilson, Adeleke and Durant are Canadians.

Another huge deal was Winnipeg agreeing to terms with defensive end Willie Jefferson. The former Saskatchewan Roughrider had a career-high 10 sacks with two interception return TDs and joins a unit anchored by linebacker Adam Bighill, the CFL's top defensive player last season.

While he lost the most coveted player, Edmonton GM Brock Sunderland was a big winner Tuesday. Shortly after Reilly's official departure, Sunderland went on the offensive, adding Harris, receiver Greg Ellingson and offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers, all previously with the Redblacks, Daniels and fellow American receiver Ricky Collins Jr. (B.C.) while re-signing American offensive lineman Travis Bond.

But Sunderland wasn't finished. He also bolstered his defence by signing Hamilton linebackers Don Unamba and Larry Dean, the East Division's top defensive player last season, and Winnipeg's Jovan Santos-Knox along with B.C. defensive back Anthony Orange.

The Eskimos gave Reilly permission to speak to teams prior to Tuesday. Sunderland said he knew by last weekend Reilly was hitting the open market and that knowledge helped him.

"Once it hit noon eastern, we knew who to start calling and what we were swinging for,'' he said. "Had we not had an indication over the weekend, it would've been very challenging.''

Adding so many players who are familiar with each other should help. Sunderland has first-hand knowledge of the former Ottawa players, having served as the Redblacks' assistant GM before coming to Edmonton.

"Continuity is huge,'' he said. "Those guys know each other, obviously they have a good rapport ... I know what they're going to bring not only as football players but also character for the locker-room.

"But you never know what's going to happen in free agency, it's the most unpredictable thing in sports. I didn't sleep hardly 30 minutes last night. We were hoping for a lot, we're happy with what we have so far and we're still working.''

Lions GM Ed Hervey also was busy Tuesday, adding Canadian offensive lineman Sukh Chungh, who spent the previous four seasons with Winnipeg, Durant - the top Canadian in last year's Grey Cup - and former Edmonton defensive backs Aaron Grymes and Chris Edwards.

"Edmonton making moves oh my goodness!'' tweeted Riders free-agent defensive back Jovon Johnson. "Geez Trevor Harris to run that offense...The WEST is the BEST right now!

"East in trouble.''

If Sunderland and Hervey were the big winners Tuesday, Ottawa's Marcel Desjardins was the GM left with the most holes to fill. The Redblacks lost starters Harris, Rogers. Ellingson and running back William Powell, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher who signed with Saskatchewan.

Desjardins told reporters in Ottawa the club believes backup quarterback Dominique Davis can become the club's starter.

"At the end of the day with Trevor, it didn't work out,'' he said. "We're comfortable with Dominique Davis being our quarterback.

"I can understand the frustration because these are popular players at key positions. I think we proved in the past we can find players that are able to play for us. We'll have a competitive team and one that's exciting to watch and in many cases we'll be a younger team, which isn't always a bad thing.''

Rogers took to Twitter to explain why he left.

"I didn't like the structure of the 2nd year of Ottawa's last offer to me,'' he tweeted. "Respect is everything for me, and I felt that fading toward me in Ottawa.''

Other free-agent moves Tuesday included:

- The Montreal Alouettes signing American defensive end John Bowman, their 36-year-old career sack leader, to a two-year deal. They also added fullback Christophe Normand (last year with Edmonton) and former B.C. linebacker Bo Lokombo, both Canadians, and American receiver DeVier Posey.

- Hamilton signed Canadian receiver Brian Jones, who split last year between Saskatchewan and Toronto.

- The Roughriders signed former B.C. linebacker DyShawn Davis on a one-year deal and signed star defensive tackle Micah Johnson. They also re-signed quarterback Zach Collaros to a one-year contract.

- Winnipeg re-signed Canadian receiver Nic Demski to a two-year contract and also added star defensive end Willie Jefferson on a one-year deal.

- Toronto signed running backs Chris Rainey and Canadian Mercer Timmis as well as American defensive back Chris Fogg.

(Canadian Press)

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

A whole bunch of ado about nothing when it came to QB's. BC and Edmonton got the job done. The CFL site says Mitchell has either or is about to sign back with Calgary! I personally expected as much. After the payday for Reilly it looks like Huffnagel had no choice. It doesn't appear that any of the top tier QB's wanted anything to do with the Riders. Now it appears the Riders have to start back with the recycle bin.

No matter how you slice it this is a very bad situation for the Riders. Calgary and Edmonton have top flight QB's. BC now has one as well. Winnipeg is doing very well at pivot. That leaves the Riders with essentially nothing and nothing to pick from. There is strong talk that Jefferson is on his way out which just adds salt to the wounds. It would appear that the Riders are working their way back to their preferred position.

Anonymous said...

Reilly/Harris????? What about the Bo Levi Mitchell news of his resigning with the Calgary Stampeders???? Its true!

Anonymous said...

Soooo... your 2019 CFL West Division starting qbees are, Mike Reilly, Bo Levi Mitchell, Trevor Harris, Brandon Bridge, Matt Nichols/Chris Streveler. Huh???? Brandon Bridge????

Brady Y said...

Bottom line is no QB wants to come here with the pathetic offense we have ran the last couple years. I would guess Jennings ends up in Ottowa or Toronto now, and Saskatchewan ends up sucking the hind tit for the foreseeable future. I like O'day but if they dont sign Jefferson at the very least he will have colossally failed his first shot at making a great impression. The sad reality is he was stuck with McAdoo and had no choice in the matter but that will be his undoing. I predict a 4-14 year.

IMAGIRL said...

Did anyone in the Rider head office come to work today?
Wow! Just wow!

So, we now have 3 or 4 RBs on our roster. Who is going to be handing the ball to them? Gainer? I guess anyone could, as it does not take much to do that.

I am deeply disappointed that we did nothing today.

gardengnome said...

I don't blame O'Day. All those folks who were in the "In Jones We Trust" camp got it handed to them. Blame Jones. His idea of having an oustanding defence to the expense of no offence is great if your defence is going to score TD's for you at a record pace every year. Likely one of his best "offensive" weapons on that defence is going out the door with Jones as well. How do you attract a top-tier QB when you have no proven receivers? Jones left O'Day with one hand tied behind his back when he deserted ship. The state he left the team in on offence foreshadowed what you saw today. Jones did to the Riders what he has done all his CFL career - left for greener grass & who cares what mess you leave behind. I really feel for all Rider fans today. Hopefully the rest of the week brings some better news. There's still some good players out there. If we can land a decent receiver or 2, maybe we get the best of the QB lot that is left.

Anonymous said...

ho hum. What happened to the salary cap?? $725,000 for one guy? Yikes

Anonymous said...

I would like some industrious reporter to total the Eskimo’s payroll and calculate how much they are over the salary cap.
Anyone want to take a crack at it?

Football Fan said...

So, Micah Johnson. My first thought on this was negative, because it sounds like we paid a whole lot for him, but on second thought I’m going to reserve judgment. How do you neutralize QBs like Mitchell and Reilly? Pressure! And crazy, confusing defences like Jones ran last year. With Johnson, and especially if we can re-sign Jefferson, we may have one of the best DLs ever. Won’t it be nice to see $700,000 worth of QB on his back in the middle of Mosaic trying to figure out what hit him? The more that happens the better this investment will look.

Anonymous said...

riderville,

2019 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis. A once in a lifetime opportunity has passed.

Dom

Pat Strain said...

Getting Powell and Micah Johnson is pretty good . Johnson will make up for the loss of Jefferson and Powell is a great running back .At least we don't have $700k tied up in QBs like 2 of our west opponents now do . Harris in Edmonton doesn't scare me as they still have a crap defense and Maas is the coach . Time for Paul Jones to earn his money and deliver the next great CFL QB .

Anonymous said...

NEWSFLASH!
Willie Jefferson seen heading East of Regina on the #1.

Anonymous said...

To all you "we missed the boat on quarterbacks"club. Maybe the Riders weren't prepared to pay $700k for a quarterback. That's huge money for the most important position on the team. Leaving less cap room for other positions.
But it is Riderville, if the shy isn't falling were not happy.

John Knight said...

We are screwed! There are NO NO good Qb's avail now. Last place here we come. Thank you Jones, you screwed us royally.

Anonymous said...

At well over $250,000 plus for one year. Will Micah Johnson be playing quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders 2019?

SWC said...

Well Rod, it's not your job to butter-up everything green this year and I'll bet you're glad of that. It'll be quite a task to convince anyone that the Riders are formidable. I feel sorry for Craig Dickenson.

Anonymous said...

What happened? Did RODPEDERSEN.COM blow up with too many disgruntled comments?

Anonymous said...

Collaros coming back too.....glass qb and sub par defense....horrible first day

John Knight said...

3Down nation is reporting we are resigning Colaros! WE ARE SCREWED. I HOPE HE IS ONLY GETTING ABOUT $100,000 PER YEAR BECAUSE HE CERTAINLY IS NOT WORTH ANYMORE THAN THAT!!!! WE NEED A NEW QB, MAYBE Glenn is available

Football Fan said...

So, no Jefferson. Unfortunate but not the end of the world. Johnson is going to command a lot of double teams, so whoever the new end is on that side is going to have a lot more room. And maybe it’s Geter’s turn to step up and become the next great DE, or Dawson, or Maggitt. Reaves or Henry could be part of a rotation as well. We’ve got options. None are as good as Jeffereson of course, but Johnson is waaaay better than any DT we had playing there last year. Let’s just take a moment to remember that Micah Johnson was second in the league last year in sacks at 14, only one behind Hughes, and he did it as a DT. This guy is a beast.

So, Zach Collaros. This is a good signing as long as his contract is heavily performance based and as long as we’re going after someone else as well. I’d be fine with Ray or Lulay AND Collaros as long as whoever was starting was getting starters money and whoever was backing up, or injured, was getting backup money. I think Collaros can still be very good, but there are big questions about his ability to stay healthy, and the same can be said about the other two as well. With two of these guys we would have some depth protection against injury, but we can’t be paying them both a full starter’s salary.

Anonymous said...

Paul Strain, if you didn't notice but Edmonton established one hell of an O-line today with a deadly receiving squad for Harris and take a look at the D players signed by them...have fun with the D they will have sitting especially with a Jones D coahc guy in Lolley.

Anonymous said...

Let's see. How do teams like Edmonton sign all those players & still be under the Cap? What people forget is other teams signed players off the roster. Harris makes about what Reilly was making - that's a wash. Walker made 225K about the same as Ellingson & so on. The team has 13 free still available, some of whom have been replaced by the signings today. Those free agents aren't on the payroll as of today. They will have room to add some depth pieces, some of which may be re-signed. No need for an investigation. Simple math. A lot of teams started the day with 20 or or more players no longer in their employ. That creates space to go out & spend.

Tim said...

I'm a Rider fan and Season ticket holder. I was a Jones fan when he was here, and now that he is gone, I see the faults he had, Great defense, at the expense of the offense. So so GM. And we are now seeing the problems that his philosophy left behind.
Have to agree with gardengnome.

Anonymous said...

Yes but he did further his own adgenda at the expense of the rest of the team.

Anonymous said...

Anon statement before John Knight above. There's no secrets. The Argos & Riders both offered over $700,000 to get Bo Levi. So yes, the Riders were prepared to pay. Or are you saying they couldn't afford him with all that cash the club has? When you come to the table you have to bring your wallet & play the game. You don't walk away without opening it or you're not in the game. The Riders were in on the QB's & be happy they gave it a shot. Just like Edm where Reilly was walking, Bo was likely going to the Stamps. But at least Sunderland & O'Day made it interesting. It is reported that Stamps had to pay $400,000 more over 4 years because of those bids. They didn't get off cheap because we played.