Saskatchewan Roughriders traded defensive end Ricky Foley to the Toronto Argonauts for linebacker Shea Emry.
It is definitely intriguing in what can only be seen as an about face on the part of Argos general manager Jim Barker. Only two years ago, the architect and builder of the Good Ship Argonaut deemed the former York Lion expendable, as he let the Courtice, Ontario native walk unceremoniously into free agency. And just one year ago, the biggest free agency move in The Big Smoke was the acquisition of blue-chip linebacker Shea Emry from division rival Montreal.
Fast forward to now where Gambler Jim has traded away his No. 1 free agent acquisition from last season for a player he was not motivated to retain only a year prior to that.
Allow us all to scratch our collective heads and ponder that for a moment!
Now, I realize that things change rapidly in professional sports and no more so than in the Canadian Football League. But even this flip-flop has me wondering if we need to send Jim Barker to the quiet room for concussion protocol!
My main point as to why I believe Brendan Taman and the Riders won this trade, and this will come as to no surprise to anyone who knows me or follows me on Twitter, is that I believe Ricky Foley is vastly overrated!
When you look at his production numbers, and that would be quarterback sacks for a defensive end, you will see that he is not a No. 1 edge rusher, but rather a nice national compliment more suited as a secondary or tertiary option.
In 2011, his first full season with Toronto after he spurned Wally Buono and the BC Lions on a detoured drive to the airport, Foley recorded six sacks. Defensive tackle Kevin Huntley also had six quarterback takedowns for a loss. Claude Wroten and Ronald Flemons combined for an additional seven sacks. By no means was Mr. Foley a standout at the position since the league leaders were Justin Hickman, Odell Willis, John Bowman, Marcus Howard and Keron Williams all with double-digit numbers.
During the 2012 season, Foley was only able to achieve three tackles for loss on opposing quarterbacks. Three teammates with him in Double Blue – Armond Armstead, Brandon Issac and Marcus Ball – were all able to match or exceed Foley’s production.
During Foley’s time on the prairies with the Green Riders, he put up decent numbers. His eight- and 12-sack seasons in 2013 and 2014 tied him for tenth and fifth league-wide, respectively. Yet, my belief is that much of that is due to his pairing with John Chick on the opposite side along with defensive tackles like Tearrius George, Jermaine McElveen, Derek Walker and Keith Shologun, all of which have ranked amongst the top for quarterback sacks from the interior defensive line position.
The key takeaway when looking at all these numbers is that at no point in time since his return to Canada after his failed attempt in the NFL has No. 95 led his team in quarterback sacks.
Now what do the Roughriders get out of this trade? Well, first of all they get a player who has actually led their team in the statistical category most important to their position. Emry led the Argonauts in tackles this past season, as well as the Montreal Alouettes in defensive takedowns back in 2012.
But more importantly, the Riders get a valuable national player in what was a sub-par, underperforming linebacker unit. Emry is a significant upgrade to fellow Canadians Sam Hurl, Shomari Williams and Tristan Black. As good as these players are in other roles, they are back-ups and depth players while the former UBC Thunderbird and Eastern Washington Eagle is a bona fide starter.
At this point in time you have to ask yourself why Toronto would trade away the player that led their team in tackles this past season? The answer is very simple and it comes in the form of one Cory Greenwood, via the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs. With the late-season addition of the former third-overall pick from Concordia, the Argos will be able to maintain their roster ratio, while upgrading their overall linebacker unit. As good as Shea Emry is and has been, Cory Greenwood is an upgrade. (And a long-snapper to boot if need be!)
Toronto played four internationals along the defensive line for most of the 2014 season. If this trade dictates a ratio change for the Double Blue in the front four, then there may be some merit to the transaction. Yet, I feel that Toronto will suffer a performance decline in what they could get from starting a defensive end that does not possess a Canadian passport like Mr. Foley.
Overall, I see this as a win for Saskatchewan. They get a player four years younger and one that is signed for a longer duration. The gain in being able to start a cheaper and potentially better international player at defensive end significantly benefits the Riders. Over in Toronto, they re-acquire a player that I believe will be hard-pressed to start and contribute over any potential international player that they currently have or bring in at defensive end. The only way this trade works for Barker is if they are making a ratio change by playing three nationals on defense. Even then I feel it is not a worthwhile trade-off.
With the addition of Greenwood to the Argos, I believe Gambler Jim picked up the phone to see what he could get for Emry and, in what can only be referred to as a “booty call,” decided to hook up with an old ex-girlfriend for one last fling.
Rarely do such trysts work out well for any involved.
Inevitably both figure out why they broke up in the first-place.