Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Bombers, Redblacks Make Big Splash on Day 1 of Free Agency
As expected, both teams made a big slash Tuesday by signing a combined nine players on Day 1 of free agency. Winnipeg started the day off by signing national linebacker Sam Hurl from Saskatchewan and followed that up by bringing in slotback Darvin Adams from Toronto. Then they picked up back-to-back All-Star left tackle Stanley Bryant and former Hamilton Tiger-Cat tackle Marc Dile to bolster their offensive line, while also upgrading their Canadian talent on the defensive line by adding former Toronto Argonaut Ivan Brown.
The RedBlacks won the bidding war for solid left tackle SirVincent Rogers and upgraded their dreadful receiving corps with the acquisitions of Ernest Jackson from BC, Brad Sinopoli from Calgary and Greg Ellingson from Hamilton. There is no denying that both teams took a positive step forward in their rebuilds and are better football teams than they were just 24 hours ago.
It is difficult to say if there was a clear victor on the opening day of free agency as, simply put, both teams were. The Blue Bombers turned their weakest position group, offensive line, into one of the league's best, while the RedBlacks went from having the worst receiving corps in the CFL into having, at worst, an average group. More impressively, neither team necessarily mortgaged their future in free agent signings to load up for next season, particularly the Bombers.
Winnipeg went into the day with tons of cap space and likely left with still more money to spend. Stanley Bryant's reported salary of $160,000 isn't cheap for an import offensive tackle, but isn't outrageous either considering he's the league’s best at his position. Winnipeg also stocked up on crucial Canadian depth in signing Brown and Hurl, the latter being a strong contributor on special teams and will compete for their starting middle linebacker role in camp. Marc Dile's signing also adds depth to the offensive line as he'll join Devin Tyler and Jace Daniels as Winnipeg's three potential starting Right Tackles. Depth and a lack of competition plagued the Blue Bombers offensive line last season and Dile's signing immediately gives them more options. And finally, Darvin Adams will be given every opportunity to step up and fill in as Drew Willy's third receiving option. At 6'2” and 182 pounds with good speed and sure hands, Adams draws comparisons to former Bomber Terrance Edwards. While only time will tell if Adams can turn into anything like Terrance Edwards, he's in a perfect situation to achieve such a feat with young gun Drew Willy chucking the rock with confidence behind that offensive line.
Possibly the best part about Adams and the rest of the new signings are that they are all young and under 30. Winnipeg would surely love to win the Grey Cup on home turf in 2015, but I see these as signings that help the Blue Bombers in the long haul as well.
The same can also be said for Ottawa as the best is likely yet to come for Brad Sinopoli, Ernest Jackson, Greg Ellingson and even SirVincent Rogers. Ottawa saved a few years of developing receivers and will push to give their new talent some more playoff experience next season.
There is still work to be done for both teams in the upcoming days of free agency. Ottawa needs Canadian depth all over the field and an established pass rusher, leading me to think they will be in contact with Brandon Boudreaux of the Riders or Justin Hickman of the Ti-Cats.
I don't think Winnipeg is finished either. They need more linebacking help and may send offers to Brian Peters of Saskatchewan and/or Rennie Curran of Edmonton, who the Eskimos have reportedly parted ways with. Don't be surprised if both Ottawa and Winnipeg lead the way in Day 2 as well with how deep their pockets are.
There was no clear-cut winner on Day 1 of free agency, but both franchises took big steps forward in their respective rebuilds and are undoubtedly better teams now than in 2014. As stressed numerous times, the Grey Cup is not won in February, but expectations have certainly risen for Winnipeg and Ottawa.