Monday, 2 February 2015

Taman Needs to Try to Getz as Much as He Can

It's been a crazy week for Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Brendan Taman.

Taman made a series of trades recently, dealing defensive end Ricky Foley to Toronto in exchange for veteran linebacker Shea Emry, and also trading Kris Bastien, a second-round pick in 2015 and an unnamed player from their negotiation list to Winnipeg for receiver Cory Watson and a third-round pick in 2015. And in perhaps his most important moves, Taman secured the services of the league's best safety in Tyron Brackenridge and fan-favourite receiver Weston Dressler, ending six months’ worth of speculation debating where No. 7 would be playing in 2015.

Taman certainly deserves credit for what he has done so far leading up to the start of free agency, but he still has a lot left to do. Saskatchewan entered the offseason with a whopping 29 free agents – including three players that are arguably the best at their positions – and, as expected, can't bring them all back with their salary cap situation.

While we can only guess how much cap room Taman has left to work with, it is obvious there isn't much money left over for Ben Heenan, Brian Peters, Tristan Jackson and other starters like Brandon Boudreaux, Dan Clark and Rod Williams. Heenan, the best of the bunch, is likely gone with Winnipeg willing to make him the league's highest paid lineman. Even with the versatile guard/tackle gone, Saskatchewan currently has 16 other free agents and will still likely want to make other small improvements come February 10.

Fortunately, for Rider fans, Taman has demonstrated his willingness to trade this offseason, which is why I propose he continues to do so in order to balance out the roster as we head toward the opening of free agency in eight days.

Highlighting Saskatchewan's trade candidates has to be Canadian receiver Chris Getzlaf. The two-time 1,000-yard receiver carries a rumoured cap hit of $220,000/year and his 2014 production did not match the salary of a top-five receiver. While I would agree his underwhelming stats – 591 yards and one touchdown – were impacted by Saskatchewan's poor quarterbacking after Darian Durant was lost for the season; however, it should be mentioned he only averaged 15 yards per game during the 10 games Durant started, including three straight games with zero receptions. These coming from a guy who is considered the team’s No. 1 receiver is concerning. I am confident Getzlaf can rebound with a healthy Durant and new offence, and probably haul in around 850 or so yards in 2015, but all that could be good for nothing if Taman can't re-sign his key defenders. At 32 years old, Getzlaf is at the end of his prime and is a good fit for a team like the Ottawa RedBlacks or even the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Speaking of the Ottawa RedBlacks, they are desperate for play-makers and would surely overspend to acquire Getzlaf. With only one year left on his deal, and plenty of cap space left, Ottawa can take on his salary and play him alongside Mo Price and Marcus Henry to form a pretty dynamic receiving corps. If a trade were to occur, Saskatchewan could swap first-round picks with Ottawa and draft Heenan's replacement with the top pick, while also acquiring a second- or third-round pick.

With Dressler locked up, the Roughriders have one of the best receiving corps in the league and would survive without Getzlaf. Not only do they boast one of the best, but probably the most expensive, with approximately one-fifth of their entire salary cap dedicated to their group of pass catchers. Taman seems to have the Riders prepared for changes at slotback after taking a risk trading for Watson and signing another former 1,000-yard receiver in Jamel Richardson, who did not play in 2014 due to injury. Getzlaf's main replacement, Rob Bagg, played great in 2014, catching 54 passes for 803 yards while probably getting paid close to half of what Getzlaf brings in.

While I am sure Rider Nation would be sad to see a great player like Getzlaf go, it would be best for the team if it means re-signing Brian Peters or any other of the starters previously mentioned. Peters, 26, led the Riders in tackles and has the potential to be an elite WILL linebacker. Not re-signing Peters would also devalue the Foley-Emry trade, as Saskatchewan would be back to only one solid linebacker but with the added sting of no longer having an elite Canadian pass rusher. Getzlaf is not Saskatchewan's only option (Taj Smith seems expendable), however he carries the most trade value and a far higher cap hit.

Taman's reputation has gone on a crazy roller-coaster ride this week, and is currently on the upswing since Dressler's contract was announced. But all of that could change if February 10 rolls around and a good chunk of Heenan, Peters, Jackson and/or others aren't under contract. Taman has plenty of decisions to make and I wouldn't be shocked to hear that Chris Getzlaf's name was being mentioned during some calls with Marcel Desjardins' Ottawa Redblacks.

I'm sure it would be hard for Rider Nation to see fan-favourite players like Ricky Foley and Chris Getzlaf traded around the same time, but it should be appreciated that what they are getting in return will help balance out the positional talent level on the roster. It's a tough pill to swallow, but football is a business, and if Taman makes the right moves, business may once again be booming in Saskatchewan.

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