grading teams offseason moves

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CFL teams have had six long months to trade, sign, re-sign, extend and cut players to prepare for the 2008 campaign.

The squad that did the best work will more than likely hoist the Grey Cup on Nov. 23 in Montreal. That's when the real fruits of their labour will be known.

Since we don't want to wait that long, and with training camps opening a week from today, we thought we'd take a look at how the eight teams did during another cold Canadian winter.

Who improved the most?

Who took the hardest hits?

Who did the best work in free agency?

Who worked the phones the best when it came to wheeling and dealing?

While we won't pretend to forecast which CFL rookies will shine and which ones won't, here's a Coles notes version of the off-season that was:


The Leos were a CFL-best 14-3-1 last season, but their loss in the West Division final left them wondering about what could have been. Despite that humbling setback at home, the Lions didn't have to do much this off-season.


  • GM/head coach Wally Buono had three free agents, most notably quarterback Jarious Jackson, and he re-signed each of them. Buono already had every other key cog under contract, which is an impressive feat considering how much talent dots that roster.

  • Buono also extended the contracts of six players, including defensive back Korey Banks, running back Joe Smith and defensive tackle Aaron Hunt.

  • Buono also brought back old buddy Roy Shivers to be the team's new director of player personnel.


  • Despite his concussion problems, Dave Dickenson is still a great quarterback. The Lions, however, decided it was time to part ways with the pivot. Jackson and Buck Pierce have proven they can win in this league, but Dickenson would've been a nice insurance policy.


They are still so stacked at so many positions.


The Red and White continued their decline last season, finishing third in the West with a 7-10-1 mark. So a new sheriff was brought in to clean things up.


  • Former CFL quarterback John Hufnagel was hired to be the coach and GM. Who knows how well he'll do in the roles, but a move (letting Tom Higgins go) had to be made.

  • Signing Dave Dickenson to be your backup quarterback, regardless of how concussion prone he may be, is never a bad thing.

  • The Stamps released seven players in the off-season, and five them played defence. Considering they gave up the second most yards last season, that's a good head start.

  • Hufnagel lured linebacker JoJuan Armour, formerly of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, to Cowtown via free agency.


  • The Stamps, by our count, signed seven new players with CFL experience. Four of them (Richard Karikari, Dwight Anderson, Nate Curry and Howard Hodges) were released by the Tiger-Cats. We're not saying, we're just saying.

  • Two starters on the offensive line are gone, as Garrick Jones went to Edmonton via free agency and Jay McNeil retired. The Stamps picked O-linemen Dimitri Tsoumpas and Jesse Newman second and third overall, respectively, in last month's draft, and they're talking about both of them possibly starting.


Aside from the Armour signing and the release of some veterans, the defence could have gotten more of a makeover.


The Eskies were 5-12-1 last year and missed out on the CFL post-season party for the second straight season.


  • They say the Internet is going to run out of room by 2010. The list of Eskimo off-season transactions is believed to be the main reason why. For one reason or another, a whopping 30 players who were on Edmonton's active or practice rosters at the end of last season are gone. Hey, at least they're trying something new.

  • The Green and Gold added defensive end Fred Perry (Saskatchewan), receiver Brock Ralph (Hamilton) and defensive back Jordan Younger (Toronto) through trades.

  • They signed another solid trio in defensive tackle Dario Romero, offensive lineman Garrick Jones and returner Keith Stokes.

  • Ricky Ray, arguably the top quarterback in the CFL, signed a four-year contract extension.


  • The Esks traded running back Tyler Ebell to Toronto in the Younger deal, which means the top rusher from last season still on the roster is quarterback Ricky Ray. They do, however, believe strongly in Damien Anderson.

  • The Esks will hope they have quick learners at two key positions: placekicker/punter (following the retirement of Sean Fleming) and running back (see above).


They made the most significant moves. It won't propel them to first place, but it will help.


It was another season to forget in Steeltown, as the toothless Tabbies limped to a 3-15 record.


  • Bob O'Billovich was hired to be the club's new GM. He has the experience, the contacts and the smarts to have a positive impact.

  • O'Billovich obviously recognizes talent when he sees it, because he locked up linebacker Zeke Moreno and defensive end Charlton Keith to contract extensions.

  • They traded away their leading receiver, Brock Ralph, to Edmonton. If you're wondering why that is under "Smooth Moves," it's because Ralph, an Alberta native, wanted to live year-round with his autistic three-year-old daughter. Karma will pay them back.


  • We realize he may not have been the best guy in the locker-room, but cornerback Dwight Anderson, who was released and resurfaced in Calgary, is a pretty good cornerback.

  • The biggest off-season signing was 30-year-old receiver Tony Miles, who is coming off a pair of a sub-par and injury-filled seasons in Toronto.

  • Why wasn't more of an effort made to keep linebacker JoJuan Armour, who finished fourth in the CFL with 84 tackles last season?


Simply put, too much talent departed and not enough of it came in. Casey Printers can't do it all himself.


The Als finished third in the division at 8-10 last season but were a failed third-and-one from upsetting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the East semifinal -- with their backup quarterback.


  • They did the right thing in taking the head coaching duties away from GM Jim Popp. It was evident his presence was causing friction in the locker-room.

  • The Als replaced Popp (the coach) with Marc Trestman, who seems to have a lot of fans in the football world. The CFL rookie's learning curve will be steep, but if the players like and respect him, that's half the battle.

  • Popp prevented defensive back Chip Cox from hitting free agency, and he lengthened the deals for kicker Damon Duval and talented young defensive back Randee Drew.


  • It's a bad sign when no one wants to sign with your team for more money than he's being offered elsewhere. Exhibits A, B and C are Tom Canada, Dario Romero and JoJuan Armour.

  • Montreal exceeded the CFL's new salary cap -- and still finished two games under .500. Not only that, but they were fined and lost their first-round draft pick.

  • It's not Montreal's fault, but safety Etienne Boulay bolted for the NFL's New York Jets.


Montreal used to be a prime destination for football players in this country. The fact that some passed up fat contracts to play there is a bad sign.


The defending Grey Cup champions -- yes, you read that correctly -- capped a 12-6 regular season with a victory in the big game, but the bloom was quickly off the rose.


  • The Green and White had the most potential free agents to deal with, and GM Eric Tillman brought the important ones back, including running back Wes Cates, defensive back Eddie Davis and receiver Matt Dominguez.

  • Tillman also extended the contracts of cornerback James Johnson, the Grey Cup hero, and promising young defensive end John Chick.


  • First, head coach Kent Austin was allowed to get out of his contract and take the offensive co-ordinator with his alma mater, the University of Mississippi. He was replaced by the relatively unknown Ken Miller.

  • Second, Tillman traded quarterback Kerry Joseph, the CFL's most outstanding player in 2007, to the Toronto Argonauts in a salary cap move. That one raised a couple of eyebrows in Riderville.

  • The Riders went over the salary cap, but not enough to forfeit a draft pick.


Sorry, fine folks of Saskatchewan. Losing your head coach and starting quarterback after a Grey Cup win, regardless of the circumstances, equals a bad off-season.


The Boatmen finished first in the East Division at 11-7 but bowed out of the playoffs to the Bombers. The offence was blamed, yet the team promoted defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler to replace Pinball Clemons as head coach.


  • We're not sure how many good years he has left, but landing quarterback Kerry Joseph, the CFL's reigning most outstanding player, should at least put a few more points on the board.

  • GM Adam Rita extended the contracts of a few key cogs, including defensive linemen Jonathan Brown, defensive back Kenny Wheaton and receiver Andre Talbot.


  • When it became apparent that a new contract wasn't going to be worked out with topnotch cornerback Jordan Younger, the Argos dealt him to Edmonton.

  • The Boatmen are giving another NFL outcast a shot north of the border. David Boston, who led the NFL in receiving yards in 2001, will attempt to erase the bad taste of the Ricky Williams experiment.


The Argos have put themselves in a position to be better this season. If Joseph finds his groove, look out.


The Bombers, at 10-7-1, had a solid regular season and fell just short in the Grey Cup. The setback, in which backup quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie made his first pro start, magnified Winnipeg's need for an experienced No. 2.


  • GM Brendan Taman had nine free agents and re-signed eight of them -- seven after they had hit the market. The big three keepers were offensive linemen Dan Goodspeed and Matt Sheridan, and defensive end Tom Canada.

  • Taman also inked four major offensive threats in quarterback Kevin Glenn and receivers Milt Stegall, Terrence Edwards and Derick Armstrong.


  • The Bombers didn't snare an experienced QB, although there weren't many out there to be had.

  • Safety Kyries Hebert bolted to the NFL, and the Blue and Gold appear to be hoping someone steps up in camp.

  • The Bombers were 10-7-1 last season, yet their biggest off-season acquisitions were offensive linemen Ryan Donnelly and safety Sebastian Clovis.


Taman was on fire in February. Landing an experienced backup quarterback would have boosted this mark up to an A.

You know, I thought we released a lot of players... It's nice to see a number. 30 guys are gone... Isn't this what we did before? Is Danny just going to keep trying a different team each year until one has some kind of success?


Corny we got hosed we got nothing for that great kicker your getting! :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

thats enough red...i was ok with you guys beating us in labour day, im even ok with Nik Lewis being a huge a$$. but to give us your runaway bride duncan edit

Good re-cap drummer. Speaking totally with Orange tinted glasses, I think you should have graded us a B. We still need to find a #4 & #5 receiver. Josh Boden is gone and we only have Simon, Clermont, and P. Jackson settled in. Yes there are some left overs from last year (Rodgers), but I think if there is a weakness, its at the #4 & #5 spot.

i didnt write this.some sun writer did.

Oops, my bad, I totally missed the linkā€¦ :oops:

Oh well Drummer, you fooled at least one person today with your writting talents! :wink: :wink:

I would rate B.C. far lower. Their starting QB wasn't deemed good enough by Wally to start in the Western final now he is the #1 guy. The Lions weekness at QB will be exploited early and often. The only bright spot is that Winnipeg and Montreal should be weak enough for a Western cross-over
this year.

Winnipeg Weak???? :roll:

As for starting QB's, I'll take Pierce or Jackson over Marcus Crandell........

But, I will agree with one thing though cfleskfan, your Eskies might be able to make the cross over this year! :lol: :lol: :lol:

I wouldn't hold my breath... :frowning:

Oh come on, give it a try! Blacking out might erase the last 2 years from your memory. Heck maybe its all been a dream..... :smiley:

Montreal did nothing other than changing their coach, were unable to land any free agents of note and lost a starting DB and they got a D while the Riders got an F? Explain to me how Montreal doesn't deserve an F as well. Makes no sense.

Your saving grace for the eskimos is the riders! :lol:

Absolutely Winnipeg is weak, no depth at QB, an aged receiving corps and, no back-up. Charles can't carry the team forever and the Bombers D is porous.

We'll see about Buck and Janet, why do your think Wally would rather go with an injured Dickenson than either of them last year. At least Crandell has proven he can win the big game. The battle for supremacy in the West this year will be fought in Alberta and you can roll your eyes all you want.

Downgrade the Esks moves to a B for trading to get O'Mahoney.

He give Sask an F? Granted , the moves Tillman made are risky, but after this season is over, I believe the author's assessment will be off the mark.

Easy to see BC and Winnipeg among the top teams. Don't forget BC was the highest scoring team in 2007 despite an unususal subpar season. Dickenson is overrated while Pierce is underrated. Winnipeg offense is still one of the best and the defense is strong. Harder to believe Edmonton and Hamilton can go from bottom to first. Delusions of grandeur?


Sorry, fine folks of Saskatchewan. Losing your head coach and starting quarterback after a Grey Cup win, regardless of the circumstances, equals a bad off-season

We didn't "lose" Kerry Joseph. We know exactly where he is.

After the Grey Cup victory, people, fans, media, Riderville residents were all talking about how pathetic KJ's Grey Cup performance was. Then as soon as we trade the THIRTY-FIVE-year-old it is labelled a bad move.

The CFL fans love hating on Saskatchewan but we here in Rider Nation do not believe all the garbage hype. We see through it. See through it like ice or water or ice water.

"F"? There is no "F" in Saskatchewan Roughriders!