Rob Vanstone on Free agents (leader post)

Rarely does a day — or even an hour — elapse without a fervent fan asking this media carnivore about the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ free agents.

So here, without further preamble, is a list of Roughriders properties who are poised to hit the open market in mid-February. The percentage, listed in parentheses, refers to the likelihood of the listed player re-signing with Saskatchewan:

Mike Abou-Mechrek (60%): The Roughriders’ brass loves Abou-Mechrek’s toughness. He is a particular favourite of general manager Eric Tillman. The only concern pertains to Abou-Mechrek’s age (34 by season’s end). The Roughriders need to develop some young offensive linemen with Gene Makowsky turning 36 and Jeremy O’Day nearing 35. Is there room for three linemen in their mid-30s? (Let’s hope so! Abou-Mechrek and receiver Matt Dominguez are the best interviews on a team that is laden with cordial, but not especially quotable, players.)

Jamie Boreham (90%): Boreham is a solid punter and a gamer. Ken Miller wants Boreham back and the head coach will likely get his wish.

Tristan Clovis (0%): The non-import safety, who left the team for undisclosed reasons during the 2008 CFL season, is not expected to be offered a contract.

D.J. Flick (0%): The Riders’ brass appears to have little interest in re-signing Flick, who missed most of the 2008 season with a broken fibula. The team is laden with talent at the inside-receiving positions (Andy Fantuz, Weston Dressler, Jason Clermont). Flick’s six-figure compensation will be diverted to Clermont, who signed with the hometown Riders in December after being released by the B.C. Lions.

Scott Gordon (0%): The non-import safety is respected for his tenacity, but his range is lacking and he missed too many tackles in 2008. The addition of Clermont could make it feasible to start an American (James Patrick?) at safety.

Glenn January (60%): What will happen to January in February? Chances are the import offensive lineman — who was acquired in last year’s Kerry Joseph trade — will return. He wants to return, and the Riders went him back. However, Tillman will not pay boffo bucks for an import offensive lineman unless he is a robust presence. January is serviceable, but not a road-grader. The recent re-signing of import tackle Belton Johnson reduces the necessity of reaching a deal with January.

Maurice Lloyd (30%): The all-star middle linebacker stands to make about $120,000 in 2009 if he re-signs. Don’t be surprised if a rival West Division team, such as B.C. or the Edmonton Eskimos, offers bigger dollars. Richie Hall was the Roughriders’ defensive co-ordinator before becoming Edmonton’s head coach, so the Eskimos have an “in.’’ The Eskimos’ release of middle linebacker Augie Barrenechea (now of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats) is a sign that Edmonton could be clearing roster or cap space for Lloyd.

Sean Lucas (70%): The under-rated linebacker is appreciated by the Roughriders’ coaches. He will attract interest from other teams, but Saskatchewan should tender a competitive offer.

Gene Makowsky (99%): The West Division’s reigning lineman-of-the-year is a mainstay with the Roughriders and in the community. No worries here.

Mike McCullough (80%): This classy Canadian excels on special teams and is not out of place at linebacker when called upon. He is a favourite of the head coach.

Anton McKenzie (70%): An all-star linebacker in 2008, McKenzie will be very interested in the Lloyd sweepstakes. If Lloyd leaves, watch for McKenzie to re-sign. If Lloyd stays and Lucas re-signs, where does that leave McKenzie? After all, the coaches would like to play import linebacker Renauld Williams, somewhere.

Leron Mitchell (80%): The non-import defensive back was an early-season terror on special teams until suffering a broken leg. The Roughriders like his potential and will likely re-sign him.

Steven Morley (50%): The homebrew offensive lineman underwent knee surgery in December. The Roughriders are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

By Rob Vanstone, Leader-Post

Rob Vanstone seems to think that D.J. Flick, Tristan Clovis and Scott Gordon are finished as 'riders.

He is very doubtful about Maurice Lloyd, and 50/50 with Steve Morley and just see Glenn January being resigned at 60% (I say resign him if the price is right).

The rest of the 'riders he seems to favour them all resigning, including Anton McKenzie and Sean Lucas.

Of course Mr. Tillman cannot respond to these predictions for obvious reasons, but what do others think about Vanstone's assessment of these probabilities.

I know some have low regard for Rob Vanstone as a sports 'rider, but heck, he is the only the Leader Post has, so what are we to do?

Can anybody picture Mean Gene wearing the wrong colours?

I'd STILL cheer for him.

I agree with Vanstones. I think that Gordon, Clovis & Flick are done in Green. I also don't see the Riders offering the kind of money to keep Mo arround. I expect the next anouncement to be Makowsky re-signing.

From Tillman's history, it comes down to Kenny and Etchevery's decision.

They'll pick their two linebackers, and Tillman will make it happen. I just don't think Kenny and Gary will insist on Mo Lloyd staying, which means it's up to Mo to decide where he wants to play, because the money will likely be comparable.

I also don't see them letting go of both non-import safeties. Letting go of both means commiting to an import, or drafting somebody for that spot. I figure we'll see one of the two offered a token contract.

I just saw this. Very interesting read. Agree with some of the percentages...disagree with some others. But, on the whole, without elaboration, a pretty darn good job by Rob. Now, that said, a couple of situations, the odds may be much better than he thinks. And, in one other, not as high. But, sitting in my chair (having a pretty good feel for how things are unfolding), his hits (compared to misses) qualify for a very high batting average!

Of course, we'll all know how well Rob did in a couple weeks, right? Surprises, good and bad, always come in free agency.

I can see both safety's going (Gordon and Clovis) and resigning Leron Mitchell (who in my less than knowledgeable opinion has the potential to be better than the previous two).

One thing that the 2009 draft seems to be is one deep in is defensive backs. There are a lot of them listed on that prospects link under players... They include such players as Jim Allen (Queen's); Maxim Bedard (Ottawa); Tang Bacheyie (Kansas); Brad Crawford (Guelph); Anthony DesLauriers (Simon Fraser); Eric Fraser (Central Michigan and a possible first overall if he were not a junior); Regina boy Tamon George (Regina); James Green (Calgary); Ryan Hinds (New Hampshire); Anthony Lukca (McGill); Matt Morris (Toronto); and Raymond Wladichuck (Simon Fraser).

That is 12 if I have not missed any so the chances of the 'riders drafting one of them is probable and getting one who is good enough to play eventually in the CFL pretty good. I am not sure how Jeff Zelinski will fair in training camp but he is a little older than most rookies at training camp so his maturity may be a higher level than most.

I think he (Vanstone) may be a little high with Mike McCullough for I see Kevin Scott taking his position (and he can long snap as well).

I am not sure about Glen January. He was okay only in my opinion and a bit of a disappointment especially in that brutal game against Cam Wake (but heck who was able to block him with effectiveness the entire season?).

Like Zbest, I think two of the three safeties will be resigned (Gordon and Mitchell).

Oxbow, whomever he or she is, is connected/informed!!! Consider me impressed.

For what it's worth, whether he signs with us or not, Glenn is a good player. In fairness, Cam Wake made a LOT of tackles look supect, right? Our "other" American tackle, Belton Johnson, was perhaps the most pleasant surprise on our team last year, but, unfortunately, as most of you know, he broke his leg (one of EIGHT BROKEN BONES on our team in a season from hell!!!) Belton is fully recovered and he re-signed in December.

Thank you. That probably has made my week and its only Monday.

P.S. I am guy.

Ehanks Oxbow. I'll take a swing and a miss at a few. First, Vanstone likely picked his numbers out of a hat for some of these, but I actually don't mind him when he is being a sport. Just not so much as a sport writer...

Abou: The answer is, yes 3 guys in their 30s is fine. Abou is actually still getting better and o-linemen, barring injury can play a long time. Many don't even reach their prime until Abous age. That said, cap issues might be a bigger concern, and if you keep him, maybe we lose a Best or another kid. But Abou can play easily 3-5 more years, which in football is forever. So we should likely try harder than 60%.
Boreham: An enigma. Very strong leg, as he proves on kick-offs. But he is a below average punter, as being last in the league in both average and net both of his years here indicate. Yes, it is tough to punt at Taylor Field.But still....
His kick-offs make him worth bringing back, but if Luca can do the job, we may go that way. Though I would miss the "linebacker/kicker" mentality. So while we might sign him, that doesn't mean he'll play with us. Lower that %.
Clovis: ET could possibly tell us the story here as that one nobody knows. As long as it isn't personal. However, it will be a shame if he is out of football as he showed great promise. I'd take him over Scott Gordan any day of the week. Let's give him a chance--5%.
Flick: Spiral fracture. Don't need to say much more. There are some concerns whether he will be anywhere, but if we plan to give Matt another chance, I don't think we can risk a chance on DJ. And we have several young receivers that have terrific upsides waiting in the wings. I wouldn't sign him. Rob has nailed one.
Gordon: See my bit about Clovis. Never liked Scott (as a player ET, if you are reading this). To slow, often misses tackles or is out of position because he is trying o make a big hit. And I've never been a fan of the "big hitter" at safety for those reasons. That said, safety is one of the most difficult positions as a fan to read because by definition, he is often the "safety" which means it may appear he was beaten, but it may have been the other guys fault (where are you Ted Provost?). And we have other options. I wouldn't sign him. Rob's right again. Scary!
January: Never heard that pun before, Rob. I am reasonably sure he lost his starting job to Belton until the injury, so a back up import o-lineman isn't a priority. And import o-linemen aren't scarce either. But he is rather young so I don't see any reason to bail on him yet. Plus ET might show a stubborn streak---we ned to get something for KJ, don't we? I think that % is higher for sure.
Mo Lloyd. Sure hope that % is way low. But if the offer on the table is only 120, then it is likely actually to high a %. Look for Mo to make in excess of 150 grand as a free agent. And deservedly so. I don't believe there is any chance he signs for 120. And every team in the league will likely outbid us at that price.
Lucas: underrated? Not so sure about that. But he is a very good 'backer and if we can sign him, that would be terrific. More of a 'tweener than the other two, he does get to cover more receivers one on one, but unfortunately, that resulted in a lot of tackles. But he is still learning the position, and at times he can be very good. As far as I am concerned, Mo and Anton are more important, but that means Lucas may also have the lowest cost. I'll say higher on the %.
Geno: Genes not going anywhere. 99.99. Geez, Vanstone can't even get that one right. Heart and soul. He isn't going anywhere!!
Mcullough: Actually, Rob probably has this one right. Mike's a class act, and can start if need be and is a great STs guy. You can't have too many Canadian backers on the team.
Mackenzie: Not sure how Mo is 30, and Anton is 70. At this point, I'd guess the odds as they say, are about even. We could lose both these guys which would be a big mistake. But it doesn't make much sense to pay the older guys, Williams and Anton and let the best backer and youngest one go. So that % is too high.
Mitchell. Good young player who, if we let Clovis and Gordon go, could be our starting safety. Certainly we will need to add some depth at DB. So 80% plus for sure. And as far as I know, even though he broke his leg in the same game as DJ, he was light years ahead of him in recovery. ET can fill us in n that part if he wants.
Morley: Didn't know about the surgery. If he heals, bring him in. But he isn't getting younger and has not lived up to expectations.I see him behind a couple of younger guys anyway, so sign him; let him win a job.

Mike Abou-Mechrek (60%): Not yet -- Time will Tell
Jamie Boreham (90%): Signed
Tristan Clovis (0%): Pretty good call
D.J. Flick (0%): Pretty good call
Scott Gordon (0%): Signed with Edmonton
Glenn January (60%): Signed with Winnipeg
Maurice Lloyd (30%): Signed with Edmonton
Sean Lucas (70%): Signed
Gene Makowsky (99%): Signed
Mike McCullough (80%): Not yet
Anton McKenzie (70%): Signed with BC
Leron Mitchell (80%): Not yet
Steven Morley (50%): Signed with Winnipeg

The Anton and January misses have got to hurt his rating a little. I think I'll give him about a 75%