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