Olympics, Olympics, Olympics

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Don’t worry sir, you’re one of the few people that doesn’t have to buy a new jersey.

Don’t worry sir, you’re one of the few people that doesn’t have to buy a new jersey.

But what about the Canadian Football League?

Article: Brady Lang – Sports Writer

[dropcaps round=”no”]T[/dropcaps]hat’s all we’ve been hearing lately in the sports media, yet in Canada the huge stage of Sochi has overshadowed some pretty drastic changes in the Canadian Football League.

After free agency opened up on Feb. 11, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have seemed to lose a lot more than what they’ve gained. Losing veterans Weston Dressler and Kory Sheets to the NFL, while free agency cost the team Canadian safety Craig Bulter, defensive end Jermaine McElveen, punter Ricky Schmitt, and backup quarterback Drew Willy to numerous teams around the CFL.

The Hamilton Tiger Cats came out as big winners after the opening week finally finished, locking up key players such as former Rider Butler and Canadian wide out Cary Koch. The team also signed quarterback Zach Collaros from the Toronto Argonauts.

The biggest name moving in the free agency period, however, was Henry Burris from the Hamilton Tiger Cats. After leading the team to a championship loss to Saskatchewan in Grey Cup 101, the team cut ties with the all star and released him. They will fill the void left by Burris with the aforementioned Collaros from Toronto.

Incredibly, the Montreal Allouettes were the only team that managed to lose just a single player to free agency. The team has re-signed 11 players from last years dismal team, yet lost franchise quarterback Anthony Calvillo to retirement earlier this off-season. Calvillo has managed to become the CFL’s most consistent quarterback by far in his long career in the league, racking up numerous records during his time in Canada.

Winnipeg made many splashes in the off-season; most notably hiring a full new coaching staff lead by former Argonaut Mike O’Shea as Head Coach. The team then locked up star wide receiver Nick Moore from B.C., acquired new starting quarterback Drew Willy from Saskatchewan, yet were only able to sign seven pending free agents to stay in Winnipeg. The team lost longtime wide receiver Terrance Edwards to retirement, but acquired longtime B.C. veteran Korey Banks to bolster their secondary.

Speaking of those very same B.C. Lions, the team has had a quiet off-season, but most notably picked up former Bomber Jamall Johnson. The team also picked up former Rider punter Ricky Schmitt and will now make longtime kicker Paul McCallum focus more on kicking field goals than punting the football.

Obviously, the most exciting part of this off-season was the Ottawa Redblacks being welcomed into the CFL. The team now has a whole arsenal of quarterbacks – lead by Burris – and seems to be quite competitive coming into this upcoming season. The team was very quiet through free agency but will choose first overall in the upcoming CFL Draft.

Overall, this off-season has been one to remember – and possibly forget in the eyes of Rider fans. The new dynamic of the 9th team did pay a large part in where players went during the off-season, and rightfully so. As a Rider fan I am nervous heading into the upcoming season without a real, established running back but this is also a time where others can step up. Without Dressler, this team will look much different but this is still the Saskatchewan Roughriders that we know and love. Darian Durant is still our quarterback and John Chick is still in our defence. This is still the Riders we know and love.

All I can say is, July can’t come soon enough.

[button style=”e.g. solid, border” size=”e.g. small, medium, big” link=”” target=””]Image: Emily Wright[/button]

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