Regina, SK – Saskatchewan Roughriders Assistant V.P. of Player Personnel John Murphy appeared on 620 CKRM’s SportsCage on Monday to update fans on where the club is as it builds toward the 2016 season. Here’s the transcript of his comments.
ARE YOU CLOSE ON SOME PLAYER ANNOUNCEMENTS?
JM: Ya. I think it’s interesting — there’s a lot of guys getting a lot of opportunities down south (NFL), probably more than a lot of teams expected. I think you’re seeing that variable be thrown in there and teams are deciding where they’re going to spend their money. I see Zack Evans got a good deal done in Ottawa and got some good money there so is there still some money there for Justin Capicciotti, J’Michael Deane and guys like that? I think all teams are making decisions internally about what’s going to happen in the coming weeks with their own guys first, and then free agency in a month’s time.
Free agency is going to be an exciting time because I think the salary cap is a lot tighter than last year, in terms of $50,000 up from last year. A lot of teams are going to have to be creative in terms of if you want to add a piece, you might have to delete one. I think this year’s CFL free agency is going to be a lot closer to NFL free agency where you’ll have a Wave 1, and then there will be some guys let go that will create the second wave of free agency. I think it’ll be a very interesting time in the market place, like veteran players that’ll be a little more worried from city to city about whether they’ll be in their team’s plans because like I said, if you’re going to add a piece here, I think it’ll cost you a piece there and it might be a guy you just signed a year before.
HOW HAVE ONE-YEAR DEALS AFFECTED THINGS?
JM: What it does is you have to find what guys are thinking beyond just football, and for guys in their early- to mid-20’s, are they married, are they single? What’s their work status? What do they do in the off-season? Maybe you have to look at recruiting guys back out west or recruiting guys that are connected to a teammate or someone who’s in your building that you can make it attractice to sign better than a one-year deal. On the back end, the only thing that’s guaranteed in the contract of a CFL player is if you’re guaranteed off-season money, you’re putting yourself in a great position as a player but as a team you’re putting yourself a bit in harm’s way.
With the new staff and the roster moves that we’ve made initially and creating roster space, maybe we can initially sign a guy to a one-year deal, that allows him to come in, be impressed by the organization and impress us as a player, and then maybe come back the next year and go for that long-term deal. I think maybe that’ll be one area where we’ll try to be more flexible in this dynamic in free agency. The Riders have dealt with this and I think a lot of teams are sitting with some players where perhaps they’re enjoying their talents, but are not enjoying their contracts.
WHAT POSITIONS ARE YOU TARGETING IN FREE AGENCY?
JM: If I answered that question, I might be asking you for a job. Are we gonna be active? Yes. Of course. I’m somebody who likes to be active and say ‘the Riders are open for business 24/7, 365’ because that’s the business that we’re in. If there’s a player at every position from quarterback to special teams, that fits what we’re doing, who wants to be a Rider, who’s bringing us good character and the ability to win more games, then we’re going to take every opportunity to interview and talk to players. Will we say a certain number of players? No, because it’s quality over quantity. That’s why I’m saying on February 9 people want names and want instant change on paper, but I’ll say we’re going to be a team that we’ll look at free agency and minicamps and it’ll evolve between now and training camp.
WHAT’S KEEPING YOU BUSY NOW?
JM: A lot of things. We found a guy that we liked in the waiver draft that we’ll be announcing in the next couple of days, who I really have good hopes for in terms of what he can do and compete in training camp. We’ve been looking at young quarterbacks and you guys mentioned one on the air earlier (Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield) and he had a good performance in a losing effort but I think if he ever made his way to the CFL would be highly competitive.
We’re dealing with free agency and the draft at the same time and having that #1 pick puts us in a peak position but one that we don’t care to be in again anytime soon. We’re evaluating the the high-end of the draft and know that we have five picks in the first 35 or 36 selections. And just getting used to new staff. I have a great relationship with Craig Reynolds and just getting into the flow of the personnel staff so we can all be on the same page with each other.
We have three or four camps between now and the end of the month and then at the Senior Bowl we’ll collect all of the people who will potentially scout for the Roughriders in 2016 and meet at the Senior Bowl and introduce them to our staff. We’ll have a scouting seminar down there and make our decisions who’s going to be 100% on board and then have an announcement of that right around free agency. It’ll be very different. Not good or bad, but we’re into the idea of casting a big net and maybe catching fish from different areas and having guys with CFL, Arena League, Indoor League and Junior College experience so that’ll open up possibilities for Chris Jones, Jeremy and myself to evaluate and have access to many more players than we’ve had in the past.