With the Winter Meetings wrapping up at Kananaskis, Alberta, an important date has passed in the Canadian Football League offseason. Another key date on the horizon is the beginning of free agency on February 14. Before that day arrives, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have a few items to take care of.
On Thursday, head coach Craig Dickenson made his weekly appearance on the SportsCage with Michael Ball.
The hottest topic in Riderville this winter has been the chatter about the future of quarterback Cody Fajardo. Throughout the offseason, Dickenson and general manager Jeremy O’Day have indicated they will be looking at their options before they decide on the team’s quarterback position.
Dickenson admitted that there is a real possibility of Fajardo not returning to Saskatchewan for the 2023 season.
“When you tell someone we’re going to keep our options open, that means they’re looking at other people possibly to take their job. That’s the truth and Cody (Fajardo) knows that. ”
The Riders head coach said they can’t completely rule out Fajardo returning, but added the team wanted to be upfront with the team’s starting quarterback since the early part of the 2019 season.
“Want to be honest with him and say we were not satisfied with the play we had at quarterback last year and there’s a lot of reasons for it, as we all know, but we’re going to look at some of the guys out there and if we like them, we’re going to go after them.”
One domino that has yet to fall in the CFL’s quarterback market is the status of Bo Levi Mitchell. Despite the Tiger-Cats making the trade to acquire Mitchell’s playing rights. The two sides have not agreed on a contract. A month remains before the former Stampeders quarterback can test the market with the Roughriders likely one of the teams that would be interested in Mitchell if he became available.
New offensive line coach
Dickenson also confirmed Thursday that the Roughriders hired Anthony Vitale as the team’s new offensive line coach. The move completes a swap of offensive line coaches between the Roughriders and Edmonton Elks. Last month, Stephen Sorrells joined Edmonton to be their new offensive line coach, a position vacated by Vitale.
The former Elks offensive line coach is no stranger to the Riders. He served as a guest coach for Saskatchewan in back-to-back seasons before getting the job in Edmonton.
A former college player and wrestler, Dickenson believes Vitale adds a lot to the Riders coaching staff.
“He’s brings a lot of toughness and grit to that position.”
Along with his time in Edmonton, the Roughriders new offensive line coach has experience as an offensive coordinator.
Finding a new defensive line coach
There are still a couple of vacancies remaining on the Saskatchewan staff. On the weekend the team found out that Ben Olson would be leaving the green and white after he accepted a position with Incarnate Word of the FCS.
Dickenson said Olson is a huge loss to the organization after serving as defensive line coach for the last two seasons in Saskatchewan.
The Riders head coach is hoping to have a replacement hired by the end of the month. He said that he’ll be looking to speak with three candidates this week to determine the right applicant for the job.
Trying to grab the right receivers coach
On the offensive side of the coaching staff, the Roughriders are still looking for a receivers coach to replace Travis Moore. Earlier this offseason, Saskatchewan brought back former receiver Naaman Roosevelt as an offensive assistant. The Riders head coach hopes to hire another coach to work with Roosevelt and the green and white receivers.
“I feel like receivers deserve two sets of eyes, they’re a big group with a lot of different personalities, ” said Dickenson.
He added that he would like to see the former receiver work with new offensive coordinator Kelly Jeffrey and help with the other offensive positions.
Along with the defensive line coach opening, the Riders would like to have the receivers coach position filled by the end of the month.