Riders GM Jeremy O’Day ready to embrace change with free agency almost here


Stuck in the middle of the negotiating period in the Canadian Football League, Saskatchewan Roughriders General Manager Jeremy O’Day found himself on a slippery slope on Wednesday when discussing the Riders plans for free agency, but he was in good spirits with less than a week before the team can begin signing new players to the roster.

He said with the number of free agents the team has remaining, it will be a new-look edition of the Roughriders in 2023.

“When you’re 6-12 and you don’t make the playoffs in a nine-team league, there’s going to be change.”

This week, teams across the Canadian Football League are allowed to speak with players with expiring contracts. The conservations can continue until Sunday.  The negotiating period has some pros and cons, said O’Day but feels it’s a more honest approach between the teams and players before free agency.

“You can openly talk to the player, you can openly have your positional coach call the player, your head coach can call the player and you feel like you’re not doing anything wrong.”

He added the negotiating period does feel long.

“It goes really fast the first three or four days and then it starts to slow down as the week goes.”

Some potential new faces heading to Saskatchewan include Quarterback Trevor Harris and Wide Receiver Jake Wieneke. Both players who spent last season with the Montreal Alouettes. O’Day said he had good conservations with representatives for both Harris and Wieneke and said that he is looking forward to next week.

One player who might not be back in green and white in 2023 is Linebacker Darnell Sankey. O’Day noted the salary cap does lead to some difficult roster decisions.

“You can only sign so many players in certain positions. ”

He also pointed out Larry Dean’s natural position is middle linebacker. The team also should get Micah Teitz back from injury after he missed the entire 2022 season due to hip surgery.

O’Day said it was vital to get Dean back for another year after the team agreed to terms with the veteran on Tuesday night.

“Larry’s such a fantastic leader just great for the building. ” He added the linebacker rebounded last year after a tough first season with Saskatchewan when he was injured on the first day of training camp with his new team.

Another big move for the Roughriders on defence was retaining Anthony Lanier. O’Day said the defensive lineman wanted to enter the negotiating period to see his value on the open market, which was something the Riders general manager had no problem with.

“We just wanted to make sure that he knew he was wanted here, we feel like he’s a big time game changer for us.”

Along with the signings of Lanier and Dean, the Riders also agreed to terms with defensive end Pete Robertson this week.

Saskatchewan’s secondary was addressed earlier this off-season with the signings of defensive backs Nick Marshall, Rolan Milligan and Jeremy Clark.

The offensive line will probably be the most scrutinized position for Saskatchewan this season after the Roughriders allowed a league-high 77 sacks in 2022. With a limited number of free agents available, the team may have to turn to some newcomers, like Jerald Hawkins and Jeremiah Poutasi. Both players were selected at the higher end of some recent NFL drafts. Hawkins was selected by Pittsburgh in the fourth round in 2016 while Poutasi was picked by Tennessee in the third round in 2015. O’Day said the pair will have an opportunity in training camp but added the team is still looking for more help for the offensive line.

One potential addition to the roster that wouldn’t require a new contract is Wide Receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker. The Canadian has an opportunity to explore NFL options until Tuesday. O’Day said that he doesn’t believe Schaffer-Baker has received any additional workouts recently. He believes now it’s a case where the receiver is waiting to see if any potential opportunities south of the border are available. If Schaffer-Baker does not sign with an NFL team before Tuesday, he will return to Saskatchewan for the 2023 season.

Free agency in the CFL begins at 11:00, Saskatchewan time on Tuesday.

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