The Calgary Stampeders defeat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 19-10 in league play in Regina, SK August 13, 2016. (CFL PHOTO - Matt Smith)
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are in a holding pattern.
Following an off-season of additions and deletions, the CFL team has slowed down its flow of transactions.
More moves likely are forthcoming, but the Roughriders are done for the time being with mini-camp on the horizon. Saskatchewan is staging its camp April 25-27 in Vero Beach, Fla.
Here’s a look at Saskatchewan’s current 71-player roster, broken down by position.
The signing of former University of Texas Longhorns star and ex-NFL starter Vince Young generated a lot of buzz. But it has been stated many times that Young will have to compete for a spot on the Roughriders’ roster, let alone the starting job.
Kevin Glenn, who will be 38 in June, would seem to have the best shot at the No. 1 job given his experience in the CFL. Brandon Bridge and G.J. Kinne are heading into their second seasons in the Roughriders’ system, and Bryan Bennett also has potential.
Other quarterbacks could be signed before the Roughriders’ mini-camp.
One pivot who won’t be there is Jake Waters, who broke a collarbone during a Roughriders game last season. Waters retired in March at age 24 to become an assistant coach at Iowa State University.
Again, the signing of one player drew a lot of attention this off-season. But Winnipeg product Kienan LaFrance isn’t necessarily the answer for Saskatchewan at tailback.
Sure, LaFrance would allow the Roughriders to use an American-born player somewhere else. But LaFrance didn’t play a lot in the 2016 regular season before making two starts in the Ottawa Redblacks’ drive to the Grey Cup title.
In fact, the additions of internationals Cameron Marshall and Daniel Thomas may have more of an impact on the Roughriders’ offence.
Marshall accounted for 1,007 yards of total offence and seven touchdowns in 19 games with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2014 and ’15 before trying his luck in the NFL in 2016.
Thomas, meanwhile, had 1,480 yards rushing, 412 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns over four NFL seasons with the Miami Dolphins.
One of those two could have the inside track on the starting job.
Those newcomers join three other Canadians — returnees Greg Morris and Spencer Moore as well as free-agent signing Aaron Milton — as candidates for jobs in the Saskatchewan backfield.
The Roughriders have an embarrassment of riches at this position.
Saskatchewan’s roster currently includes 14 receivers, including four nationals (Rob Bagg, Mitchell Baines, Nic Demski and Joshua Stanford) and 10 Americans (Kadron Boone, Duron Carter, Ricky Collins Jr., Joe Craig, Armanti Edwards, Bakari Grant, Caleb Holley, Thomas Mayo, Chad Owens and Naaman Roosevelt).
When Owens signed as a free agent, Roughriders head coach/GM Chris Jones said the CFL’s most outstanding player in 2012 would be the Roughriders’ primary return man. But Owens also remains a productive CFL receiver, as evidenced by his 808 yards and five TDs in 12 games last season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Roosevelt was on pace to break the Roughriders’ record for receiving yards in a season in 2016 before getting hurt in the team’s 10th regular-season game.
Collins and Holley showed flashes of brilliance as CFL rookies last season, Carter has recorded more than 900 yards in all three of his CFL seasons, and Grant accumulated a career-high 947 yards in 2013 en route to being named an East Division all-star.
If Jones wanted competition on his roster, he certainly has it among the receiving corps.
Saskatchewan made a big splash on the first day of free agency by signing left tackle Derek Dennis, who was named the league’s most outstanding offensive lineman in 2016 as a member of the Calgary Stampeders.
The Roughriders hope Dennis will help shore up a line that in 2016 allowed 57 sacks, the second-highest such number in the CFL.
A return to full health of left guard Brendon LaBatte also could bring down that number. LaBatte missed all but three games last season with a bruised nerve in his neck.
Right guard Chris Best missed all 18 games in 2016 due to sports hernias — and those injuries prompted him to retire this off-season.
Saskatchewan was forced to use 10 offensive linemen in 11 different starting combinations last season.
There are 12 O-linemen currently on the roster: Canadians LaBatte, Dan Clark, Dillon Guy, Josiah St. John, Matt Vonk and Ryan White, and internationals Dennis, Terrence Campbell, Thaddeus Coleman, Kennedy Estelle, Kenny Horsley and Jarriel King.
If Dennis, LaBatte and returnees Clark and Coleman can stay healthy, and if someone can step up to play right guard, the O-line has the makings of an improved unit.
Like the offensive line, the Roughriders’ D-line went through several iterations in 2016.
Saskatchewan used 11 players in 10 different starting alignments last season. Including backups, the Roughriders deployed 19 different defensive linemen during their games last season.
The addition of end Willie Jefferson in September was a game-changer. Jefferson, who gave opponents fits after arriving in Saskatchewan from the NFL, was re-signed after becoming a free agent in February.
Zach Minter also was added as a free agent, giving Saskatchewan a younger defensive tackle than his predecessor, Corvey Irvin.
Also signed was Eddie Steele, a Canadian defensive tackle who played for Jones in Edmonton and therefore is familiar with the defensive system.
The D-line roster currently comprises six Canadians (Steele, Ivan Brown, Linden Gaydosh, Makana Henry, Ese Mrabure and Jordan Reaves) and seven Americans (Jefferson, Minter, Kaelin Burnett, A.C. Leonard, Derrick Lott, Greg Milhouse Jr., and Jonathan Newsome).
The Roughriders lost two starters in the off-season, as Otha Foster III (Baltimore Ravens) and Jeff Knox Jr. (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) signed with NFL teams.
But Knox began the 2016 season behind Samuel Eguavoen on the Roughriders’ depth chart and only became a starter after Eguavoen suffered a season-ending knee injury in Saskatchewan’s sixth game of the regular season. Eguavoen is expected to be ready for training camp, so that spot would appear to be filled.
The Roughriders dipped into the free-agent market to sign Glenn Love, who could replace Foster on the strong side.
In the middle, the Roughriders have proven veteran Greg Jones as well as ratio-busting Canadian standout Henoc Muamba.
The roster also includes nationals Kevin Francis, Marvin Golding and Dillon Grondin.
A youthful group in 2016 learned some lessons that should pay dividends in ’17.
Cornerback Kacy Rodgers Jr., and halfbacks Justin Cox and Ed Gainey are back with a year under their belts. The other corner spot is up for grabs and could land in the hands of rookie Erick Dargan or returnees Tevaughn Campbell and Royce Adams.
The safety spot was addressed with the free-agent signing of Marc-Olivier Brouillette, who regularly lowered the boom on opposing receivers as a member of the Montreal Alouettes. Veteran Jeff Hecht re-signed as a free agent to provide depth.
The roster currently also includes Kelvin Muamba (a converted receiver and the younger brother of Henoc) and Tyler Hunter, both of whom were with the Roughriders last season.
The Roughriders currently have familiar faces around to handle the duties.
Punter Josh Bartel is back, as are kickers Tyler Crapigna and Quinn Van Gylswyk.
Long-snapper Jorgen Hus, who missed the second half of last season with a wrist injury, is recovering from off-season surgery but is slated to be ready for the 2017 campaign.
The players who replaced Hus after he was hurt — Dan McDonald (retired) and Randy Chevrier (unsigned) — won’t be back this season.