CFL Pass

Vanstone: New deal with Judge a coup for Roughriders

CFL teams would have lined up to woo Cameron Judge if he had opted to test free agency.

Judge, after all, was named the West Division’s most outstanding Canadian in 2019.

Just 25, and coming off a breakout season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Judge has barely scratched the surface of his potential.

But if there is to be a bidding war, it will have to wait at least a year.

Judge has just signed a contract extension with Saskatchewan.

By consummating the one-year deal, Roughriders general manager Jeremy O’Day made his finest move of a busy off-season.

That is written with all due respect to key contributors such as centre Dan Clark, cornerback Nick Marshall, defensive halfback Loucheiz Purifoy and defensive end A.C. Leonard, all of whom have signed new deals in recent months.

As a ratio-changing linebacker — someone who made a series of impactful plays for a first-place team last season — Judge would have been virtually impossible to replace.

On offence and defence, the rest of the big names among the Roughriders’ pending free agents are Americans — namely receivers Shaq Evans, Naaman Roosevelt and Manny Arceneaux, offensive lineman Thaddeus Coleman, defensive tackle Micah Johnson, middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian and defensive halfback Ed Gainey.

Evans is coming off one of the top 10 receiving seasons in Roughriders history, having caught 72 passes for 1,334 yards in 2019 en route to earning CFL all-star honours.

Now that Judge is under contract, re-signing Evans should be Priority 1.

Roosevelt is a reliable target, especially in move-the-chains situations. However, the 32-year-old slotback has only one touchdown over his past 22 games.

Arceneaux, who turns 33 in September, is a widely respected leader, but will there be an encore in Saskatchewan for “The Manny Show”? The Roughriders need to find a starting spot for slotback Jordan Williams-Lambert, the West’s top rookie in 2018.

Coleman, 34, has been a reliable presence at right tackle, but where does he fit in? Terran Vaughn performed admirably at left tackle last season. On Sunday, the Roughriders announced the re-signing of offensive tackle Takoby Cofield, who can play the left or right side.

Johnson was signed, at considerable expense, on Day 1 of free agency in 2019. He arrived with eye-popping credentials, having been named a CFL all-star in 2016, 2017 and 2018 as a member of the Calgary Stampeders.

Remunerated to the tune of $250,000 last season, Johnson did not perform at a level that was commensurate with his compensation.

As for Elimimian, his return would provide stability up the middle. Although the future Canadian Football Hall of Famer turns 34 in October, he has plenty of mileage left.

TSN’s Dave Naylor reported Monday that the Roughriders and Elimimian are “a ways apart” in negotiations.

Justin Dunk of 3DownNation.com told CKRM’s SportsCage on Friday that the Roughriders would like to strike a new deal with Elimimian, who will be “coveted on the open market.”

“Could he be back in Saskatchewan? Yes. But it’s going to be for more than he made in 2019,” Dunk said.

The well-connected Dunk also opined that “it seems like a longshot to see Ed Gainey back in that secondary.”

“The last I had checked,” Dunk added, “he was still waiting on an offer from the Riders and, if he had talked about one a little bit, it was pretty low.”

Over to you, Jeremy O’Day …

rvanstone@postmedia.com

twitter.com/robvanstone

Source: montrealgazette.com




More on this: 945 stories