Giant step forward

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos have scored their first big victory of 2008.

By acquiring stalwart defensive end Fred Perry from the Saskatchewan Roughriders yesterday, Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia immediately improved his football club.

A 2007 all-star, Perry had eight sacks, nine tackles for losses and three fumble recoveries last season.

Nobody on the current Eskimos' roster can touch those stats.

Granted, Edmonton had to give up young quarterback Steven Jyles and swap second-round picks with the Riders - giving up the 10th overall choice for Saskatchewan's 16th selection - but the price was worth it in order to land Perry.

The biggest need the Eskimos had to address this off-season was on their defensive line. They needed to find a pass rush.

Consider that job nearly done with almost four months left in the off-season.

DANGEROUS

Maciocia still needs to improve the interior of the defensive line, but Perry instantly makes both defensive ends dangerous because he will attract double-team attention from the opposition.

"Any time you play against Fred Perry you have to design certain blocking schemes," said Maciocia. "He brings that instant threat."

The New York Giants showed the football world what kind of impact a defensive line surge can have when they upset the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

The Eskimos rarely had a pass rush in 2007, finishing third worst in the league with just 39 sacks.

Making the trade even better, Maciocia and Perry have verbally agreed to a new three-year deal.

If Perry's 33-year-old body can continue to hold up over three years, the new contract will be a good move for both sides.

If the import rush end begins to falter down the road, CFL contracts aren't guaranteed - meaning the Eskimos are off the hook financially.

"My conversation with Fred is that he is healthy and good to go," said Maciocia, who was one of few people to find Perry on a phone yesterday.

Travelling through North Dakota, Perry was unavailable for comment after the trade was announced late yesterday afternoon.

But word of the trade certainly travelled quickly to his new teammates.

"It's awesome," said Adam Braidwood, who could be the other starting defensive end in the upcoming season, or he could move inside to defensive tackle.

"It will be a great addition to the D-line."

Perry's departure from Regina means the Riders' D-line is left with a gaping hole.

But Saskatchewan general manager Eric Tillman made this move for financial reasons.

Some fans are calling it a salary dump, but in reality, this move gives Tillman close to $50,000 to put to use elsewhere.

WANTS NEW DEAL

Starting quarterback Kerry Joseph wants a new contract and Tillman could use some of the $50,000 to make his MVP much happier.

The smart financial moves by Maciocia to be under the salary cap in 2007 allowed the Esks to acquire Perry's hefty salary with ease.

Perry will receive $100,000-$120,000 in 2008 along with a signing bonus that is less than $30,000.

That's a big ticket, but Maciocia played his cards right here.

Without Perry, Edmonton would have surely joined in the bidding war for Winnipeg free-agent defensive end Tom Canada.

The bidding would have started at $120,000 and gone much higher before it was done.

Maciocia was also wise to move Jyles in February because his stock would have hit the floor by training camp because there was no way the Eskimos were going to keep him.

With two relatively young pivots - Ricky Ray (28) and Stefan LeFors (26) - higher on the depth chart, Edmonton is set for years to come.

The only negative part of the deal for the Esks is losing the 10th pick in the draft.

But Edmonton still has five of the first 26 selections this spring.


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