November 14, 2012
Long list of Eskimos free agents
By GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.
The same organization that dealt away its franchise quarterback before the 2012 season started didn’t even last through to the end of it before making its general manager walk the professional plank.
The problem is, both jobs are integral to their success and have to be undertaken in one way or another.
While the quarterbacking situation didn’t pan out as planned, the Eskimos had better hope for some better luck in the player-signing department considering a host of Eskimos are headed for free agency on Feb. 15.
Or they will end up leaving themselves in a compromised position again.
“The thing about free agency is that the process has been put in place for us to start to address those things,” said Kavis Reed, who finished his second season as Eskimos head coach with an even 18-18 regular-season record, while going 1-2 in playoffs. “We have the advantage, like every other team has with their own free agents, to start the negotiations earlier.
“For the next few months, we have the opportunity to negotiate with those guys that we want to negotiate with and hopefully be able to consummate deals with.”
Eight defensive starters are set to become free agents, along with a handful of players on the offence — none of whom have yet to be offered anything in the way of a contract extension.
“We’ve started the process of looking at those guys and looking at numbers,” said Reed. “And hopefully we can get things done before Feb. 15.”
If not, the Eskimos will likely lose at least part of the core of a defence that, when healthy early on in the season challenged as king of the hill in points allowed and were a big reason for the team’s 5-3 winning record.
Heading up that group is all-star middle linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who set a CFL-record 130 tackles on the year only to injure himself on the last defensive play of the regular season and sit out last Sunday’s East semifinal.
If he had his way, he would have played alongside his Eskimo teammates. And if he gets his way, he will have another chance to do just that next year.
“We’ve got a good core and we battled adversity. That’s just the type of year it was, we had to deal with some things,” said Sherritt, who has played out his initial two-year deal with the Eskimos. “At our core, through Kavis, through our coaches and through our players, I’m excited to come back for next year.”
With instability in Eskimos management out of his control, Sherritt can only be optimistic at this point.
But that’s easier for the players than Eskimos fans, who might also have to watch the team’s top pass-rusher make his exit.
“My contract is up, I don’t know what the coaching staff wants to do with me,” said Marcus Howard, who sat out all but six games in 2012 with a hamstring injury after leading the Eskimos with 11 sacks in 13 games in his first year in the CFL. “I’ve been out all year and we don’t have a GM right now, so it’s just a wait-and-see game for me right now.
“I’m going to weigh all my options and then go from there.”
Or, hopefully, come back here.
Along with fellow defensive end Julius Williams, linebacker T.J. Hill and defensive backs Chris Thompson, Weldon Brown, Rod Williams and Donovan Alexander, who are also due.