Andrew Bucholtz

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Andrew Bucholtz is a Canadian football blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Should the CFL go to a harder salary cap?

    Kory Sheets and the Riders won the 2013 Grey Cup; did exceeding the cap help them?Wednesday's news that the Saskatchewan Roughriders were the only team to exceed the CFL's salary cap in 2013 (they spent $4,417,975 in salaries, $17,975 over the cap) is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, this breaks one pattern; the 2011 and 2012 seasons both saw no team go over the cap, the first seasons since at least 2007 with no violations. However, it reinforces another pattern of Saskatchewan being the team most willing to flirt with the cap line; the Roughriders were over the cap in 2007, 2008 and 2010, and they've committed four of the six reported cap violations under the salary management system first implemented in 2006. (The others came from Montreal in 2007 and Winnipeg in 2009).

    The CFL has a sliding system of cap-violation penalties, though, and Saskatchewan has never exceeded the cap by enough to pay any penalty beyond a monetary fine (unlike the Alouettes, who lost a first-round draft pick in 2007 for exceeding the cap by $108,285). Thus, in essence, the Riders are just simply working with a higher cap than the rest of the league. Is that desirable, or should the cap rules be tightened to prevent it? There's a chance to revisit the rules this year thanks to the ongoing CBA negotiations, so it's worthwhile exploring how they currently work and how they could change.

    Read More »from Should the CFL go to a harder salary cap?
  • April CFL Scouting Bureau list big on both lines

    Western DL Dylan Ainsworth rose up the list thanks to a strong combine showing.

    It's always interesting to watch how the CFL Scouting Bureau top prospects list (a combination of each team's rankings of draft-eligible Canadian players) evolves over its three editions, and this year is no exception. The same player (McGill offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif) has topped the boards since September (and is likely heading to the NFL), but the other rankings have changed substantially, with September's being positionally-balanced, January's boosting defensive players and offensive linemen, and Tuesday's final rankings ahead of May 13's draft favouring players on both the offensive and defensive lines. Here they are:

    The April 2014 CFL prospect rankings are heavy on linemen.

    January saw offensive linemen ranked first, second and third, and that hasn't changed, but Montreal's David Focault (now second) has swapped spots with Laval's Pierre Lavertu (now third). The most interesting name in the top five is Quinn Smith, though. Smith shone at defensive tackle for the Concordia Stingers this year and also double-shifted on the offensive line given the team's injuries, leading to him being named program MVP in February. Despite that, he wasn't listed in either the September or January prospect rankings. He impressed at the combine, though, recording 28 reps on the bench press (third amongst defensive linemen), a 7.56-second three-cone drill time (third amongst defensive linemen) and a 4.82-second 40-yard dash (fifth amongst defensive linemen). Teams obviously liked what they saw from him, and his stock is rising.

    Read More »from April CFL Scouting Bureau list big on both lines
  • Billy "White Shoes" Johnson (24) briefly starred in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes.Former NFL star Chad Johnson's signing with the Montreal Alouettes Thursday sparked discussion of how unusual it is for veteran NFL players (and receivers in particular) to head to Canada. There are plenty of CFL players with one or two years of minimal NFL experience, and there are plenty who go on from the CFL to NFL success, but it's rare to see guys who were once established NFLers trying to catch on up north; guys who have been NFL stars don't often want to continue in football at the CFL's much-lower salaries, and CFL teams often prefer to bring in younger unknowns. That's especially true at the receiver positions, which is what makes Johnson's move so unusual. However, there is precedent, and one of the best previous examples comes from a (non-related) guy with the same last name who went to the same CFL city: Billy "White Shoes" Johnson.

    Billy Johnson fit the typical model of guys overlooked by the NCAA and NFL, as his 5'9'', 170-pound stature caused many to overlook him. He wound up playing Division III football at Pennsylvania's Widener College, and although he starred there (eventually earning a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame), he was only taken in the 15th round of the 1974 NFL draft by the Houston Oilers. That didn't stop him from becoming a NFL star, though. From the CFL Scrapbook:

    Read More »from The other Johnson: could Chad follow the path set by Billy “White Shoes” Johnson in Montreal?
  • Will Chad Johnson succeed in Canada, or fail to make it out of camp?Thursday provided confirmation that the talks between the Montreal Alouettes and Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson were more than just a promotional stunt, as Johnson officially signed a contract with the team. While Johnson has been known for self-promotion lately and hasn't played a regular-season NFL game since 2011, he's been training hard with Hall of Famer Cris Carter and has impressed during the Alouettes' Florida minicamp this week, and his stated desire to get back into high-level football suggests he's taking this relatively seriously. Montreal GM Jim Popp and his staff must agree, too, as it's tough to see the Alouettes giving Johnson a contract otherwise. However, there are still questions about where Johnson could fit with the Alouettes and if he'll manage to make it out of training camp.

    Read More »from How does Chad Johnson fit into the Alouettes’ lineup, and will he make it out of camp?
  • The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed QB Darian Durant to an extension.The Saskatchewan Roughriders may have suffered remarkable attrition this offseason after winning the Grey Cup last November, but they've managed to retain one of their key pieces for the foreseeable future, signing quarterback Darian Durant to a multi-year extension Wednesday that will likely make him one of the league's highest-paid players.Based on his recent play, that's a solid move; 2013 saw Durant throw for 4,154 yards with a 61.2 per cent completion mark and 31 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions, staying effective and efficient when called upon despite the Riders' run-heavy strategy, and he was a crucial part of their run to the Grey Cup. His 2012 campaign was also impressive, as he racked up 3,878 passing yards with a 64.4 per cent completion mark and 20 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. It's worth noting that Durant has had substantial struggles in the past, though (something discussed here in 2012, the last time he signed an extension), and that he is turning 32 in

    Read More »from Riders sign Darian Durant to multi-year extension: can he maintain a high level of play?
  • The Stampeders' open tryout in New Orleans attracted plenty of top talent.A major part of the reason for the CFL's recent off-field success (including its massive new TV deal, substantial stadium deals and high franchise valuations) is the strong quality of the on-field product. This league has tons of top talent at the moment, and that's reflected both in the numbers of CFL players who are attracting NFL interest and in the ever-improving resumes of new CFL players. That latter element was on display this week at the Calgary Stampeders' open tryout in New Orleans. Just about every team does plenty of these tryouts (for example, the Edmonton Eskimos have 24 separate ones across the U.S. listed on their website), and they've proven quite valuable for most franchises, but it's particularly remarkable to see just how impressive the backgrounds of some CFL hopefuls at these camps are. The New Orleans Times-Picayune's Christopher Dabe covered the Stampeders' tryout, and his notes on some of the prospective players are well worth a read:

    Chad Boyd turned to keep pace with a receiver whose eyes focused on the airborne football, just as the all-conference defensive standout had done so many times in his life.

    Only this time the metal bleachers were nearly empty. It was mid-morning on a sunny Saturday in the spring. And the former Archbishop Shaw and Louisiana Tech defensive back desperately hoped to get noticed once again.

    This is another side to the NFL draft. Players who once had reasonable hopes to play professionally after college felt derailed by injury or other reasons. They're all at least a year removed from college. They each want another shot. ...

    "If an opportunity presents itself, I'm going to take it," Boyd said.

    Many players are in a similar position.

    Michael Smith, the leading receiver on Connecticut's Fiesta Bowl team in 2010, felt the season he missed the next year due to poor grades damaged his pro prospects, he said.

    Former Southern Miss linebacker Korey Williams already had three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown when he blew out a knee during the fourth game of his senior season.

    Those are players from some excellent programs, and perhaps even more notably, guys who shone for those teams. This isn't an anomaly, either; the B.C. Lions' tryout I attended last year in Seattle also featured players with impressive NCAA backgrounds, including former Cal star Kendrick Payne and Montana star Peter Nguyen, and most of the various teams' open tryouts attract some notable former college players. (The Montreal Alouettes even managed to reel in former NFL star Chad Johnson this week.)

    Read More »from Stampeders’ New Orleans tryout illustrates just how much talent’s out there for the CFL
  • Bombers’ quarterback Brian Brohm skips his honeymoon to attend the team’s mini-camp

    Brian Brohm (seen with Hamilton last year) skipped his honeymoon for Bombers' camp.Offseason trades can come with a lot of challenges, but one of the worst has to be missing your own honeymoon. That's what happened to Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Brian Brohm, who the team acquired from Hamilton in March. Brohm had his wedding set for April 12 in Louisville, Kentucky, which would have been fine with the Tiger-Cats' late-April minicamp, but wound up conflicting with the Bombers' earlier one (which started the same day at Florida's IMG Academy), one day after Brohm's wedding to Ashley Krawczyk ). The team was good enough to let Brohm miss the first two days of camp (arrival and one day of practice) for his wedding and travel to Florida, but as he told The Winnipeg Sun's Kirk Penton after arriving in time for Monday's practices, he's had to postpone his honeymoon:

    Read More »from Bombers’ quarterback Brian Brohm skips his honeymoon to attend the team’s mini-camp
  • Marwan Hage (seen with the 2009 Tom Pate Award) announced his retirement Monday.When the Ottawa Redblacks selected veteran Hamilton centre Marwan Hage in December's expansion draft, it looked like a promising move—if they could get him to go there. On Monday, it became official (after a weekend of rumblings) that Hage won't be coming to Ottawa, as he announced his retirement from the CFL at a press conference in Hamilton. No one can blame Hage for choosing to hang up his cleats after a 10-year punishing professional football career, but his loss will be felt by the Redblacks, who are now going to have to find someone else who can handle the responsibilities of leading their offensive line.

    Hage has been an important part of the league over the last decade, and he'll be missed both on and off the field. He spent his entire career with Hamilton until December, earning two divisional all-star nods and one league all-star nod, and he did plenty of impressive community work both in that city and others, helping distribute food and game tickets to those in need. His involvement with the CFL isn't coming to an end, either. Hage has been involved with the CFLPA as a player rep since 2007, and was recently re-elected as a CFLPA vice-president, a role he's held since 2010. He'll be an key figure in the ongoing CBA talks (further talks were held this weekend, with another round set for May). He's also planning to continue his Hage's Heroes efforts for food and toy drives, as well as bringing kids to Tiger-Cats' games.

    Read More »from Marwan Hage announces his retirement, which takes away a veteran leader from the Redblacks
  • Chad Johnson has been training with Cris Carter, will work out for Alouettes in Florida

    Former Miami Dolphin Chad Johnson will work out for the Alouettes in Florida.Get your "Huit-cinq" or "Quatre-vingt-cinq" (depending on whether you prefer a literal "eight-five" or an actual "eighty-five") jerseys ready; the chances of Chad Johnson (previously Chad Ochocinco) coming to the CFL's Montreal Alouettes have risen substantially. Johnson initially expressed interest in joining the B.C. Lions last month, but GM Wally Buono shot that idea down; Montreal general manager Jim Popp then added Johnson to the Alouettes' negotiation list. Things have progressed since then, with Popp saying Saturday that Johnson will work out for the team (which is holding open tryouts in Vero Beach, Florida) this week:

    "We do expect to meet with Chad Johnson and work him out in Vero Beach, Fla., this week," Popp said. "Talks did take place and have escalated over the last week."

    Johnson played 11 seasons in the NFL, the first 10 with Cincinnati. He last played in 2011 with New England, when he had 15 catches for 276 yards.

    The 36-year-old Los Angeles native confirmed on Twitter late Friday that he was planning to attend a mini-camp Tuesday for some on-field work.

    Most interestingly, CBS' Jason LaCanfora issued a series of tweets Saturday afternoon about Johnson's chances and how he's been working with Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter, a current ESPN analyst and father of Als' receiver Duron Carter:

    There are some valuable points there from LaCanfora, and they illustrate how the Alouettes may view Johnson. They're likely not expecting him to be the deep burner he was early in his career, but possibly more of a veteran route-runner and a guy who can make crucial catches. There could be an opening there, as the team released fellow 36-year-old veteran Arland Bruce earlier this year following his homophobic comments on Twitter. While the Als have plenty of other proven and promising receivers, including Carter, S.J. Green, Jamel Richardson and Brandon London, Bruce caught 64 balls for 851 yards (fifteenth in the CFL) last season, so there could be some passes up for grabs now that he's gone. The news that Johnson's working out with Carter and that the Alouettes have received reports on where he's at is also interesting; this won't be just a blind look or an attention-grabbing stunt from Johnson, but a serious evaluation from the team.

    Read More »from Chad Johnson has been training with Cris Carter, will work out for Alouettes in Florida
  • Alex Hall signs with NFL’s Carolina Panthers, adding to Saskatchewan’s losses

    Riders' DE Alex Hall is off to the NFL's Carolina Panthers.The NFL's Carolina Panthers have ventured north of the border again, announcing Friday that they've signed defensive end Alex Hall. Hall spent the last two seasons in the CFL, playing first with Winnipeg, then with Saskatchewan following a mid-season trade last year, and the 16 sacks he accumulated in 2013 was the league's second-highest total. While he was more productive with the Blue Bombers than the Roughriders (15 of his sacks came before the October trade) during the regular season, he rounded into form in the playoffs, generating plenty of pressure and recovering a crucial fumble in the Grey Cup. The NFL will be an adjustment for him, but he has great pass-rushing skills and could potentially be a big addition for the Panthers. He'll definitely be a substantial loss for the Roughriders and the CFL.

    Hall is the third player Saskatchewan's lost to the NFL this offseason, following the departures of running back Kory Sheets (for the Oakland Raiders) and slotback Weston Dressler (for the Kansas City Chiefs). That's substantial attrition to say the least, and that's before you discuss how many Roughriders' players have left for other CFL teams. Of course, this departure wasn't completely unexpected; Hall was a CFL free agent (the main reason why the rebuilding Bombers traded him in the middle of the season), so it's quite possible he might have left Saskatchewan even without interest from the NFL. Still, the NFL is certainly taking a toll on the Riders at the moment.

    Read More »from Alex Hall signs with NFL’s Carolina Panthers, adding to Saskatchewan’s losses

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