December 17, 2010
Welcome to Secondhand Eight, 55-Yard Line's regular roundup of the top CFL stories from around the web! This week's edition starts in Montreal, where they've gone from thinking about free agents and potentially departing head coaches to quarterback surgeries and potentially departing coordinators...
Montreal: There's good news on the Alouettes' front this week, with quarterback Anthony Calvillo's surgery to remove a potentially cancerous throat lesion reportedly going well. However, it's far from certain that Calvillo (pictured at right with head coach Marc Trestman) will in fact return to the Alouettes this coming season; his recovery has just begun, results on exactly what was wrong with him haven't come out yet and he doesn't currently have a contract.
Calvillo may be 38, but he proved this year that he's still one of the best players in the league (even if he lost the Most Outstanding Player title to Henry Burris), and it would seem highly unlikely that the Alouettes wouldn't do everything in their power to keep him (given that Adrian McPherson, Chris Leak and Ricky Santos aren't exactly the most proven backups). A lot may depend on how long Calvillo wants to keep playing for, though. It looks like the Alouettes might have to find a new offensive coordinator as well, as Herb Zurkowsky reports that Scott Milanovich is a candidate for the head-coaching job in Regina.
Toronto: The Argonauts are facing potential departures of their own, with reigning special teams player of the year Chad Owens apparently deciding to test the NFL waters. It isn't a sure thing that he'll head south, as Owens still seems quite open to the prospect of playing in Toronto again next year and the CFL-to-NFL transition goes quite poorly in the majority of cases. There's also the spectre of labour doom hanging over the 2011 NFL season, so CFL players may be more tempted to remain north of the border than in previous years. Still, with all that said, the NFL quite often has the money to make players offers they can't refuse. We'll see if that's the case in the Owens situation or not.
Hamilton: There's apparently next-to-nothing happening on the Tiger-Cats' front, but there may be some intriguing stories there in weeks to come. The most interesting potential free agent they have might be Canadian receiver and former Regina Ram Chris Bauman. Dave Naylor writes that Bauman "had the best stretch of his career during the final few week of the 2010 season and will look to cash in". Hamilton's got a pretty deep receiving corps, so they may have to make some tough decisions on just how hard they'll pursue Bauman. There's also still a lot of uncertainty around their stadium proposal. In other Tiger-Cats' news, former offensive coordinator Mike Gibson has been hired as the Stampeders' new running back coach; he should provide some veteran experience on Dave Dickenson's offensive staff.
Winnipeg: The big Blue Bombers news is that they finally have a stadium deal in place. Other than that, Kirk Penton has a nice piece on Shawn Gallant retiring to join the Winnipeg police. There isn't much other news on their roster front, but linebackers Joe Lobendahn and Obby Khan are going to be crucial free-agency names to watch. They're also going to have to find a new defensive coordinator to replace new Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed, who Doug Brown has high praise for.
Saskatchewan: The Roughriders' coaching search continues, but GM Brendan Taman says they're "getting there". Milanovich is an intriguing addition to that mix, and one who's had more recent success than any of the other prominent candidates; Doug Berry's offence struggled down the stretch, Richie Hall just got fired and Greg Marshall's Hamilton defence was good but not great. By contrast, Milanovich's offence has taken the Alouettes to three straight Grey Cups and won the last two. It's impossible to separate how much of that is him, how much is Marc Trestman and how much is Anthony Calvillo, and we don't know how he'd do as a head coach, but that's still a pretty good resume.Whoever inherits the Riders' job won't have all rainbows and sunshine to deal with, though, as they could lose some top talent to free agency and the NFL, including Andy Fantuz.
Calgary: The Stampeders may have lost running backs coach Rick Campbell to Edmonton, but Mike Gibson is a pretty solid replacement. He presided over a good Hamilton offence this year and should add to the mix of great offensive minds in Calgary. Apart from his hire, it seems things are pretty much steady-as-she-goes on the Calgary front for now, but they have locked up Juwan Simpson, Brandon Smith and Keon Raymond. The interesting free agency situation to follow there is with all-star cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Dwight Anderson.
Edmonton: There have been plenty of moves on the Eskimos' front, most noticeably with the hirings of Marcus Crandell as offensive coordinator and Steff Kruck as receivers coach. Crandell hasn't been an OC before, but did solid work as Saskatchewan's quarterbacks coach these past couple of seasons. Kruck's spent five years with B.C., most recently as their quarterbacks coach, but he also served as co-offensive coordinator with Dan Dorazio for a time. The Eskimos are also keeping Mark Nelson on as linebackers coach. The team made more changes on the personnel front this week, releasing Jason Goss, Kerry Joseph, Derick Armstrong, Skyler Green and Randy Drew.
B.C.: There isn't too much happening out on the West Coast, but Mike Beamish has an interesting note; National Football Post draft guru Wes Bunting is quite high on the NFL prospects of Baylor offensive tackle Danny Watkins, who B.C. selected fourth overall in last year's CFL draft. (Differences in draft eligibility procedures are why Watkins is eligible for this year's NFL draft but last year's CFL draft). If he winds up getting drafted or signed as an undrafted free agent, the Lions may not be able to count on him for offensive line help next year. They could be players in the CFL free agency market, though, as they only have two potential free agents of their own; Jarious Jackson is expected to be brought back, while Tad Crawford may test the free agency waters.