It hasn't been a quiet off-season in the CFL by any means, but it will pick up this week as free agency hits. Will Andy Fantuz stay a Rider? If he does go, will be end up in Toronto, Hamilton or Edmonton? Could another team come out of nowhere to land his services. I have no idea what direction GM Brendan Taman is leaning when it comes to what players he would like to see wearing green, but here's who would be on my list.
NOTE: Current Rider players are not on this list. (ie: Fantuz, Foord, Koch)
1. BRENDON LABATTE
The Weyburn product and the University of Regina Rams alumni would look great wearing Rider colours. He would definitely inject some youth and some talent into an o-line that I will argue was the team's weakest point last season. It will take some dollars to get him away from Winnipeg, but if for some reason the Riders lose out in the Fantuz sweepstakes, this is a nice consolation prize and some wouldn't even consider it as a consolation prize.
2. ROD DAVIS
With Jerrell Freeman, Sean Lucas and Barrin Simpson no longer in the equation, the Riders have a deep hole at linebacker to fill. Mo Lloyd is a question mark as I don't know if he can be the impact player he used to be. Chris Graham showed signs that he could be a CFL'er and Mike McCullough is a dependable back-up, but this team still needs some help at linebacker and Davis could be the answer. The soon to be 32 year old has spent his entire CFL career in Edmonton and last season was his best when he registered 79 tackles and had 5 sacks. At 6-2, 240, I think Davis isn't big enough to be a rush end, but you never know.
3. WILLIE PILE
Willie Pile is a beast. The guy hits like a tonne (just ask Darian Durant) and he would look great in green. While Pile is a defensive back, I could see him having a Tad Kornegay like role and move into a linebacker spot. He's quick enough to cover running backs coming out of the backfield and as I said, he hits to hurt. You can never have enough guys like him on your defence.
4. ALEX BRINK
The Riders need a backup QB with some experience. Brink isn't exactly the guy that fits that mold, but he saw a lot of playing time in Winnipeg last year and he didn't disappoint. The football team takes a huge gamble if Cole Bergquist comes in as the number two quarterback and right now unless a trade is made, Brink is the only guy out there. At best, Brink would be competing for number 2 in Winnipeg if he stayed with the Bombers while in Saskatchewan, he would be firmly entrenched as the number 2 guy.
5. RYAN PHILLIPS
I am guessing Darian Durant would pick Ryan Phillips up from the airport and be the happiest guy in town if the BC defensive back moved from the West Coast to the Prairies. Rider fans know that Phillips can be Darian's favourite receiver when the Riders and Lions play as he has numerous interceptions off the Rider quarterback. The old adage is if you can't beat him, join him. Phillips would be a nice upgrade in the Rider secondary and Darian wouldn't have to worry about him stealing his passes.
That's my top 5. Yeah, there are guys out there like Scott Flory, Kevin Eiben, Calvin McCarty and Dominic Picard out there who I'm sure will generate interest, but those are the top 5 for me. As always, comments are welcome.