With Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive end John Chick recently signing with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, and the future of Riders' defensive end Stevie Baggs up in the air, the pressure may be off in Riderville next season.
The Riders were quite successful in putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season. Much of this success was thanks to Chick and Baggs. Chick was a dominating presence on the line, finishing with 11 sacks on the season and constantly demanding double teams, while Baggs flew around the field making tackles and finished the year tied for the league lead in sacks with 12.
Trying to replace the combined 23 sacks of Chick and Baggs could be quite the ordeal for the Riders management, especially when no other player on the Riders’ roster even had five sacks. Linebacker Sean Lucas was third on the Riders with four sacks.
But all is not lost in Riderville.
There is always the chance that Chick will not stick with the Colts, and perhaps join the Riders near midseason. Though, based on Chick’s three-year contract with the Colts, it seems the Colts are committed to him.
Baggs, on the other hand, still could reach a deal with the Riders. Unfortunately for the Riders, this seems less likely than Chick coming back in the near future. It has been reported that Baggs will be looking to “cash in” during the free agency period, and the Riders have 16 potential free agents to sign.
So, what can the Riders do to ensure pressure on the opposing quarterback next season?
The team could of course look to fix the problem internally. Kitwana Jones, who joined the team during the season after being traded to the Eskimos in the offseason, has played defensive end for the Riders before. In 2008, when Jones was converted from a linebacker to a defensive end, he had five sacks on the season.
The Riders also have defensive end Joe Sykes, who was heavily touted coming into the '09 campaign but never had much playing time.
Seeing as the internal options do not look very pleasing, the Riders could look to trade for a defensive end.
There have been some Rider fans voicing for former Rider Fred Perry to be brought back. Perry, who currently is under contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, was a fan favorite during his time in Riderville. In his three seasons with the club, Perry averaged 11 sacks a season and was loved by the fans for his hustle play.
Since leaving the Riders, however, Perry has not been nearly as effective which could make management hesitant to bring him back.
If nothing else, the Riders can look to free agency where there are a few appealing free agent defensive ends on the market.
One would be Montreal Alouettes defensive end John Bowman. Bowman had 12 sacks last season and appears to be entering his prime. Ricky Foley of the British Columbia Lions, who also had 12 sacks, would be a solid pickup. Calgary’s Charleston Hughes, and Toronto’s Jonathan Brown have also proven to be solid pass rushers in their career.
So, while it seems the Riders are in dire need of some defensive ends, there are a few routes they can take to continue applying the pressure.