The Saskatchewan Roughriders and new head coach Corey Mace will spend the next week preparing to sell free agents on their vision for the team.
The window to communicate with CFL free agents opens Sunday and runs until Feb. 11. Over the seven-day period, teams can negotiate with free agents. A 48-hour time period will follow that allows teams to speak to their own free agents.
Free agency officially begins on Feb. 13 at 11 a.m.
Roughriders general manager Jeremy O'Day spoke with media in Regina on Thursday about the team's stance heading into free agency.
"We're still going to attack it like we do every year and spend to the cap. Hopefully those decisions that we make are good. [We] have a priority of guys that we want to talk to once the window opens and attack them in a certain way," he said.
O'Day said the club hopes "the feeling is mutual."
He also noted that Mace is playing an important role in the free agency process.
"He's very involved. It's something that I believe in. It's not just one person deciding on what the team's going to look like. It's more of a collaborative effort than just me just telling them 'this is who you got to work with,'" O'Day said.
Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Shawn Bane Jr. inked a new two-year deal with the club this off-season. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press)
The Riders head into the legal tampering period with 13 of their players re-signed, and another 17 set to hit the open market.
The returning players include:
Mario Alford (KR)
Shawn Bane Jr. (WR)
Logan Ferland (OL)
Anthony Lanier II (DL)
Brett Lauther (K)
C.J. Reavis (DB)
The Riders made a choice at backup quarterback, re-signing Mason Fine to a two-year deal on Jan. 23. Fine and Jake Dolegala split time filling in for injured starter Trevor Harris last season. Fine got the first chance to replace Harris and when he was injured, Dolegala came in to start.
Dolegala posted a 2-7 record as the starter. Fine won one game as starter, a 26-24 victory over Ottawa.
"We spent a lot of time going through and evaluating which quarterback would be a better fit for for us moving forward. And so we're excited when we came to our decision, and Mason is super excited to be back," O'Day said Thursday.
O'Day said fit in new offensive co-ordinator Marc Mueller's offence was a key factor in the decision to bring back Fine and let Dolegala hit free agency.
The Riders have Harris, Fine, Shea Patterson, and Antonio Pipkin under contract at quarterback heading into training camp.
Some of last year's starters that have not been re-signed by the green and white include:
Larry Dean (LB)
Evan Johnson (OL)
Micah Johnson (DL)
Jamal Morrow (RB)
O'Day said there was "nothing imminent" on Morrow and it appears he will head to free agency.
Running back Jamal Morrow is an impending free agent, who the Saskatchewan Roughriders may look to re-sign. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press)
As for areas the Riders could be targeting, O'Day did not show his cards but said if you look at where the team has re-signed players and where holes from unsigned starters exist you can find some clues.
This would signal a focus around running back, offensive tackle, defensive line and in the linebacking corps, where Dean and Micah Teitz are unsigned.
CFL Insider looks at Riders priorities
If there is a position that will play a major role in free agency, running back appears to be the place where teams across the league could hone in on.
Reigning CFL Most Outstanding Canadian Brady Oliveira of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is the biggest name on the list. Morrow, Montreal Alouettes starter William Stanback and Toronto Argonauts rusher A.J Ouellette are other familiar names who may be looking for new teams.
Justin Dunk, a writer for CFL website 3downnation.com and Sportsnet contributor, said the running back market is the place to watch over the next two weeks.
"I think running back group is the group of the 2024 free agency class and there is going to be a number of high-calibre guys that at least get to the negotiating window."
Running back Brady Oliveira, who has played his entire career with his hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers, could be a target of the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the CFL's legal tampering period, according to Justin Dunk. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press)
Dunk said he expects the Riders to talk to and see what it might cost to lure Winnipeg product Oliveira to Riderville.
When it comes to priorities, Dunk said offensive line is also a position the Riders may try and make a splash.
"The Riders, from what I've been told, are going to be willing to spend, potentially upgrade that unit if indeed some of their targets do get to the negotiating window," Dunk said.
Mace could also target players on the defensive side of the ball that he coached in Calgary and Toronto, according to Dunk.
Two names Dunk says to watch are Hamilton linebacker Jameer Thurman, who played for Mace in Calgary and Toronto DB Jamal Peters
"Peters would really fit on the weak side there. He's a guy that can be a lockdown guy and has that relationship with Mace from Toronto."
He fully expects the Riders will, as O'Day noted, spend up to the salary cap.