This year, the fact that free agency in the CFL opened at noon Eastern instead of midnight, combined with some interesting names on the list, led most to believe that there would be a frenzy of activity out of the gate.
Canadian offensive linemen and receivers are valuable commodities in the CFL and with names like Brendan LaBatte from Winnipeg and Andy Fantuz from Saskatchewan at the top of the list, there were much higher expectations than years past. However, free agency is much different than a trade deadline. With free agency, contract offers are sent out and and within reason, there are no strict time limits placed on the players to sign by a certain time or the contract will be pulled.
Top players will have multiple deals in front of them and will essentially be able to weigh their options, talk to their families and in most cases, sleep on it before making a final decision. Not exactly an environment that would create a frenzy of activity and Wednesday was proof of that.
This year's league changes and big names did, however, make for interesting discussion and chats on many different social media platforms. I stopped counting the questions and comments on my personal twitter account at around one hundred and thought that the best way to address some of the questions was to answer them in a blog like this.
So here are some thoughts on a few questions asked on Wednesday. I intentionally avoided specific player questions because that news may change by the time you read this.
1. How long does a team leave an offer on the table, especially top players?
As mentioned earlier, within reason, there really aren't strict time limits put on players. It goes without saying that teams should be organized enough with regards to their budgets that they are ok if all offers handed out are accepted, although eventually teams will have to make tough cap decisions. For instance, if one team has signed upper-end contracts they may have to rethink making the next one. But once offers are out there, it is bad form to pull one.
2. Should what is accomplished or not accomplished during free agency make or break a general manager?
Football in general is a little different with regards to free agency than other sports due to the fact that it is such a team game with so many puzzle pieces to put together. Unlike hockey where a guy like Rick Nash could push a team over the top, in football unless there is a big name quarterback on the free agent list, one player picked up in FA cannot single-handedly take a team to the next level. Due to the size of the rosters and the diversity of athletes needed, it takes a combination of some key veteran free agents combined with a solid Canadian College draft and the signing of some future stars dug up from a serious of off-season tryouts to make a difference on a football team in one year.
3. With Brendon LaBatte rumored to become the highest paid offensive lineman in the league (not confirmed), was the price to high for a guard in that tackles have historically been the highest paid lineman on the field?
In the short term, no. As a 25-year-old Canadian offensive lineman who has been an all-star, it is not surprising that LaBatte got some real good offers. It may, however, make things difficult down the road if, for instance, a rookie tackle playing beside him next year has a great season and then walks in to the GM's office with contract in hand looking for a bump up when comparing his salary at tackle to LaBatte's at guard. But I guess one could also look at it in another way, like how many of us look at that big purchase that we really want and put it on our credit cards, thinking that we will worry about paying it off somewhere down the road.
There were many of questions about individual players which will be answered by team announcements over the next day or two, but thanks for the discussion and questions on Free Agent Wednesday in the CFL.