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Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Trevor Harris (7) celebrates a touchdown with receiver Greg Ellingson (82) against the B.C. Lions during a CFL football game at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, on Friday, June 21, 2019.
Eskimos head coach Jason Maas speaks to the media after their season ended in the Eastern Finals Sunday losing to Hamilton in Edmonton, November 18, 2019.
Brock Sunderland wasn’t interested in the mathematics when it comes to how many free agents the Edmonton Eskimos have entering the off-season.
The Edmonton Eskimos general manager just knows things will look a little different by the time training camp rolls around again in the spring.
“I don’t know the number off the top my head,” said the GM who reached his second divisional final since being hired in 2017. “The reality is in today’s CFL world, and all these one-year contracts is all nine teams are going to have a lot of turnover where they want to or not, that’s the reality of it. So is it going to be identical? No. Are we going to do everything we can to keep the key cogs in place? Yes.”
While the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers were preparing at the beginning of the week for one last road trip to close out the 2019 Canadian Football League season with the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary, the Eskimos spent Monday clearing out their lockers at Commonwealth Stadium.
For the third time in four seasons, they ended up one game shy of the championship final.
Some left knowing they’d be back. Some knew they wouldn’t. And some just weren’t at all sure.
“I haven’t signed anything yet,” said Eskimos defensive tackle Mike Moore, who came into his own this season with a team-leading nine sacks on the way to his first West Division all-star honour.
But Moore quickly added he’s spending the off-season in the city and training at the Commonwealth Stadium facilities, which he said could play a part in determining where he signs next season.
“Everyone that we think is a good player, we’re going to try to get back,” said Sunderland, who won the day in free agency last year with some big hauls, despite losing franchise quarterback Mike Reilly. “I’ve had some initial discussions with a couple players and, not detailed numbers, but yes, some exchanges of: ‘Hey, we want you here. Do you want to be here?’ They’d say, yes.
“Or vice-versa, some players have approached me and said, ‘Hey, I really want to be here, where are we at?’ So those discussions have started and they’re going to pick up here now the season’s over, pretty quickly”
Sunderland said the Eskimos will be under the league-wide salary cap for 2019, despite landing big free-agent fish such as quarterback Trevor Harris, receivers Greg Ellingson and DaVaris Daniels, offensive tackle SirVincent Rogers and cornerback Anthony Orange, not to mention a linebacking corps comprised of Larry Dean, Don Unamba and Jovan Santos-Knox — a trio who all signed one-year contracts.
Earlier this week, the Eskimos signed a handful of practice-squad players to futures contracts, including defensive tackle Jake Ceresna and quarterback Jeremian Briscoe, a two-time Walter Payton award winner out of Sam Houston State.
“Yeah, we have a little bit of space. We don’t have space to probably get like a Mike Moore, so to speak, but yeah, we’re projected to be under and we’re going to try to use that money wisely here,” Sunderland said of the leftover cap space from this calendar year that can be applied going forward.
And that news might come as a bit of a shock to any pigskin prognosticators who determined after their free-agent shopping spree, the Eskimos would be well over the salary cap this season.
“Yeah, it’s amazing how many cap-ologists are out there, isn’t it? That know where we are to the penny, or the loonie?” Sunderland chided. “It was a challenge. It’s unfortunate when you have some major key cogs injured. The offset is as it creates cap space. So, you know, a little bit of life of dualities there.”
It was a labour of love for head coach Jason Maas getting the current roster as close-knit as it was, only to see pieces break off in the next three months.
“It’s too early to say but I know what we’ve established in that locker-room, that closeness, that tightness, that camaraderie, that team feel throughout our whole organization is there,” said Maas, who may or may be back, himself. “So I know what to expect is that to show back up. Faces change every year, that’s just the nature of pro football.
“But the type of people we want here will continue to be as what it was in that locker-room this year.”
NO CHRISTMAS LIST
With Christmas just one month away, any Canadian Football League head coaches not involved in Sunday’s Grey Cup certainly can’t be faulted for writing a wish list of players to keep heading into next year.
Or naughty players to get rid of, or someone off another team that would be nice to bring in.
“I don’t like to think about it that way,” said Edmonton Eskimos head coach Jason Maas. “I mean, our team is our team. I don’t like to think of any individuals, particularly right now
“There’s a time and a place to go into that. There’s guys that are under contracts, the other guys are going to be free agents and some other guys are just going to leave, regardless, for better opportunities.
“There’s needs on our team and all those things. But right now, I don’t think is the time to be thinking about any one player. I’m thinking more about our whole team and our whole organization going forward.”
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019