The late stages of Free Agency came and went in most CFL cities without much news. It's the time of the football season where nothing sensational ever happens and even the splashes that made headlines at the beginning of free agency have faded into recent history.
Leave it to Las Vegas GM TurfToe to generate noise to disturb the peace.
During late free agency, Vegas starting QB Pat Springer announced his hold out for the 2041 season. The following week, Springer found himself atop the pile of veteran CFL QB's looking for a new opportunity.
"Well, yeah, of course I was surprised when I got the call from TurfToe", said a dejected Pat Springer by conference call on Wednesday.
"I mean, he was calm relative to his normal schtick, but when he said he enjoyed our time together and wished me luck down the road - my jaw just hit the floor. It really stung when he told me 2040 was possibly my best year with the club and he thought I had what it took to win a CFL title in Vegas. It stung because he was up front and sincere only to follow it with news that left me breathless for a while. I had to take a few minutes to make sense of it all before I called my agent. I wasn't sure I wanted to do it [hold out] but it was supposedly in my best interest. I'm at a loss right now."
TurfToe was surprisingly available for comment Thursday morning. TurfToe had this to say, "The CFL is business, big business. I have a roster to put together for my coaching staff and the last distraction I need is for my leader, my fucking starting QB, to hold out and put himself before the team. Springer fit the plan here in Vegas but his actions, whether on his own accord or through his agent's hand up his ass working him like a puppet, indicate he thinks he is more important than the team. I've held players to different standards in the past and it did not contribute to the success of this team. I believe I have sent a clear message to our team and the CFL community. If you want to be part of the team in Vegas, you are either all-in or all-out, this is not a part-time deal. I loved that kid but I had no choice but to support my team. In return, I'm asking the team to support whoever it is that replaces Springer and we move forward as one team with one simple mission. Period. End of fucking sentence. End of fucking lesson."
When asked about 9-year CB, Donald Neu who is also holding out, TurfToe quickly added, "He got the message. If he didn't, we know he cheated on that Solecismic test."
When asked why Springer was cut immediately and Neu was still officially under contract, TurfToe quipped, "Look, they don't hand out a rubber stamp that says 'Cut' that I can go around stamping on contracts. There's a process and for every process there's too much damned paperwork. We'll take care of Donny in due time. Next you'll be telling me they have a 'Fine' button I can click any time I want to fine a player or coach. I'd have carpal tunnel syndrome in no time."
This leaves the Ring of Fire champions without a starting QB. Will a hard-line approach on contracts help team morale or is the Vegas franchise shooting itself in the foot in the middle of stringing successful seasons together?
Atlantic City finished the 2039 season at 6-10, their worst record since 2036. The offense had a 1,300+ yard rusher but the passing game was one of the worst in the league. The defense was again strong but lost quite a few secondary players in the off-season. With five picks in the draft (1-12, 2-11, 5-8, 6-12 and 7-11) the question was would ACI be active on the trade market to bring in some veterans or try to plug holes via draft picks.
First Round - 1-12
DT- Houston - 6' 3" - 305 lbs
1st Round. Pick #1-12. #12 Overall
Pre-Draft Grade: 6.60
Pre-Draft Adjusted Grade: 6.60
Key Combine Scores: Solecismic 29, 40 Time 4.96, Bench Reps 32, Agility 7.46
For the second straight year, ACI held pick 1-12. The slot worked out well in 2040 as RB Jeffrey Emack looks like an excellent back for years to come. This pick came down to Scancella, DE George Barrett or T Mitchell Southrey. ACI needs a LT but Southrey appeared to be more of a RT. Barrett was rated slightly higher than Scancella but the Phantoms have not had a lot of luck drafting DE's lately so the decision was made to go with the DT.
Second Round - 2-11
TRADE - 2041 2-11, 5-8 and 2042 #1 sent to Albany for DT Brendan Maloney and 4-7
DT Brendan Maloney - 6-2 - 282 lbs
Actuals - 78/78
Just minutes before their second round selection, ACI completed a deal with Albany to bring in one of the best young defensive lineman in the CFL. The price was steep (although a lot will depend on what the future #1 turns out to be) but rewards could be huge. With two new DT's, this might be a precursor to a move to a 4-3 defense.
Fourth Round - 4-7 (Acquired from Albany)
TRADE - 2041 4-7 and 2042 #5 to Omaha for SE Malik Burnside
WR Malik Burnside - 6-1, 214 lbs
Actuals - 32/37
ACI needed help at WR in a huge way and the options in the draft (and risk) made getting a known commodity the best route to take. Burnside has some upside as a receiver but also fills a huge need as a punt and kickoff returner.
Fourth Round - 4-9
TRADE - 2041 4-9 to Tulsa for LB Billy Joe Butler
LB Billy Joe Butler - 6' 1", 231 lbs
Butler is a young (4th year) and talented linebacker who can provide coverage for Dominic Castillo or Corey Fisher. Quality depth was one concern for ACI entering the off-season and the acquisition of Butler was a no brainer for the front office.
Fifth Round - 5-8 (Part of the Albany trade)
Sixth Round - 6-12
OLB - Ashland - 5' 11" - 231 lbs
6th Round. Pick #6-12. #172 Overall
Pre-Draft Grade: 4.40
Pre-Draft Adjusted Grade: 4.40
Key Combine Scores: 40 Time 4.63, Agility 7.12
Carrere comes from a DII program and is trying to make the leap to the CFL. At Ashland, he was a first team DII All-American selection who is considered a tweener with great athletic ability but may lack a position. The Phantoms drafted him purely due to the athletic ability and see him as an excellent pass rusher. That would be great if ACI stayed with the 3-4, but if they move to a 4-3 then where does Carrere play?
Seventh Round - 7-11
CB - Boston College- 6' 3" - 187 lbs
7th Round. Pick #7-11. #203 Overall
Pre-Draft Grade: 4.60
Pre-Draft Adjusted Grade: 4.60
Key Combine Scores: Solecismic 26, 40 Time 4.46
Painter is another athlete who is searching for a position. At 6' 3" he is a tall corner but is very light at 187 pounds. A switch to Safety might be an option if he can bulk up or he could be a gunner on special teams. Either way, he was worth a shot in the 7th round.
1.8 Taylor Walker, T, 6-1, 307 lbs. Kentucky
Walker generated a ton of late-season buzz, and he put an exclamation point on it by a dominating performance during the East-West shrine game. He illustrated his tremendous skill set as he was rock solid and pass protection and moved defenders in the ground game. Despite being (only) 6-1, Walker has a 6-5 wingspan and a rare combination of strenght, quickness and athleticism.
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