By The Man on the Inside
It’s that time of year again. Free Agency. It only comes around in the SFL twice a year, but when it does, the league turns into a buzzing hive of activity. Rumours constantly circle around the community as GM’s and owners finalize their plans for the upcoming season. As a writer and ‘inside man’, it’s the most exciting time of the season. I thrive off speculation, turning it into an interesting story, creating new narratives and promoting excited discussion amongst the community. The Rumour Mill is turning and ready to go. Let’s see what it has produced.
Carolina to continue to shore up their secondary?
Last season, the Skyhawks focused their defence heavily on the front seven, carrying 4 contracted defensive linemen and a solid linebacking partnership in Phil Hall and Shravan Prassad. The secondary was made up of two non-contract corners and safeties Trystan Hatley and Sir Chappell. The quality of Hatley and Chappell is best illustrated by the fact that Carolina had a middle-of-the-road passing defense, without any star corner backs. Losing those two deep men was a huge blow for the Skyhawks management to deal with this off-season, aswell as second-year defensive end Julius Williams heading to Tallahassee in a purely scouting role.
Well, James Cline and his staff haven’t been idle. They appear to have worked quickly to bolster their defence, firstly convincing one of the league’s top rated rookies, Jonny Savage, to forego the entry draft and sign as a defensive co-ordinator (Savage’s defensive talents were on show in last week’s Pro Bowl) and recently they brought back underrated free safety Blake Chance from the Houston Hyenas. Chance has returned to his rookie franchise after spending a couple of years in Houston’s colours. So where do they go from here?
The strong rumours floating around are that the Skyhawks will transition to a defence designed to stop the pass through its strong secondary, rather than through its pass rush. I can see Carolina filling their vacant safety spot with an experienced campaigner – maybe Marquis Reid – although the market isn’t really there for that. There is also a thin selection of inexperienced yet talented corners to replace the non-contracted ones of Season 11. Dean Maddox and Nello Barber are interesting players, although the standout of the bunch has to be Oskar Dunklee.
Can Carolina’s new look defence attract one of these free agents, or will they have to retool through the draft?
Anyone call for an experienced linebacker?
This season’s linebacker free agency class is top drawer. Most of the ‘backers on this list have every positive trait you could want a player in that position to have. Most important of all, they have experience. A seasoned linebacker is often the glue that keeps a league leading defence together. Just look at the best defenses from around the SFL. Alaska – DJ Majesty and Andrew Francis; Mexico City – Jack Brown; Vancouver – Frank Champion. I fully expect all of these to find a home that needs them. The fun part is, predicting where they will land.
The aforementioned DJ Majesty had a solid season at the Storm after moving on from Houston. Entering his 4th season, Majesty will want more silverware to put in his trophy case. Maybe he’ll hop over to Carolina to work with a defensive co-ordinator who looks to be a ‘Max Paul protegé’. Or has former Skyhawk Avry King beaten him to the position?
We then hit a run of 3rd year linebackers all looking for a new home. Day Drewery is testing free agency after spending 2 seasons being a tackling machine for the Renegades. A good coverage ‘backer to boot, Drewery may find himself in the locker room of a team looking for a well-rounded player, such as the Law Vegas Fury. Speaking of Vegas, their former man in the middle, Levant Irvine, is on the market and ready to fit into an active locker room. Great in pass coverage, Irvine will be a ‘get’ for any SFL franchise. Could the Denver Nightwings gamble on him? Or will they head in Ray West’s direction? West formed a high performing partnership with EK Vinson in Dallas last season, showing why he is an excellent fit for a team looking to run two contracted linebackers. Word may have surfaced that the Knights are after a partner for Slinn Shady. West could be the perfect companion.
Very quickly, let’s not forget youngster (and Pro Bowler) Blake Craize. Craize has left Indianapolis after a stellar first season under James Richards and looks to secure a good contract elsewhere. Who will win the bidding war for Craize?
Could Alaska be giving ‘Big Sexy’ a partner in crime?
For multiple seasons now, Alex Dominguez has been the most dominant force on the defensive side of the ball this side of the sun. His impact spans galaxies. Strong rumour has hit that the Storm are looking to add to that firepower and make Dominguez even more effective.
After the departure of DJ Majesty and the transition of Andrew Francis to safety, it appears the Storm are moving away from their classic defense, carrying two contracted linebackers. That leaves one roster spot open on the defensive line (providing they draft a kicker at #21). After a quick glance, it doesn’t take long to see that the market is strong. Former Carolina defensive end Jon Gregory and Oklahoma City man Zigg Washington aren’t bad second year players, but the real stand outs are Kevin Bane and Abner St. John.
St. John was a definitive star during a disappointing San Francisco season, and is looking to move elsewhere for playoff success and to build on a great second season in the league. Kevin Bane was the forgotten man at Tallahassee, and didn’t get the credit and exposure his play deserves. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Bane went for glory and joined up with Dominguez. That would be a terrifying prospect to face. The big question now is, will St. John or Bane look good in an electric blue, Alaska Storm jersey?
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