"Reid Between The Lines" represents the London Bulldogs' continued efforts to connect with the RFL community. This series looks to inform the reader on the latest news surrounding the Bulldogs. You'll get opinions directly from Coach Reid, and dive deeper into the team's moves than you ever have before.
In our second issue of "Reid Between The Lines" we'll be diving further into the offseason of the London Bulldogs, as we take a look at the moves leading up to the draft.
Offseason Free Agency Continued
We knew we couldn't stop with just Duke Pascal and Jae Morris. The Bulldogs were in need of depth, as well as starters, at many positions. We had a lot of cap to spend, and we planned to do just that. Though not attractive, we made the following signings:
We started off by bringing back 34-year-old LE Sherman Fluker on a 1-year $2.01M contract. We were waiting until the offseason to see how age would affect the veteran pass rusher, and it was fairly kind to the man. Fluker only dropped to a 73 overall star, and retained most of his pass rushing prowess. He managed 7.5 sacks in 13 games played for the Bulldogs during Season 6, which was enough for second place on the team. We knew we needed to bring in veteran pass rushers, and this was a good start.
We also brought in RE Rich Barnett, who managed 4 sacks, 29 tackles, and 8 tackles for loss in a backup role on the Miners this season. The 78 overall, normal development, power rusher with 89 power moves joins the team on an inexpensive $3.63M deal. Why he was left available to free agency is beyond me, but the Bulldogs are extremely happy to have him.
When looking at the incoming draft class, it's important to note that we didn't see a ton of value at the edge rusher, or interior defensive line positions outside of Jermaine Taylor. Since we had been allocated pick 5 in the draft, we needed to make sure we bolstered the position group just in case we couldn't get the guy we valued on the D-Line.
With that in mind, we added a familiar name in RE/DT Gordon Levcik. Admittedly it was a mistake for the Bulldogs to not utilize Levcik during Season 6, especially following an impressive preseason performance. I figured the 6'3 308 pound defensive lineman was just bullying backups, but in reality his very solid, balanced skillset may have been worth taking a longer look at. The 30-year-old 76 overall comes back to the team with an eye for solidifying the interior, and he was given a $1.66M deal.
We then added a prospect in RE Kevin Studebaker, who could serve as a project player in the case of emergency. The 68 overall Star RE was acquired on a 1-year prove-it $750K contract.
On the offensive side of the ball, we chose to acquire an offensive lineman who might better fit our plans to run the ball in Season 7. RT Travis Waddle was signed and moved to RG as he has a good balance of run blocking and pass blocking ability. It is yet to be determined if he or Richard Porter will start, but this move was made out of the poor pass blocking performance of Richard Porter over the last two seasons - something that I deemed a huge liability, despite Porter's run blocking prowess. Waddle was paid well to become a Bulldog, receiving a 1-year $5.35M deal.
Finally, it's worth noting that we were primarily looking to draft defense with most of our draft capital. We did not know if we would be in a position to select a WR. With that said, we signed back WR's Clarence Wilkerson (77 Normal, 25 Years Old), Terrell Pollard (71 Normal, 25 Years Old), Zion Okonjo III (69 Star, 24 Year Old), and Madison Parsons (67 Star, 23 Years Old). Any number of these players could serve as depth, or future starters for the team, but we needed to ensure our depth at the position foremost. Clarence Wilkerson has great hands, with 86 catching and 88 catch in traffic; Terrell Pollard provides 95 speed and acceleration; and Okonjo III and Parsons are developmental prospects.
With all that being taken care of within the first week or so of free agency, we weren't satisfied with our draft positioning. We also weren't sure about our ability to fill our team needs through our current draft capital. We needed to make moves, driven by our recent call to action.
The first of our major moves was trading SS Kaseem Addison and LT Theodore Rollins to the Armadillos for their early 2nd, 5th, and 6th round picks. We wanted to make a move to at least put ourselves at the front of RFL Draft day 2. Though Addison really came into his own this season as a LB/SS hybrid (68 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 INT's), we saw an opportunity to send him to a team who can truly utilize his talents. Addison never truly fit with what I wanted to do with the Bulldogs, but I had no plans to trade him coming into the offseason. In fact, he was removed completely from the trade block due to his positive performance. Rollins is a player who slots in as the starting left tackle for the Armadillos, who are a team in need of some pass blocking help. He is a player that got some burn at the end of the season, and played fantastic. Rollins would never be anything but a valuable backup for the Bulldogs though, so we jumped at the opportunity to give them two starters and take a valuable draft pick in return.
Next up, I was looking to add an extra first round pick in exchange for later draft capital and some similar players to what I mentioned above. We ultimately agreed to send LT Crosby Eddins, CB Greg Mann, and our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks to the Elks for their 1st and 2nd round picks. This trade again sent away a valuable backup offensive lineman, who might be able to start on his new team, and a young star CB that was never going to get much playing time for the Bulldogs. We packaged picks and players exactly like we wanted to and ended up with an extra first rounder and a lower 2nd rounder. Knowing that players would be coming into this draft class at lower overalls, we didn't see much value in having anything beyond a 2nd round pick. Losing our 3rd and 4th wouldn't be an issue.
Then, the biggest move of all of them came into sight. We heard that half of the league were looking to move up to the Crusaders' pick, which meant pick 11 was available. At pick 11 we were thinking we might be able to target a top tier player... maybe even a Chris Paulk or Xavier Eaves. This made it more than worth it for what we did next. We sent a list of players and picks to the Crusaders, and said take what you want. We essentially signed a blank check and then we waited... and waited. If you know anything about Coach Bacigaluppi, it's that he likes to make you wait. I was fine with that though, which I think was my advantage. I said come to me last, and tell me what I need to give up to make the trade happen. He came back with a fantastic offer that even included CB Matthew Hall, and we agreed to terms. We would be sending the Elks first round pick (23rd overall), the Black Knights' 3rd (an extra pick we had from the in-season trade of Duncan Bain), CB Brandon Bowen, DT Tyler Keltner, and OLB Patrick Shivers. In return we got Matthew Hall and the 11th overall selection.
On paper, it looks like we gave up a lot. The Crusaders definitely received quite a bit of talent. However, I don't view it as giving up a lot. We got the better of the two corners in Hall, who is a year younger, and 5 overall higher. He also fits our scheme much better. With the addition of Duke Pascal, we no longer had a need for all of our linebackers. Rony Santiago will do just fine as the weak-side linebacker, and we were looking at linebackers in the draft anyway. And lastly, Tyler Keltner never played much, and when he did he wasn't very good. We also had a plan in place that would make our backup DT's irrelevant.
This leads us to our trade from pick 5 to pick 2 in the draft. At this point the Explorers traded for the first overall pick, and we felt confident they weren't taking Jermaine Taylor. We also felt confident that JT wouldn't fall to pick 5. There's no way Smitty would let that happen. Everyone seemed to know that the Wizards wanted Lito Loso, and we knew he would be there at pick 5. So, we sent our extra 5th round pick and next year's 3rd in order to jump to pick 2 and secure whichever guy we wanted.
And last but not least, the trade that I might be regretting a little. We knew that the Snowhawks were looking to fill their roster with a bunch of 67 overalls for some reason, so we happily traded our 6th and 7th to go from pick 2 in the 2nd round and get to pick 31 in the first. I don't regret trading away those late picks. Those picks weren't worth much, but I do think I could've gotten the same player with pick 2 in Round 2. However, we wanted to be in front of the Wizards, because at the time, we had other plans for that pick.
Stay tuned for draft details in volume 3...