April 13, 2018

Hufnagel Update Pt.1

CALGARY, AB - JULY 29, 2017: The Calgary Stampeders won 60-1 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at McMahon Stadium on Saturday night. Members of the Stampeders’ 1992 Grey Cup-championship team attended the Legacy Tailgate, presented by Coors Light, prior to the game and were recognized during halftime as part of Legacy Night.

As the off-season rolls on, we sat down with Stampeders President and General Manager John Hufnagel to get his take on free agency, mini-camps, the CFL Combine, and the CFL Draft! The following is the first half of a two-part feature, this installment focusing on free agency. Check back on Monday for the second part of this interview when the Stamps head honcho talks about the combine and upcoming draft.

John Hufnagel has been busy this off-season.

Nothing new there.

He began by flexing his financial muscles and re-signing many of his own free agents.

“We had thirty free agents after the 2017 season and of the guys that are a priority, basically we signed them all except for Tommie Campbell,” said Hufnagel. “To get that many, that’s a good thing. To be able to afford that many is a good thing also.”

While many players re-upped early, the signings of DaVaris Daniels, Anthony Parker, and Roy Finch snuck in just before free agency opened up league-wide on Feb. 13.

And the Stamps didn’t stand still from there, making a number of impact signings in the open market.

In total, the Stamps added familiar faces in former Stamps offensive lineman Derek Dennis and one-time defensive back Adam Berger, along with defensive back Emanuel Davis, defensive lineman Ese Mrabure, and defensive back Troy Stoudermire.

“Signing Emanuel Davis, he was a defensive back that we were looking at possibly signing in 2017 and at the last minute he decided to sign with Hamilton,” explained Hufnagel. “So not saying that he’ll take the place of Tommy Campbell but he’s an all-star player in 2017 and he should be able to fit somewhere in our secondary and we’ll see who’ll man the corners.

“Then Adam Berger, getting him back was paramount because we will be planning on starting a Canadian at the safety position with Tunde (Adeleke) and to have a guy that knows the system, that likes Calgary and is a good football player (is important).

“Ese Mrabure, he’s a player that expressed a lot of interest to come here once free agency started and we made it work. Derek Dennis was a complete surprise and I have confidence he’ll play at the same level he did in 2016.”

But adding all of these talented players came at a cost.

Due to the financial nature of professional football in a salary-cap era, the team made the tough decision to trade away veteran defensive end Charleston Hughes, release international receiver Marquay McDaniel, and let running back Jerome Messam leave in free agency.

“We had to make some hard decisions, which is never fun or easy,” Hufnagel conceded.

“Obviously, tough decisions with Messam, trading Charleston, and Marquay not fitting in as far as the salary structure. Those are all tough decisions but that’s what happens in the game when you have a young player coming off his rookie contract and he’s demonstrated that he deserves that amount of money, well you can’t really afford that amount of money so many times in the same position group and that’s kind of what happened with Charleston. Ja’Gared Davis showed that he’s a big-time playmaker, also we have full confidence he’ll be back 100 percent and he’s a good player we just had to make a hardline decision.”