Does NFL experience really count?

In going through the current roster, there are a variety of ways players find their way on to a CFL club. The CFL Draft, signed from a university or junior team (American or Canadian), or as a street free agent from the NFL. I should also include the football equivalent of career minor leaguers or those who come from leagues such as the UFL or Arena League. Most notably, the additions that seem to be a little over hyped are the NFL players coming north because they were deemed expendable by their NFL team and no one else would pick them up.

On the current roster, the Eskimos have 38 imports. Of those 38, 25 have NFL experience.  A few of those actually played in the CFL prior to moving to the NFL, before returning to the CFL. This includes both Ricky Ray and Dario Romero and it could be argued that both of those players were proven CFL commodities before their NFL experience. Also to be considered is that 16 of those 25 were in the NFL for less than two years, and for the most part were practice squad players who didn’t even play a snap of a regular season game. So that brings our list down to 8 players with what could be considered measurable NFL experience.

The players are Calvin Armstrong (OT), Rod Davis (LB), Skylar Green (WR), Efrem Hill (WR), Anthony Maddox (DT), Kenneth Pettway (DE), Chris Thompson (DB), and Lenny Walls (DB). We need to exclude Maddox and Pettway at this juncture as they are newly signed and have yet to play in the league. So what do we think of the remaining six?

Calvin Armstrong is starting tackle material at close to an all-star level. There are actually some concerns by fans that he has become so good that the NFL might snatch him from the Green & Gold.

Skylar Green and Efrim Hill are interesting because both only played a few games last year. Can they be difference makers? Maybe, but I can’t see either of them replacing players that the Eskimos already have.

On the defensive side of the ball, Rod Davis is a very interesting player for the Green & Gold. He played mostly as a situational pass rusher last year until Mo Lloyd was injured and he filled in at middle linebacker.  Davis is a play maker and given more opportunity, could be a very valuable member of the defence.

Chris Thompson and Lenny Walls can both be CFL all-stars, and in the short time they have been in the league, they have both proven that they can put up some monster numbers. Walls had seven interceptions last year playing for Winnipeg while Thompson had nine picks the year before when he was still with Hamilton. If these two can put together good to great seasons, the Eskimos should be in much better shape in their secondary this year.

So what does NFL experience count for? If the team can find players with that three to six years of NFL experience, bringing them onboard makes sense if you have a need at a position. If they have served less than three years in the NFL you might still have a quality player, however the odds that they can contribute at an all-star level decrease. Either way, when evaluating imports, NFL experience should count for something but if it were a true measuring stick for success, the Eskimos would be without players like Tristan Jackson, Maurice Lloyd, and Jason Maas.

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