While the Raptors were not willing to shell out big money to keep defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, they were also not willing to ignore the big hole created by his absence. It did not take long after the beginning of free agency for them to fill that spot and made a huge splash, inking former All-SFL defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers for a three-year, $1.8M deal.
Carrethers has consistently been one of the top defensive tackles in the league over the last few seasons with the San Antonio Marshalls. Last year he finished with 71 tackles, five sacks, eight hurries, 11 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles.
“Ryan is one of the very best defensive tackles in the league, we are a much better football team today with him than we were yesterday without him,” Head Coach Ken Norton, Jr. said. “Ryan makes an impact. When you look at that Marshalls defense, he was a huge part of it not only with his production numbers but also helping take blockers away to free up those productive linebackers. We expect the same sort of thing here.”
The Raptors also quickly signed another defensive lineman, signing former BYU defensive end Bronson Kaufusi off the New York Jets practice squad to a two-year, $600K deal. Injuries prevented Kaufusi from ever getting his NFL career off the ground, but he is a tremendous athlete who grew up not far away in Provo and wanted to get thing kicked off with the Raptors.
“Bronson actually called us asking for a tryout and we brought him right in,” Norton said. “We knew he was a talented guy, but he had something he wanted to prove and wowed us in some workouts and are very excited about him. We have some talented defensive ends, but you just can’t have enough of them in this sport.”
The Raptors made three offensive signings as well. Former Utah Utes running back Joe Williams was signed to a two-year deal. The Raptors nearly selected him in last year’s territorial draft but ultimately went with Jamaal Williams and did not want to invest that much money in one position, but after his release from the San Francisco 49ers he wanted to get his career kick-started with his hometown team. Williams is a very fast back with game-breaking speed, but injuries never allowed him an opportunity as a rookie in the NFL. Injuries have always been a concern for Williams, but his elite athleticism is too difficult to pass up.
“When Joe is healthy, he’s a treat to watch,” Norton said. “With Jamaal and Bo in our backfield, Joe won’t be a featured back, but that will help reduce the number of hits he takes and hopefully with keep him healthy. Even with the injury concerns, he’s too good not to take a chance on.”
Wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky signed a three-year deal worth $200K. The 6-foot-2 target had moderate success with the Virginia Beach Breakers in the D-League but really broke out in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, form whom he caught 45 passes for 650 yards and five touchdowns.
“Drew is a guy we’ve always had an eye on and recommended him for the Virginia Beach Breakers. He got some quality experience there, but took his development a step further in the CFL. We never took our eye off him,” Norton said. “He’s getting better and better and with his consistency and route-running ability and ability to get open, he will have an opportunity to create a role for himself.”
Tight End Vince Mayle was also inked to a one-year, $300K deal off the LA Chargers practice squad. Mayle was a former fourth round pick in the NFL but never quite lived up to the billing, but at 27-years-old he is still capable of playing a positive role on a team. With Jesse James and Tony Moeaki, the Raptors have proven they like getting tight ends involved in the passing game.
Mayle had some quality efforts in the NFL’s preseason with the Baltimore Ravens, especially as a blocker and special teams player, but did haul in a touchdown as well.
“Tight ends are a huge mismatch for defenses and it’s never a bad thing to have your options at the position,” Norton said. “Vince maybe hasn’t lived up to being a fourth round NFL pick, but he’s not looking to have a bust label on him and he’s working very hard to make an impact for us.”
After the five signings, the Raptors still have $550K in cap space and 13 open roster spots for he offseason’s 70-man rosters.