January 29, 2016

Checking Down: More questions than answers

Johany Jutras/CFL

TORONTO — As free agency draws closer, so far there are more questions than answers this CFL off-season.

Much has changed since last week as Weston Dressler and John Chick have each found new homes while Duron Carter has made his return to the Montreal Alouettes official — but in the same breath, many of the off-season’s biggest questions remain unanswered.

We check in on the latest from each and every CFL team as the off-season continues in the latest Checking Down:

Jump to team:

BC | Calgary | Edmonton | Saskatchewan | Winnipeg | Hamilton | Toronto | Ottawa | Montreal

Wally Buono

– The Lions and GM/Head Coach Wally Buono announced on Monday that offensive lineman Dean Valli has elected to retire after a 10-year CFL career spent entirely with BC. Valli has appeared in 155 regular season games for the Lions and earned Grey Cup rings in 2006 and 2011.

– As Lions head coach and general manager Wally Buono readies his team for 2016, he likens his current situation to the 2011 off-season when the Lions felt they had an up-and-coming star quarterback in Travis Lulay: “When we started to piece together the team heading into 2011 we knew we had something very special in Travis and right now, I believe we have something very special in Jonathon.”

Also retiring from football for the Lions is receiver Cameron Morrah, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2015 and has since informed the club he will be stepping away.

Pending free agent Andrew Harris ranked number one on CFL.ca’s top 30 pending free agents list, as he remains without a contract after ranking second in the league in yards from scrimmage in 2015.


The Eskimos have extended the contracts of national defensive end Mathieu Boulay and national fullback Mike Miller, the team announced Thursday.

– Jason Maas is down a receivers coach after it was revealed Tuesday that Kez McCorvey is leaving to become the receivers coach with the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders of the NCAA. McCorvey served the role for the last two seasons and was the last remaining tie to last year’s Grey Cup-winning coaching staff.

– The Eskimos stand to lose national receiver and Grey Cup MVP Shamawd Chambers to free agency on Feb. 9, who CFL.ca’s Justin Dunk says could be looking to move closer to home. Chambers is from Markham, Ont. and, according to Dunk, could fit in with the Argos or Ticats.

Johany Jutras/CFL

– John Hufnagel provided some Stamps off-season insight on an interview with Calgary’s CHQR 770, stating that the team has made an offer to pending free agent running back Jerome Messam. The Stampeders’ GM also confirmed that defensive back Keon Raymond will test free agency, adding that while he plans to make some moves, the team will likely be quiet on day one.

– Needing to fill the void of departed league-leading receiver Eric Rogers, the Calgary Sun‘s Scott Mitchell tweeted Tuesday that the Stamps will most definitely be in on pending free agent Nick Moore come Feb. 9. Moore had 899 receiving yards in 15 games for the Bombers in 2015.

– The Stamps announced that Rob Cote is the recipient of the team’s Presidents’ Ring award for 2015, given to the Calgary Stampeder who best demonstrates excellence on and off the field as voted by the players. This marks the second time in three years Cote has earned the distinction.


The Riders and national receiver Rob Bagg have agreed to a contract extension through 2018. Bagg has been with the Riders since 2008 and has 3,708 career receiving yards and 19 touchdowns.

– With Weston Dressler landing with the Bombers almost two weeks after being released, the Regina Leader-Post‘s Rob Vanstone says circle Labour Day Weekend on your calendar. That’s when Dressler will visit the Riders as a member of his new team in one of football’s greatest rivalries.

– The Saskatchewan Roughriders are on the clock and while the CFL Draft is still a few months away, the first mock draft has hit the press. Scott Mitchell of the Calgary Sun has the Riders going with Laval offensive lineman Charles Vaillancourt with the first overall pick as they look to bolster their Canadian depth up front.

– With Senior Bowl practices taking place this week and the game kicking off Saturday in Mobile, Ala., Gary Lawless says the Riders have eight scouts in attendance as football’s top college seniors put their talents on display.

– Chris Jones and the Riders continued adding international talent this week, signing former Green Bay Packers seventh round pick and quarterback BJ Coleman along with offensive lineman Quinterrius Eatmon.


– Rumoured for nearly a week, the Bombers officially signed star receiver Weston Dressler on Tuesday. Dressler expressed his excitement to play in what he called the CFL’s loudest stadium, along with the opportunity to play with quarterback Drew Willy.

– In his free agency preview, CFL.ca’s Justin Dunk said Andrew Harris is likely to depart BC come the start of free agency on Feb. 9 and the most logical destination is Winnipeg. Harris is from Winnipeg and would join recent addition Weston Dressler on a revamped Bomber offence.

– The Bombers continue to round out their offensive coaching staff, as TSN‘s Gary Lawless reports Buck Pierce will be the quarterbacks coach after last year being the running backs coach. Meanwhile, former CFL running back Avon Cobourne will handle the team’s running game.

Pending free agent linebacker Louie Richardson and the Bombers have reached a contract extension, the team announced Monday. Richardson is a University of Manitoba product and is set to enter his fifth CFL season and third with the Bombers.


– After reports surfaced Sunday night, the Ticats made official the signing of defensive end John Chick on Wednesday. Chick was released on Jan. 14 along with Weston Dressler after recording 53 sacks in six seasons with Saskatchewan.

TSN released its list of top pending free agents, with Ted Laurent landing on top of the list for nationals and Trevor Harris finishing first among internationals. The Ticats’ defensive tackle ranked third overall on CFL.ca’s list behind national Andrew Harris and international Trevor Harris.

Adam Gagnon/CFL

Pending free agent kicker/punter Swayze Waters says he has been in contact with Argos GM Jim Barker, but is keeping his options open ahead of free agency according to the Winnipeg Sun‘s Kirk Penton. Waters told Penton he has not yet received any offers.

– While all eyes will be on Chad Owens in Toronto as free agency approaches, CFL.ca’s Justin Dunk says the team is pushing hard to extend the contracts of national defenders Cory Greenwood and Jermaine Gabriel. Dunk also linked the Argos with pending free agent and national receiver Shamawd Chambers, who could be looking to move closer to home.

– Further to a previous report, Kelly Jeffrey has officially become the Toronto Argonauts’ special teams coordinator, the team announced Tuesday. Jeffrey joins the Boatmen with over 20 years of coaching experience in the NCAA and CIS ranks, most recently coaching the quarterbacks, offence and special teams at Mount Allison University.


– The Ottawa Sun‘s Tim Baines says the REDBLACKS may start to pay for their recent success this off-season, as the team stands to lose as many as five 2015 starters to free agency. GM Marcel Desjardins told Baines there’s no way the team can sign all of Justin Capicciotti, Keith Shologan, Jovon Johnson, Brandyn Thompson and Jeremiah Johnson.


– The Alouettes made it official on Monday, signing star receiver Duron Carter to a one-year contract. GM and Head Coach Jim Popp said Carter’s production just couldn’t be replaced in 2015: “Did we have trouble finding someone similar or to do the same things as Duron? Absolutely. There aren’t a lot of guys that can, there’s no question about that.”

– A week after quarterback Tanner Marsh tweeted that he was released, fellow pivot Dan LeFevour also announced he is no longer a Montreal Alouette. LeFevour tweeted Monday that he requested his release from the Als to get a head start on CFL free agency.

TSN‘s Gary Lawless is reporting that Paul Charbonneau is set to join the Alouettes’ coaching staff. Charbonneau was the Bombers’ assistant offensive line coach last season and previously spent time coaching the Avila University Eagles.