Draft
Round
-

Elite talent remains among CFL.ca’s Top 30 Free Agents

Arthur Ward/CFL

TORONTO — After so much promise and anticipation, so far Free Agency 2016 has delivered.

More than two thirds of the players on the Top 30 list have determined their homes for this upcoming season, many with new teams and some others returning to their old teams.

Day one of free agency hinged on the big man in the middle of the D-line, Ted Laurent, who by the end of the day had agreed to re-sign with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. But outside of that there were many other big names on the move, some surprising and some not, whether it was Andrew Harris going to Winnipeg or Trevor Harris taking his gunslinging arm to the nation’s capital.

Yet while the flurry of movement is already well under way, the 2016 free agency story is far from finished. Many elite players still remain on the market, and a look at the top 10 remaining free agents going into Friday shows us just that.

TOP 10 REMAINING FREE AGENTS

Rank Name (POS) Previous
Rank
Previous
Team
New
Team
1 Justin Capicciotti (DE) 4 Ottawa Saskatchewan
2 Cleyon Laing (DT) 5 Toronto  Signed NFL deal
3 Aaron Grymes (DB) 7 Edmonton  Signed NFL deal
4 Bryan Hall (DT) 11 Hamilton Toronto
5 Keon Raymond (SLB) 12 Calgary Toronto
6 Emanuel Davis (DB) 15 Hamilton
7 Chad Owens (REC) 16 Toronto Hamilton
8 JC Sherritt (LB) 21 Edmonton Re-signed
9 Jeff Fuller (REC) 23 Calgary Signed NFL deal
10 Chris Getzlaf (REC) 27 Saskatchewan

 

For the original top 30 list of free agents, view below (click here for a full list of available free agents with the Free Agent Tracker).

With this list we took everything into consideration, from age and injury history to recent vs. past performance (keeping in mind that players who hit the market before free agency, such as Tyron Brackenridge and Juwan Simpson, don’t count).

Without further delay, here are CFL.ca’s top 30 free agents:      30-21 | 20-11 | 101

 


30.keith-shologan-2015-2
Keith Shologan

OTTAWA REDBLACKS
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN
(Signed with WPG: 2/9/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking30
Team ranking2
Position ranking7

The low down

An eight-year CFL veteran, Shologan is an underrated member of an elite class of free agent defensive linemen about to hit the market. With a career-high seven sacks last season, the 30-year-old interior defensive lineman played an important role on a REDBLACKS defensive line that led the CFL in sacks and held opponents to the fewest rushing yards in the league.

2015 by the numbers

Games played15
Tackles26
Sacks7

 


29.nick-moore-2015-1
Nick Moore

Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Receiver
(Signed with BC: 2/9/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking29
Team ranking1
Position ranking7

The low down

One of the top free agents on the market a couple of years ago, Moore has been quietly productive through two seasons in Winnipeg despite playing on one of the league’s worst-ranking offences. An injury shortened his first season in Winnipeg, but the 6-foot-2, 201-pound soon-to-be free agent bounced back with 899 receiving yards in 15 games last season. Moore has averaged a healthy 60.1 yards per game as a Bomber, a 1,000-yard pace.

2015 by the numbers

Games played15
Receptions (receptions per game)76 (5.1)
Yards (yards per game) – 899 (59.9)
Touchdowns4

 


28.THE CANADIAN PRESS
Taylor Reed

Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Linebacker
(Signed with CGY: 2/10/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking28
Team ranking6
Position ranking3

The low down

Known more for his unfortunate and infamous block in the back penalty late in the 102nd Grey Cup, Reed’s talent as a linebacker borders at elite at the ripe age of 24 years old. The Southern Methodist graduate led the Ticats in tackles last season with 83 while placing sixth in the league overall, while his durability is also a plus after playing in all 18 games last season. There’s potential for more, as his sack total dropped to two last season following a 2014 in which he recorded eight sacks in 15 games.

2015 by the numbers

Games played18
Tackles (per game)83 (4.6)
Sacks2
Interceptions1
Forced fumbles2

 


27.Arthur Ward/CFL

Chris Getzlaf

Saskatchewan Roughriders
Receiver

 

At a glance

Overall ranking27
Team ranking4
Position ranking6

The low down

Once a premier player at his position, Chris Getzlaf just barely makes our list despite two down years in a row statistically. The Regina, Sask. native just turned 33 on Jan. 9 and while his numbers have dropped off, expect Getzlaf to garner plenty of interest from teams in need of a national receiver. The second-ranked national receiver on our list, can he regain his 2011 form, when he recorded 10 touchdown catches and 1,071 receiving yards?

2015 by the numbers

Games played10
Receptions (receptions per game)33 (3.3)
Yards (yards per game)402 (40.2)
Touchdowns4

 


26.CFL.ca
Ryan Smith

Saskatchewan Roughriders
Receiver
(Sign with WPG: 2/9/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking26
Team ranking3
Position ranking5

The low down

Chris Jones has been busy juggling the Riders’ receiving corps and just about everything else in Riderville this off-season, and if Ryan Smith isn’t in his future plans then the diminutive but talented playmaker will attract plenty of interest elsewhere. Smith, 24, was one of the CFL’s most productive receivers last season, amassing 991 yards and seven touchdowns in an injury-shortened 15-game season. The 5-foot-7, 175-pound North Dakota State graduate has a bright future ahead.

2015 by the numbers

Games played15
Receptions (receptions per game)59 (3.9)
Yards (yards per game)991 (66.1)
Touchdowns7

 


25.chris-rainey-2015-2
Chris Rainey

BC Lions
Running Back
(Extended: 2/9/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking25
Team ranking3
Position ranking3

The low down

The key here is potential. Rainey is 27 and has blazing speed, and while he’s never gotten a chance as a feature back he’s displayed electrifying talent as a returner. Whether he ever becomes a premier running back is one question, but the former Florida Gators star can no doubt add some special teams sizzle and potentially more to whatever team he lands with.

2015 by the numbers

Games played9
Punt return yards (avg)602 (12.5)
Kickoff return yards (avg)761 (28.2)
Special teams touchdowns2

 


24.euclid-cummings-2015-2

Euclid Cummings

Toronto Argonauts
Defensive Lineman
(Signed with WPG: 2/9/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking24
Team ranking5
Position ranking6

The low down

One of the more underrated players of 2015, Euclid Cummings formed a powerful interior D-line along with Cleyon Laing for the Argos. The second-year Argo recorded eight sacks and a forced fumble to go with 27 tackles, helping the Argos rank fourth in the league against the run — a bright spot on a defence that otherwise struggled. At 24, Cummings could be an important piece of a team’s defensive line for a long time coming.

2015 by the numbers

Games played15
Tackles27
Sacks8
Forced fumbles – 1

 


23.jeff-fuller-2015-2.jpg

Jeff Fuller

Calgary Stampeders
Receiver
(Signed NFL deal: 2/11/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking23
Team ranking4
Position ranking4

The low down

Untapped potential stands in the way of measuring his full value, but the highly-touted Jeff Fuller remains an appealing option for teams looking to add athleticism and big-play ability to their offence. Injuries and inconsistency have plagued the 6-foot-4, 223-pound receiver throughout three CFL seasons, but 2015 was a step in the right direction after recording 619 yards in 13 games. The ceiling remains high for the 25-year-old.

2015 by the numbers

Games played13
Receptions (receptions per game) – 47 (3.6)
Yards (yards per game) – 619 (47.6)
Touchdowns3

 


22.rob-bagg-2015-6.jpg
Rob Bagg

Saskatchewan Roughriders
Receiver

(Extended: 1/28/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking22
Team ranking2
Position ranking3

The low down

Coming off one of the least productive seasons of his career, Rob Bagg may be looking to bounce back with a new team in 2016 as the Riders continue to re-jig their receiving corps. There’s plenty to like about the 30-year-old Queen’s graduate, who has silenced any durability concerns by playing in 49 games over the span of three seasons and missing only one game the last two years. The top-ranked national receiver on our list, Bagg would be a nice addition to any offence.

2015 by the numbers

Games played18
Receptions (receptions per game)50 (2.8)
Yards (yards per game)540 (30.0)
Touchdowns4

 


21.CFL.ca
JC Sherritt

Edmonton Eskimos
Linebacker
(Re-signed: 2/10/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking21
Team ranking3
Position ranking2

The low down

After breaking the single season tackles record in 2012, JC Sherritt faded a little bit the next two seasons before a strong bounceback year in 2015. In his second year under Chris Jones, the 27-year-old played an important role in the Esks’ run to the Grey Cup with 71 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He is the second-ranked linebacker on our list and could instantly pay dividends on any defence.

2015 by the numbers

Games played18
Tackles (per game)71 (3.9)
Sacks2
Interceptions2
Forced fumbles2

 


20.THE CANADIAN PRESS
Justin Medlock

Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Kicker/Punter
(Signed with WPG: 2/9/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking20
Team ranking5
Position ranking1

The low down

The only player of his position on the list, Justin Medlock is in a league of his own as the CFL’s top kicker heading into 2016. The 32-year-old UCLA graduate has one of the strongest legs in the league, which has paid off during his stay in the windy Hammer after last year connecting on a league-best 42 of 47 field goal attempts at an 89 per cent success rate. Medlock is as close to automatic as a kicker can get.

2015 by the numbers

Games played18
Made/Attempts (pct.)42/47 (89%)
Points175
Punting average40.3

 


19.Rogerio Barbosa/Montreal Alouettes
Winston Venable

Montreal Alouettes
Linebacker
(Re-signed: 2/9/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking19
Team ranking2
Position ranking1

The low down

Winston Venable was one of the biggest breakout stars in 2015 and no doubt one of the most underrated, recording 104 tackles (third in the league, first on the team) to go along with five sacks and three forced fumbles. At 28 years old and playing the best football of his career, Venable has entered his football prime and could be a game-changer on any defence lucky enough to land him.

2015 by the numbers

Games played16
Tackles (per game)104 (6.5)
Sacks5
Interceptions0
Forced fumbles3

 


18.Adam Gagnon
Jermaine Gabriel

Toronto Argonauts
Defensive Back

(Extended: 2/5/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking18
Team ranking4
Position ranking5

The low down

Expected to emerge as one of the league’s truly elite game-breakers as the Argos’ safety last season, national Jermaine Gabriel took a step back in the eyes of some last season. Yet despite playing on one of the league’s worst defences, the 25-year-old former second round pick had 51 tackles in 12 games while adding a pair of forced fumbles. Gabriel ranks behind fellow highly-touted national Courtney Stephen, but his status, age and position make him a valuable part of this year’s class.

2015 by the numbers

Games played12
Tackles (per game) 51 (4.3)
Sacks0
Interceptions0
Forced fumbles2

 


17.THE CANADIAN PRESS
Freddie Bishop III

Calgary Stampeders
Defensive Lineman

(Released, signed NFL deal: 2/5/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking17
Team ranking3
Position ranking5

The low down

While all eyes were on Charleston Hughes on the Stamps’ talented D-line, it was Freddie Bishop III stealing the spotlight with a breakout second season in the CFL. Just 25 years old, Bishop III had 11 sacks in 16 games to go with 44 tackles and a forced fumble. At 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, the Western Michigan graduate is one of the top rush ends set to hit free agency.

2015 by the numbers

Games played16
Tackles44
Sacks11
Forced fumbles – 1

 


16.chad-owens-2015-2.jpg
Chad Owens

Toronto Argonauts
Receiver
(Signed with HAM: 2/11/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking16
Team ranking3
Position ranking2

The low down

No player in the making of this list sparked more debate than Chad Owens. Age and durability concerns make the 33-year-old Hawaii native a risk, particularly after failing to reach the 14-game mark in three straight seasons. Yet despite a statistical down year, Owens still showed glimpses of being an elite player in 2015, while he remains only a year removed from putting up some seriously elite numbers — 989 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in only 11 games in 2014.

2015 by the numbers

Games played13
Receptions (receptions per game)55 (4.2)
Yards (yards per game)570 (43.8)
Touchdowns2

 


15.THE CANADIAN PRESS
Emanuel Davis

Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Defensive Back

 

At a glance

Overall ranking15
Team ranking4
Position ranking4

The low down

While the Ticats lamented the loss of shutdown corner Delvin Breaux to the NFL, Emanuel Davis emerged as a star cog in the Ticats’ defensive backfield shortly after. The 27-year-old East Carolina graduate played in all 18 games last season and recorded 61 tackles, five interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble on top of three defensive touchdowns. The question in the minds of talent evaluators will be whether Davis’ breakout season is a sign of things to come or a blip on the radar.

2015 by the numbers

Games played18
Tackles (per game) 61 (3.4)
Sacks1
Interceptions5
Forced fumbles1
Touchdowns 3

 


14.corey-watman-2015-2
Corey Watman

Saskatchewan Roughriders
Offensive Lineman
(Signed with TOR: 2/9/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking14
Team ranking1
Position ranking2

The low down

A regular starter on the Riders’ O-line, Corey Watman can play multiple positions and comes at a position of scarcity entering this year’s free agent period. Josh Bourke is the name everyone’s talking about when it comes to free agent offensive linemen, but Watman’s value should be similar due to his national status and his age (26). Teams looking for a ratio-buster up front should look in Watman’s direction.

 


13.THE CANADIAN PRESS
Kenny Stafford

Edmonton Eskimos
Receiver
(Signed with MTL: 2/9/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking13
Team ranking2
Position ranking1

The low down

Mostly an unknown heading into his first season with the Eskimos after being traded for Fred Stamps, Stafford put himself out there in 2015 with a breakout season. At 6-foot-3, 204 pounds, Stafford finally showed his true potential with 732 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, playing an important role on the Grey Cup Championship-winning Edmonton Eskimos. Only 25 years of age, Stafford has youth and physical ability on his side.

2015 by the numbers

Games played18
Receptions (receptions per game)47 (2.6)
Yards (yards per game)732 (40.7)
Touchdowns9

 


12.THE CANADIAN PRESS
Keon Raymond

Calgary Stampeders
Defensive Back
(Signed with TOR: 2/11/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking12
Team ranking2
Position ranking3

The low down

Capable of playing both linebacker and defensive back, Keon Raymond is durable, versatile and simply has a knack for making plays. The 33-year-old veteran has 24 interceptions in eight seasons with the Stampeders and has won two Grey Cup Championships, recording four or more interceptions in five of his last six seasons. Few defensive players have made a greater impact for their team over the past decade.

2015 by the numbers

Games played18
Tackles (per game) 41 (2.3)
Sacks2
Interceptions4

 


11.THE CANADIAN PRESS
Bryan Hall

Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Defensive Lineman
(Signed with TOR: 2/19/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking11
Team ranking3
Position ranking4

The low down

Alongside Ted Laurent, Bryan Hall helped form one of the biggest and strongest interior defensive lines in the CFL last season. At 6-foot-1, 295 pounds, Hall is an immovable object on Hamilton’s elite defence and could provide a major boost for a defensive line looking to add some muscle in the middle. Hall had three sacks, 38 tackles and a forced fumble in 15 games last season.

2015 by the numbers

Games played15
Tackles38
Sacks3
Forced fumbles – 1

 


10.THE CANADIAN PRESS
Travis Lulay

BC Lions
Quarterback
(Extended: 2/8/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking10
Team ranking2
Position ranking2

The low down

Coming off the worst statistical season of his career, Travis Lulay may not begin the 2016 season as a starting quarterback. But his value as one of two proven pivots on the free agent market is substantial, especially considering the fact that this was once arguably the number one quarterback in the CFL. Other quarterbacks have rejuvenated their career by switching teams after 30 — think Henry Burris and Damon Allen — so why not Lulay?

2015 by the numbers

Games played10
Completion pct.62.8%
Passing yards 1,953
TD/INT12/10

 


9.jerome-messam-2015-5.jpg
Jerome Messam

Calgary Stampeders
Running Back
(Extended: 2/8/2016)

 

 

At a glance

Overall ranking9
Team ranking1
Position ranking2

The low down

The biggest thing separating Andrew Harris and Jerome Messam, two elite running backs with national passports, is age. The 30-year-old Messam is no doubt a ratio-buster after last year leading the CFL in yards from scrimmage with the Riders and then in Calgary in place of Jon Cornish. At 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, Messam’s speciality is wearing down defences — the more touches he gets the more effective he is.

2015 by the numbers

Games played17
Rushing attempts (attempts per game)163 (9.6)
Rushing yards (yards per game)1,006 (59.2)
Receiving yards (receptions)497 (53)
Total Touchdowns0

 


8.CFL.ca
Josh Bourke

Montreal Alouettes
Offensive Lineman
(Signed with TOR: 2/9/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking8
Team ranking1
Position ranking1

The low down

After locking down the quarterback’s blindside on the left side of the O-line since 2007, one of the CFL’s premier offensive linemen could be slated for free agency and would be an enormous get for any team out there. Bourke is a seven-time East Division All-Star and has twice been named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Lineman, while he heads towards free agency as the top-ranked offensive lineman — and a national to boot.

 


7.aaron-grymes-2014-1.jpg
Aaron Grymes

Edmonton Eskimos
Defensive Back
(Signed NFL deal (2/18/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking7
Team ranking1
Position ranking2

The low down

Fast and hard-hitting, Aaron Grymes first put his name on the CFL radar in 2013 with the Esks before truly emerging as a star under Chris Jones in 2014. At just 24 years old, Grymes is a premier defensive back in the league and played a key role in the Esks’ run to the Grey Cup in 2015. Last year he recorded 43 tackles, four interceptions and a sack across 15 games.

2015 by the numbers

Games played15
Tackles (per game) 43 (2.9)
Sacks1
Interceptions4

 


6.CFL.ca
Courtney Stephen

Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Defensive Back
(Extended: 2/8/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking6
Team ranking2
Position ranking1

The low down

While Emanuel Davis was the Ticats’ biggest playmaker from the defensive halfback position, Courtney Stephen was busy locking down opponents’ top receivers as a corner. Elite defenders with the national designation are a rarity in the CFL and Stephen is both of those things, the 26-year-old Brampton, Ont. native set to enter the prime of his career in the wake of a career year.

2015 by the numbers

Games played16
Tackles (per game) 48 (3)
Sacks0
Interceptions4
Forced fumbles1

 


5.cleyon-laing-2015-2
Cleyon Laing

Toronto Argonauts
Defensive Lineman
(Signed NFL deal (2/18/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking5
Team ranking2
Position ranking3

The low down

A spirited competitor and not always well-liked on the field, at least by opposing fans, Cleyon Laing caps off a run of three straight defensive linemen in the top five. An Edmonton native, Laing offers youth and nastiness on the inside of the defensive line — something that at age 25 has to be enticing to a lot of teams out there. Laing truly broke out as an elite defender in 2015, forcing two fumbles and recording eight sacks in 16 games.

2015 by the numbers

Games played16
Tackles40
Sacks8
Forced fumbles – 2

 


4.justin-capicciotti-2015-1
Justin Capicciotti

Ottawa REDBLACKS
Defensive Lineman
(Signed with SSK: 2/10/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking4
Team ranking1
Position ranking2

The low down

A Toronto native, Justin Capicciotti’s move to Ottawa in 2014 helped him emerge as an elite defensive lineman. He’s since recorded 23 sacks over two seasons with the REDBLACKS in 32 games, last year helping Ottawa lead the CFL in sacks. At 26 years old, the Simon Fraser graduate will be one of the most coveted free agents on Feb. 9 should he hit the market.

2015 by the numbers

Games played16
Tackles47
Sacks12
Forced fumbles – 1

 


3.THE CANADIAN PRESS
Ted Laurent

Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Defensive Lineman
(Re-signed: 2/10/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking3
Team ranking1
Position ranking1

The low down

Ted Laurent is the unstoppable force and immovable object all in one. The 28-year-old free agent-to-be changed the course of the Ticats’ defence when he signed with the team in 2014, helping that unit rank among the league’s truly elite defences. Laurent checks in at 6-foot-1, 303 pounds and while his ability and skill alone make him a top talent, his national status puts him over the top. The best way to put it is he’s a game-changer all on his own.

2015 by the numbers

Games played16
Tackles26
Sacks3
Forced fumbles – 1

 


2.CFL.ca
Trevor Harris

Toronto Argonauts
Quarterback
(Signed with OTT: 2/9/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking2
Team ranking1
Position ranking1

The low down

A legitimate MOP candidate up until being replaced by veteran pivot Ricky Ray late in the season, Trevor Harris makes our list as the number one available quarterback and the second-ranked player overall set to become a free agent on Feb. 9. At 29, Harris has just enough experience and just enough time on his side to become a star quarterback for a team in need and while he may not get to start right away in 2016, look for him to make an impact before long.

2015 by the numbers

Games played17
Completion pct.71.0%
Passing yards 4,354
TD/INT33/19

 


1.CFL
Andrew Harris

BC Lions
Running Back
(Signed with WPG: 2/9/2016)

 

At a glance

Overall ranking1
Team ranking1
Position ranking1

The low down

Not very often do elite skill level players come along at the running back position that also own Canadian a passport, which is what makes Andrew Harris a can’t-miss free agent this February. Harris finished second in the league in yards from scrimmage and at 28 years old is still in his football prime. He’s a ratio-buster, he’s durable (missed only six games over the last five seasons) and he’s a dual-threat back, which means for one CFL offence he could be a total game-changer.

2015 by the numbers

Games played18
Rushing attempts (attempts per game)222 (12.3)
Rushing yards (yards per game)1039 (57.7)
Receiving yards (receptions)484 (53)
Total Touchdowns9