December 7, 2017

Checking Down: Zylstra, Spencer getting NFL looks?

The Canadian Press

TORONTO — The 2017 CFL All-Star selections are out, setting off plenty of discussion across the league.

Meanwhile, the new free agent list has fans discussing the possibilities two months from now.

From coaching rumours to the free agent frenzy, we take a look at the latest whispers across the league.

More in this week’s Checking Down:

Jump to team:

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

BC LIONS

Ed Hervey was named the BC Lions’ new general manager at a press conference last week (BCLions.com)

– The CFL community is rallying to support North Surrey Minor Football, after the second fire in six weeks damaged its clubhouse (Kyle Benning, Simon Little (CKNW).

– Philosophical differences may have caused a split between Ed Hervey and the Esks, but it doesn’t appear that’ll be an issue in Vancouver (J.J. Adams, Vancouver Province).

– For the BC Lions, who have 22 pending free agents, the biggest focus is going to be on the offensive line, where six players are slated for free agency (Jamie Nye, CFL.ca).

EDMONTON ESKIMOS

Mike Reilly capped off his memorable 2017 season with a CFL All-Star honour (The Canadian Press)

– In addition to winning MOP and being named a CFL All-Star, Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly was also the CFL Fantasy MVP in 2017 (CFL.ca).

– The Eskimos tied for second in the league with five 2017 CFL All-Star selections, including MOP Mike Reilly and league-leading receiver Brandon Zylstra (CFL.ca).

CALGARY STAMPEDERS

Jamar Wall is among several key defensive players the Stamps could lose on Feb. 13 (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

– According to Justin Dunk of 3 Down Nation, Stamps RB and return man Roy Finch has worked out with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills (Justin Dunk, 3 Down Nation).

Bo Levi Mitchell was the most tweeted CFL player in 2017, followed by James Wilder, Mike Reilly, Andrew Harris and Kevin Glenn (Twitter Sports).

– After a second straight bitter Grey Cup defeat, John Hufnagel and the Stamps are left with a question that has no real answer (Pat Steinberg, CFL.ca).

– With their entire starting defensive backfield up for free agency, the Stampeders have their work cut out for them this off-season (Jamie Nye, CFL.ca).

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS

Contract talks between the Riders and Brandon Bridge will be a major theme this off-season (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

– Could new emerging Canadian quarterbacks, including Brandon Bridge, prompt CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie to change the ratio rule involving Canadians? (Rob Vanstone, Regina Leader-Post).

– Brandon Bridge and James Franklin are two of the most intriguing names in free agency, and both could have a profound effect on the Riders’ long-term plans (Pat Steinberg, CFL.ca).

– Riders quarterback Kevin Glenn is still chasing his first Grey Cup, but the 38-year-old says either way it won’t define his career (Perry Lefko, CFLPA). 

– James Franklin has been linked to Riderville by many, but TSN‘s Farhan Lalji says that’s not a safe assumption (Farhan Lalji, TSN).

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

Bombers GM Kyle Walters has the luxury of only five pending Canadian free agents for Feb. 13 (Matt Smith/CFL.ca)

– Just named a 2017 CFL All-Star, Bombers defensive back T.J. Heath may face a difficult decision in his future as he approaches free agency without a contract (Paul Friesen, Winnipeg Sun).

– The Bombers tied for second in the league with five 2017 CFL All-Star selections, including defensive backs T.J. Heath, Taylor Loffler and Chris Randle (CFL.ca).

– National depth continues to be a strength for Kyle Walters, who has a league-low five Canadians pending free agency on Feb. 13 (Jamie Nye, CFL.ca).

– If the Bombers are in the market for an experienced backup quarterback, Als pivot Darian Durant could be a viable trade option (Jeff Krever, CFL.ca).

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

June Jones will be back in ‘Cats stripes in 2017, but what about his quarterback Jeremiah Masoli? (The Canadian Press)

– With complete freedom to hire his own coaching staff, June Jones could implement some changes on the Ticats’ sideline in the coming weeks (Steve Milton, 3 Down Nation).

– The Ticats have acknowledged that they can’t keep both Jeremiah Masoli and Zach Collaros, meaning a big move could be expected in the coming weeks (Rick Zamperin, 900 CHML).

– Former Ticats defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer has done a nice job of turning around the Fresno State Bulldogs, who had one of the top defences in NCAA Division I FBS (Pat Steinberg, CFL.ca).

– Ticats analyst Mike Morreale says he believes Johnny Manziel will sign with the team relatively soon (TSN 1150).

– While rumours have swirled around the future of Kent Austin, Ticats CEO Scott Mitchell says he expects Austin to remain with the organization for at least the next little while (Drew Edwards, 3 Down Nation).

– Some pretty big names were excluded from Tuesday’s CFL All-Star selections, but none were more vocal than Ticats’ defensive back Richard Leonard (Drew Edwards, 3 Down Nation).

TORONTO ARGONAUTS

Corey Chamblin has reportedly taken himself out of the running for head coach in Montreal (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

– Ricky Ray remains mum on his retirement plans, but Argos GM Jim Popp says he believes the 38-year-old quarterback will play in 2018 (TSN 1050).

– Could Toronto be a landing spot for Zach Collaros, should the Ticats move him? According to a report, Collaros has a roster bonus that kicks in Feb. 1, meaning a move could happen before then (Frank Zicarelli, Toronto Sun).

– Argos’ defensive coordinator Corey Chamblin has reportedly turned down an interview with the Alouettes for their vacant head coaching position (Justin Dunk, 3 Down Nation).

– If Ricky Ray isn’t the Argos’ starting pivot in 2018, the team should have plenty of other options (Jeff Krever, CFL.ca).

OTTAWA REDBLACKS

The REDBLACKS made their first big splash of the off-season by signing Noel Thorpe to coach their defence (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

– New REDBLACKS defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe says he believes staying in the East will help him make the transition from Montreal to Ottawa (TSN 690).

– Count Diontae Spencer among pending free agents getting interest from NFL clubs, as reported by 3 Down Nation‘s Justin Dunk (Justin Dunk, 3 Down Nation).

– With 26 free agents (including 12 nationals), the REDBLACKS have plenty of questions this off-season — starting at quarterback with Trevor Harris (Jamie Nye, CFL.ca).

– Speaking of Harris, where could the veteran pivot land if he becomes a free agent on Feb. 13? CFL.ca breaks down the quarterback carousel (Jeff Krever, CFL.ca).

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

Standout corner Jonathon Mincy is getting an early shot at an opportunity down south (The Canadian Press)

– The Als have reportedly signed Canadian defensive back Mikael Charland to a two-year contract extension (Justin Dunk, 3 Down Nation).

– Alouettes linebacker Kyries Hebert has pledged to donate his brain for research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can only be diagnosed posthumously (Justin Bulman, Global News).

– The Als have granted cornerback Jonathon Mincy, previously due to become a free agent on Feb. 13, his release to pursue NFL opportunities (CFL.ca).

– With 28 pending free agents, including 15 with a Canadian passport, the Als have some questions going into the off-season, especially on the defensive side of things (Jamie Nye, CFL.ca).

– If Darian Durant isn’t the Alouettes’ starting QB in 2018, there are plenty of other options — including pending free agents Trevor Harris, James Franklin and Brandon Bridge (Jeff Krever, CFL.ca).