February 14, 2018

CFL.ca’s Top 30 Pending Free Agents

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

TORONTO — We are quickly closing in on one of the most highly-anticipated dates on the CFL calendar.

Free agency arrives Feb. 13, and the 160 or so contracts set to expire signal plenty of movement on the way.

While some of those players will sign extensions, it’s not too early to release our annual list of the top 30 pending free agents.

The ranking was determined by a panel of CFL.ca staff and analysts, taking into account age, production, national status and position scarcity. It assumes players are testing free agency and avoids taking into account NFL potential, the possibility of retirement or the odds of signing a contract extension.

Finally, note that the players listed are only those whose contract will expire on Feb. 13, not those who have been released.

Without further delay, here are CFL.ca’s top 30 pending free agents:

*Indicates national status.

Jump: 30-21 | 20-11 | 101

30
TAYLOR REED
LB | OTT

Photo: CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

The REDBLACKS’ middle linebacker had 94 tackles in 2017 as part of a career year in the nation’s capital. Taylor Reed is a steady veteran presence on defence, although his position isn’t always prosperous for Americans.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 30
TEAM – 3
POS — 4
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
TKL 94
SACKS – 4

29
RONNIE YELL
DB | BC

Photo: Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Ronnie Yell played all 18 games for the Lions in 2017, drawing the difficult matchups each time out as the team’s starting boundary corner. In a rough year for the team, Yell was a bright spot. He’s a solid cover man just entering his prime at age 26.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 29
TEAM – 3
POS — 9
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
TKL 64
INT – 3

28
CIANTE EVANS
DB | CGY

(EXTENDED BY CALGARY 02/07/18)

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Ciante Evans has emerged as a regular on the Stamps’ impressive secondary, last year making 53 tackles to go with a career-best five interceptions. The arrow is pointing up for the 25-year-old, who may have his sights set on the NFL.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 28
TEAM – 7
POS — 8
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 13
INT – 3
FF – 3

27
MAURICE LEGGETT
DB | WPG

(EXTENDED BY WINNIPEG 02/06/18)

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Maurice Leggett‘s spot on the list is higher if not for a late-2017 injury. Health questions aside, Leggett is one of the CFL’s top playmakers on defence, with 16 interceptions, six forced fumbles and four touchdowns in his four-year career.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 27
TEAM – 4
POS — 7
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 13
INT – 3
FF – 3

26
CHANDLER FENNER
DB | BC

(SIGNED BY WINNIPEG 02/14/18)

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Chandler Fenner was one of the CFL’s biggest breakout stars in 2017, racking up 76 tackles on defence and another 27 on special teams. He found his home as a SAM linebacker in an up-and-down year for the Lions.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 26
TEAM – 2
POS — 6
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
TKL – 76
ST TKL – 27

25
JEROME MESSAM*
RB | CGY

Photo: Alex Daddese/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

On the one hand, Jerome Messam is a bruising 255-pound running back with a national passport that can dominate a football game. On the other, he’ll be 33 when camp opens, and his 4.7 average last year was his worst since 2013. He’s one of free agency’s true wildcards.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 25
TEAM – 6
POS — 3
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 17
RUSH YDS – 1,016
TD – 9

24
TRAVIS LULAY
QB | BC

(EXTENDED BY BC 02/12/18)

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Health, not ability, will be the question for Travis Lulay in free agency. The veteran tore his ACL last year and has since dealt with some setbacks, leaving his status for 2018 unknown. He might be the most coveted quarterback on the market — if he can play.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 24
TEAM – 1
POS — 2
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 11
YDS – 1,693
TD:INT – 9:7

23
JOHN WHITE
RB | EDM

Photo: Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

A second season-ending injury has put a question mark over the head of John White going into free agency. When he ruptured his Achilles in 2015, White re-joined the Eskimos a year later, only to become one of the CFL’s premier backs. Can he return to that form?

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 23
TEAM – 3
POS — 2
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 2
RUSH YDS – 112
TD – 1

22
ESE MRABURE*
DL | SSK

(SIGNED BY CALGARY 02/14/18)

 

Photo: Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Ese Mrabure might be the most underrated player in free agency this year. The 25-year-old can play inside or out on the defensive line, and would be a starter for just about any team. A trip to the open market could prove prosperous for the 6-foot-3, 275-pound Laurier grad.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 22
TEAM – 2
POS — 4
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 16
TKL – 17
SACKS – 2

21
ROY FINCH
RB | CGY

(EXTENDED BY CALGARY 02/13/18)

Photo: Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

There is less than a handful of players in the CFL that can score any time they touch the ball. Roy Finch is one of them, whether it’s from the backfield, on a swing pass or on special teams. The 26-year-old has a type of explosiveness that is rare.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 21
TEAM – 5
POS — 1
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 13
RET YDS – 2,151
TD – 3

20
DeVIER POSEY
REC | TOR

(RELEASED BY TORONTO 02/02/18)

Photo: The Canadian Press

THE LOW DOWN

Despite only playing 12 games, DeVier Posey had six catches of 30 yards or more in 2017 — not including his 100-yard touchdown in the 105th Grey Cup. Posey’s speed can challenge a defence vertically and open up space underneath.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 20
TEAM – 5
POS — 5
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 12
REC YDS – 744
TD – 7

19
JAMAR WALL
DB | CGY

(EXTENDED BY CALGARY 02/08/18)

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

The veteran Jamar Wall was a big part of the CFL’s best secondary last season, which allowed only 254.6 passing yards per game. It’s hard to picture a more reliable defensive back, especially considering he hasn’t missed a game since 2013.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 19
TEAM – 4
POS — 5
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
TKL – 55
INT – 2

18
LUKE TASKER
REC | HAM

(EXTENDED WITH HAMILTON 2/12/18)

Photo: The Canadian Press

THE LOW DOWN

Luke Tasker put his injuries behind him in 2017, playing all 18 games while recording 1,167 yards and seven touchdowns — his most productive professional season. The 27-year-old is as reliable a receiver as you’ll find.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 18
TEAM – 3
POS — 4
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
REC – 104
REC YDS – 1,167

17
JAMAAL WESTERMAN*
DL | WPG

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Jamaal Westerman had seven sacks in 11 games before a season-ending injury last year, proving he can still regularly get to the quarterback. There will be plenty of interest in one of the CFL’s top ratio-breakers should he hit the market.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 17
TEAM – 3
POS — 4
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 11
TKL – 21
SACKS – 7

16
JA’GARED DAVIS
DL | CGY

(EXTENDED WITH CGY 01/29/18)

Photo: The Canadian Press

THE LOW DOWN

The sample size is a little small, but Ja’Gared Davis has shown glimpses of being a dominant pass rusher opposite Charleston Hughes. The 27-year-old has 16 sacks, five forced fumbles and a pick-six in 28 career games.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 16
TEAM – 3
POS — 3
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 10
TKL – 32
SACKS – 9

15
ADAM KONAR*
LB | EDM

(RE-SIGNED BY EDMONTON 02/14/18)

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Players like Adam Konar helped the Esks overcome an historic injury bug in 2017. The Canadian linebacker averaged nearly five tackles per game, a pace of 88 over the span of an 18-game season. He’s young, too — just 24.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 15
TEAM – 2
POS — 3
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 12
TKL – 59
SACKS – 1

14
BEAR WOODS
LB | TOR

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

A surprise cut in camp last year, Bear Woods had a 90-tackle season for the Argos while helping them capture the 105th Grey Cup. He just turned 31 but should have some good football left in him.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 14
TEAM – 4
POS — 2
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 17
TKL – 90
SACKS – 2

13
TRAVIS BOND
OL | WPG

Photo: Jason Halstead/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

An American passport might prevent Travis Bond from getting top dollar come February, which could make him a coup for whoever ends up landing him. Bond is physically dominant at 6-foot-6, 356 pounds and should have the ability to swing to tackle.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 13
TEAM – 2
POS — 2
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 16
STARTS – 16

12
MITCHELL WHITE
DB | TOR

Photo: Johany Jutras/Argonauts.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Mitchell White might be the CFL’s best pure cover corner, helping the Argos shed 10 passing yards per game off their total after joining the defence mid-season. You can put him on an island and feel good about it.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 12
TEAM – 3
POS — 4
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 6
TKL – 11
INT – 3

11
DaVARIS DANIELS
REC | CGY

(EXTENDED WITH CGY 02/12/18)

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

After a sensational rookie season, injuries limited DaVaris Daniels to 13 games and 743 yards for the Stamps in 2017. Still, if he doesn’t go to the NFL, teams will see value in the highly-talented just-turned-25-year-old.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 11
TEAM – 2
POS — 3
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 13
REC – 47
REC YDS – 743

10
TOMMIE CAMPBELL
DB | CGY

(SIGNED WITH MTL 02/14/18)

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Tommie Campbell needed only two seasons to emerge as one of the CFL’s most dominant boundary corners. The 6-foot-3 defensive back not only draws the tough matchups week in and week out, he welcomes them with confidence.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 10
TEAM – 1
POS — 3
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 17
TKL – 37
INT – 2

9
AARON GRYMES
DB | EDM

Photo: Jason Halstead/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Two words: High motor. Aaron Grymes made a noticeable difference when he came to the Eskimos’ defence late last season. In six games, the speedster recorded 30 tackles (5 per game on average), and the best is that he’s just entering his prime at age 26.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 9
TEAM – 1
POS — 2
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 6
TKL – 30
FF1

8
T.J. HEATH
DB | WPG

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

On a list loaded with defensive backs, T.J. Heath gets the distinction of top spot among his peers. The 30-year-old remains one of the league’s premier defensive playmakers, picking off 12 passes in his first two seasons in the league. Quarterbacks beware.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 8
TEAM – 1
POS — 1
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
TKL – 64
INT – 5

7
S.J. GREEN
REC | TOR

(EXTENDED WITH TORONTO 02/05/18)

Photo: Johany Jutras/Argonauts.ca

THE LOW DOWN

The last team to wonder about S.J. Green’s age (he turns 33 in June) let him go for a sixth round pick. That was a bargain for the Argos, who got the second-most productive receiver in the CFL in 2017. Green would be a massive addition for any offence.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 7
TEAM – 2
POS — 2
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
REC – 104
REC YDS – 1,462

6
TED LAURENT*
DL | HAM

(EXTENDED WITH HAMILTON 2/13/18)

Photo: CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

With Cleyon Laing off the market, there are only two interior defensive linemen on this list — and there’s a lot of distance between Ted Laurent and Ese Mrabure (22). One of just a few elite defensive tackles with a Canadian passport, Laurent is the true definition of a ratio-breaker.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 6
TEAM – 2
POS — 2
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 12
TKL – 13
SACKS – 4

5
RICKY RAY
QB | TOR

(EXTENDED WITH TORONTO 02/02/18)

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

It’s almost certain that Ricky Ray will either retire or return to the Argos. Still, he’s a pending free agent by definition, and if he does hit the market in February, he has franchise-altering potential in 2018. The 38-year-old silenced his critics last year.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 5
TEAM – 1
POS — 1
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 17
YDS5,546
TD:INT – 28:11

4
LARRY DEAN
LB | HAM

(EXTENDED WITH HAMILTON 2/13/18)

Photo: David Chidley/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

The Ticats’ run defence was among the best in the CFL by the end of the season, allowing 86.1 yards per game. Larry Dean was a big part of that. The middle linebacker, who turns 30 in August, helped shut down some of the CFL’s top running backs.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 4
TEAM – 1
POS — 1
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
TKL – 96
FF – 3

3
ALEX MATEAS*
OL | OTT

(EXTENDED WITH OTTAWA 1/24/18)

Photo: Patrick Doyle/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

One could make a strong argument that Alex Mateas is the top pending free agent. The former first overall pick had his breakout year in 2017, making all 18 starts at either guard or centre on an injury-ravaged O-line. The kicker is he’s only 26.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 3
TEAM – 2
POS — 1
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
STARTS – 18

2
WILLIE JEFFERSON
DL | SSK

(EXTENDED WITH SASKATCHEWAN 02/04/18)

Photo: Dave Chidley/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Chris Jones says his star defensive end isn’t going anywhere, but if Willie Jefferson does find himself a free agent, a long lineup of suitors will be at his door. The 26-year-old was a powerful force on a Riders’ defence that usually only rushes three.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 2
TEAM – 1
POS — 1
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
TKL – 45
SACKS – 8

1
DIONTAE SPENCER
REC | OTT

(EXTENDED BY OTTAWA 02/07/18)

Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Diontae Spencer‘s record-breaking 496-yard game was a true display of what the diminutive 5-foot-8 receiver is capable of. Spencer’s speed (he was once clocked at 4.24 in the 40 in college) can change an offence, and he’s just now mastering the three-down game.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 1
TEAM – 1
POS — 1
2017 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
REC – 71
REC YDS – 922