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December 5, 2018

Nye: A team-by-team look at 2019 free agency in the East

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

With the market set to open on February 12, fans and media alike are buzzing over the possibilities of 2019 Free Agency.

CFL.ca’s Jamie Nye takes an early look at each team’s pending free agents in the East Division.

RELATED:
» 2019 Official Free Agent Tracker
» O’Leary: Quarterbacks will dictate 2019 free agency
» Nye: Building the all-free agent dream team
» By the Numbers: 2019 free agency at a glance


MONTREAL (28 free agents)

OFFENCE

1,000-yard receiver B.J. Cunningham is a pending free agent (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

What the Alouettes did this season was lock up one position, which was quarterback. They have four quarterbacks under contract. Outside of that, like many teams, there is a lot of work Kavis Reed needs to do as the General Manager.

The Alouettes have three starting offensive linemen on the free agent list as well as several receivers. The likes of Ernest Jackson, B.J. Cunningham, Adarius Bowman, Luc Brodeur-Jourdain, Tony Washington, and Phillip Gagnon are interesting players for Reed to evaluate. Can Reed spend money elsewhere to help build the depth of this team, especially with a few aging veterans on this list. The Alouettes need to start trending younger and faster. They have young quarterbacks who are trying to establish themselves as No. 1 guys and running back William Stanback looks like he’s someone who could end up on an All-Star team if he follows up on a great debut season.

DEFENCE

Aging vets like John Bowman and Chip Cox will weight their future, though Reed again has to decide if they are still money well spent. Outside of that, the defensive ends and the secondary are where the Alouettes have their most work to get done. Jeremaine Robinson, Dominique Ellis, T.J. Heath, Gabriel Knapton and Jesse Joseph are some of the players that got the most work in this season for the Alouettes that are pending free agents.

OVERALL

Reed has an opportunity to build the Alouettes if they re-sign some players but when you’re the eight best team in the league with 300+ free agents on the market, he needs to do some smart investing and not make some of the same free agent mistakes he’s made in the past. Priorities have to be offensive line, as well defensive line. They lost the line of scrimmage too often this season. From there, Reed can build up the receiving corps and maybe lock up some of his own defensive backs.

OTTAWA (32 free agents)

OFFENCE

Locking up quarterback Trevor Harris will be priority No. 1 for Marcel Desjardins and co. (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

At least Brad Sinopoli is under contract? Trevor Harris, Diontae Spencer, Greg Ellingson, William Powell, SirVincent Rogers, Nathan McMillan, Jon Gott and Jason Lauzon-Seguin are among the long list heading to free agency for Ottawa. The list is incredible to see almost the entire starting offence on the free agent list. After helping Ottawa to three Grey Cup appearances in the last four seasons, some of these players can command more money. Marcel Desjardins knows he can’t spend the money to sign all these players. Priority one should be Trevor Harris and the load of Canadian offensive linemen. Why do I say this? At Grey Cup, Desjardins told me exactly what his priorities were to build a consistent Grey Cup contender; an elite quarterback and quality nationals. It’s the internationals where some tough decisions have to be made.

DEFENCE

Like the offence, there are a lot of regulars for the REDBLACKS to deal with this off-season. And they were an under-rated defence that Noel Thorpe was able to get a lot out of. They did by committee without a lot of star power, though Jonathan Rose was up near the top of the CFL in interceptions. The biggest concern is the amount of nationals who contributed on defence are on the free agent list. They may not have been regular starters but players like Michael Klassen, Ettore Lattanzio, Chris Ackie, and Andrew Marshall are the guys you can’t lose too many of. Meanwhile, Rose, Sherrod Baltimore, Cory Tindal, Michael Wakefield, Avery Ellis, Kyries Hebert, Rico Murray, A.C. Leonard and Jonathan Newsome are a big load of players who started games this year.

OVERALL

If Desjardins is going to stay true to his philosophy, he either has to go out and be aggressive to bring in a quarterback or just pay the man, Trevor Harris. He does have numerous national players but he’s locked up his big names like Brad Sinopoli on offence and Antoine Pruneau on defence. He also has Alex Mateas, Evan Johnson and Matt Korte as a young group of Canadian offensive linemen under contract. After quarterbacks and nationals, you’d think William Powell is next on the priority list, with Ellingson and Spencer not too far behind.

TORONTO (37 free agents)

OFFENCE

Ricky Ray has not only career but life decisions to make after the neck injury that ended his season. After that, Jim Popp has to be looking at Ryan Bomben and Tyler Holmes as must signs. They are two starting national offensive linemen and two quality players to help protect whoever is behind them. William Campbell, Jamal Campbell and Chris Kolankowski are other players to help at the depth spot. Duron Carter is the only other ‘big name’ guy.

DEFENCE

One the best pieces of Toronto’s defence from 2018, Alden Darby, is set to become a free agent in February (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

Here is where it hurts most for Popp. Ronnie Yell, Matt Webster, Justin Tuggle, Bear Woods, Terrence Plummer, Jeff Knox Jr., Abdul Kanneh, Jermaine Gabriel, Alden Darby, Troy Davis, Frank Beltre and Marcus Ball all started multiple games for the Argonauts this year. There is depth, nationals, veterans, impact players all over this list for Popp. Now, you could say the defence wasn’t that good anyway so no big deal but you’d like to start somewhere.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Long snapper Jake Reinhart and kicker Zackary Medeiros are pending free agents. The team brought in Drew Brown, who kicked field goals at a much better rate than Medeiros. Brown, however, is an international so we’ll see if Popp wants to continue with that.

OVERALL

Popp can certainly pick and choose which defenders stay and build and which defenders he feels can be replaced. It’s nearly a clean slate for Popp’s defence and depending on which coach he hires, there may be some free agents who want to follow a coach to the team. I like where Popp is set up offensively if he can lock up the depth on the offensive line, though he needs the quarterbacks to play far better to have success in 2019.

HAMILTON (35 free agents)

OFFENCE

Let’s look first at who is under contract that made an impact this season; Jeremiah Masoli, Luke Tasker, Brandon Revenberg, Avery Jordan, Darius Ciraco… end of list. Oh, yeah. It’s ugly for Eric Tillman when it comes to free agency. Not one running back who carried the ball is under contract and outside of Tasker, the next receiver with the most catches and yards under contract is Rashad Lawrence, followed by Bralon Addison. A few of the Tiger-Cats pending free agents include Brandon Banks, Alex Green, Jalen Saunders, Mike Jones, Mike Filer, Ryker Mathews… and there are more than that.

DEFENCE

Will All-Star Don Unamba return to the Tiger-Cats in 2019? (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

It’s a similar story on defence with Simoni Lawrence, Larry Dean, Delvin Breaux, Carriel Brooks, Richard Leonard, Courtney Stephan, Michael Daly, Don Unamba and Adrian Tracy all on the list as pending free agents. Like the offence, there are a lot of playmakers and quality talent that are not yet locked up for 2019. Not exactly ideal for the Tiger-Cats new Head Coach Orlondo Steinauer.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Oh yeah, also Lirim Hajrullahu is a pending free agency. The dual role kicker had another decent year and likely is a priority for Tillman.

OVERALL

Maybe in the top three in terms of teams with the most work to do heading to free agency to lock up their players. They have super stars all over the field that don’t have contracts for next season. I may be a little less anxious about their offence with Jeremiah Masoli, a few young Canadian offensive lineman, Luke Tasker, Rashad Lawrence and Bralon Addison a decent start to build an offence. Defensively, they have a few guys on the defensive line signed but behind them they need some serious investment.