Now that we’re done with the two biggest football games in North America, it’s time to turn our attention to something far more important: CFL free agency! We are just days away from a veritable who’s who of all-stars, Grey Cup MVPs and MOPs being released onto the open market. It is going to lead to transaction news the likes of which we have never seen before.
I spend more time on the CFL.ca Free Agent Tracker than I care to admit. Over the next week the good people on this site will give you plenty of legitimate analysis on who is going where and what deals make the most sense for the player and the team. I, on the other hand, try my best to steer clear of legitimate journalism. I’d rather live in the world of fantasy because, really, isn’t that what free agency speculation is all about?
This time is so much fun because you see that list of top 30 pending free agents and suddenly you’re imaging that imposing defensive tackle wearing your favourite team’s jersey and the next thing you know you have plotted a path as to why your team is winning the Grey Cup. Will it happen? Probably not. But who cares, it’s early February there is snow everywhere, so why not ditch logic for a moment and dream the impossible dream that Bo Levi Mitchell and Willie Jefferson are signing with your team and you get to retain all your own soon-to-be-free agents?
So with that spirit of decadence I present nine things that I would like to see happen. Apologies to Hamilton and Montreal who do not make this list, but between Brandon Banks coming back and some damn snappy new uniforms I imagine you’re both doing just fine right now.
Free Agency 2019
As Feb. 12 fast approaches, some of the league’s biggest stars are closing in on free agency. CFL.ca has ongoing coverage.
1. I want Bo Levi Mitchell to re-sign with Calgary
The usual disclaimer when it comes to players attempting to ply their trade with the NFL that I, of course, want nothing more than to see any and all of you succeed south of the border. The money is better and you get to play in front of more people so I wish you nothing but the best. However, my sports-selfish side wants to watch you do amazing things on the bigger fields of Canada. I can admit I’m greedy.
Beyond that, I always love to see the reigning Grey Cup Champions defend their title in style. If they have to go down, let them lose swinging at full strength. I want to see every other team go all out against Mitchell and in return I want to see the 2018 MOP and Grey Cup MVP give it right back at all of his opponents.
Finally, I know economically it would be a big boost for Mitchell and his family if he is on an NFL roster, but there is a good chance Mitchell won’t see the field and, well, it just feels like a waste if the only time we see the two-time CFL MOP is on the sideline holding a clipboard.
2. I want Mike Reilly to leave Edmonton
This is nothing against the Edmonton Eskimos organization or any of their fans. I, like so many other CFL fans have been thoroughly entertained watching Reilly hook up with the likes of Brandon Zylstra, Adarius Bowman, Derel Walker, D’haquille Williams and Bryant Mitchell over the years. However, the NBA has proven that when you throw a little chaos at an off-season it makes everything so much more entertaining.
Just think of all the ramifications if Reilly announced his intention to move on from Edmonton. How many teams would go all out to get him? I imagine most already have a plan in place to try to woo the league’s leading passer. The media speculation would be glorious as fans would be checking every day for any updates. I know it would stink for Eskimos fans but to quote Spock from The Wrath of Khan, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Mike Reilly is widely considered the CFL’s top-ranked pending free agent (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)
3. I want Toronto to trade James Franklin to Edmonton
Is it a big step down for the Eskimos? Of course it is. But at 27 years old Franklin still has a chance to become the quarterback we all thought he could be when he left Edmonton for Toronto last season. The Eskimos have a good running back in C.J. Gable and if they can retain Derel Walker and Kenny Stafford then Franklin should have more than enough weapons to work with. Edmonton has done a good job in the past developing receivers so what better place for a reset for Franklin than in the city that first started to develop him?
4. I want Mike Reilly to go to Toronto
I mean you had to see this one coming? I have never hidden the fact that I grew up an Argonauts fans and last year was a disaster. Yes, I know the team made a deal with the Devil on that snowy night right before the 105th Grey Cup, but wow was 2018 a tough season to watch. Personally I’d love to see one more great S.J. Green season with Reilly getting him the ball.
Also this isn’t just me going full Argo Homer here. The entire East Division suddenly becomes so much more compelling with Jeremiah Masoli, Trevor Harris (more in a second) and Mike Reilly all doing battle against one another week in and week out. Maybe we would finally not see a Western crossover come playoff time, dare to dream!
5. I want Zach Collaros to go to Edmonton
Thought I was done with the Edmonton quarterback situation didn’t you? Listen, in this league you always need to have a solid backup under centre and competition always brings out the best in a player. Let’s face it, just like Franklin didn’t work out the way anyone wanted in Toronto, the same can be said for Collaros in Saskatchewan. Of course, everything will be different in Saskatchewan now that Chris Jones is gone, but maybe it would be best for both sides to get a fresh start.
This could also open the door for Brandon Bridge to get another shot at being a starter. Bridge was not able to build on a promising 2017 season that saw him nearly take the Roughriders to the Grey Cup. Maybe with a new general manager in Jeremy O’Day and a new head coach in Craig Dickenson Bridge will get a chance to open training camp as potentially the number one guy.
6. I want the Lions to go all defence
You just know new head coach DeVone Claybrooks would approve. This is a man that oversaw the deadliest run of point/yard prevention this league has seen in ages as the defensive coordinator for the Stampeders from 2016-2018. Any sort of bidding war on quarterbacks will naturally lead to their salary going way up. So why not zig if everyone else is zagging? Re-sign Shawn Lemon and Micah Awe and go after Willie Jefferson, Delvin Breaux Sr., Aaron Grymes, Larry Dean, Jovan Santos-Knox and Jonathan Rose. If the Lions can manage to snag a couple of those all-stars than suddenly they don’t need their quarterback to carry the team.
Stamps defensive tackle Micah Johnson has yet to sign a contract extension (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)
Also with the Tiger-Cats’ stable at quarterback and Brandon Banks re-signing, an intact Ottawa squad represents another potentially fantastic rivalry season between Hamilton and Ottawa.
8. I want Duron Carter signed by someone
I really don’t care who, but just get it done. Every league needs a bunch of players like Duron Carter. Super talented but always seem to court some sort of controversy even if they are not at fault. You can never know what to expect from Carter on a weekly basis except that a couple times a year he will make the nightly top-10 highlight list.
9. Edmonton signs every Calgary defensive player
I swear I did not go into this column with Edmonton being the focus, but hear me out. One of my favourite Seinfeld moments is when Jerry is trying to return a sport jacket and when asked for the reason he is returning it he says “out of spite.” I am all for petty fights between organizations and/or fan bases. With the news that J.C. Sherritt, the recently retired Edmonton linebacker, is now coaching Calgary’s linebackers, I say Edmonton should suddenly make like more difficult for Sherritt and go after Ja’Gared Davis and Micah Johnson. Not only does that make the Eskimos better and weakens Calgary in the process but it also adds a little childish spite to this off-season.
By the way, I wish Sherritt all the success in the world. Gonna miss seeing you on the field.
Let the games begin!
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