Every year as we begin the off-season, the CFL releases the pending free agent list and each year it seems to get longer as one-year contracts dominate the annual off-season player movement bonanza.
In hopes of keeping track of roster movement and having a better sense of who has built a team worthy of a Grey Cup run, I began keeping my own record of who signs where and when a couple December’s ago.
It starts out looking like this.
Like I said, it’s a lot. In all those names though what I see is possibility and great marriages to be made all over the CFL between coaches and players, executives and standouts looking to find their perfect fit in order to maximize performance through the CFL season grind.
With that in mind this year I decided to put together a theoretical big board by awarding players their free agency destination.
DISCLAIMER: I know nothing, this is not reporting and to pretend I know the salary cap or exact depth chart of every CFL team is simply not true. Instead, this exercise served as an educational journey in who is up for grabs this year and where their fit might be if they get to free agency come February.
Notable – Lions RB John White
White was great for the Lions in 2019 after finding his fit following a choppy season in Hamilton and ACL tear in Edmonton. White will be back with the Leos in 2020 after signing a new contract and should give just enough support to Mike Reilly to find better balance than early in 2019 when everything was still to play for and the Lions were supremely lopsided in play calling tendencies.
Unlikely – Esks LB Jovan Santos-Knox
I think Edmonton loves Jovan, he seemed to enjoy playing in Edmonton since the move from Winnipeg but Phillip Lolley is out and the Lions might do well to jump on the lanky weak side linebacker in combo with recently extended Adam Konar.
Lock – Offensive line help
I’m not sure what form it comes in or how much money the Lions are willing to spend to fix their most egregious weakness from 2019, but something has to be done and it doesn’t seem internal. Will they get Sean McEwen and Derek Dennis? Not likely.. but it’s worth taking the swing and seeing if your investment in Mike Reilly when properly protected can facilitate the type of offence you paying the trigger man for.
Personal Request – Bombers DB Nick Taylor
He was outstanding down the stretch and I’d love to see BC – if they have the cash – support their high priced offence with a ball hawk or two like Taylor.
Notable – Stampeders LB Cory Greenwood
The theory here was middle linebacker Greenwood becoming the heart and soul of a re-vamped green and gold defence after Larry Dean becomes available following the departure of his defensive coordinator the last few years in Phillip Lolley.
Unlikely – Riders REC Shaq Evans
I think Evans goes back to Regina, but if he doesn’t I wonder what he could do in a high efficiency attack like Edmonton with Trevor Harris and Greg Ellingson as teammates – and if DaVaris Daniels is on the move elsewhere, Evans could slot into that boundary wide receiver spot and produce NOW.
Lock – Esks OL David Beard and Jacob Ruby
Why mess with success?
Personal Request – Stamps DL Cordarro Law
Tis the season for everyone to poach Calgary’s best talent, especially along the defensive lines. Law alongside a talented group of nationals and big interior tackles could be scary productive depending on defensive system implemented by the new coordinator.
Notable – Stamps RB Ante Litre
Okay, this is cheating because he already signed an extension in Calgary, but this is still notable to me and it should be to you as well if you watched 2019 closely. Litre was outstanding as a downhill runner out of SFU, who appeared to gain the trust of teammates and staff quickly as he got more exposure. An early re-signing is usually a good sign for the following seasons workload. See Sean Thomas Erlington signing quickly in Hamilton last December.
Unlikely – Bombers DL Willie Jefferson
I think Willie signs in the NFL – finally – or goes back to Winnipeg, but can’t you just see him in a Stamps jersey making plays off the edge? I can and it would be a monumental get for Calgary if the cap allows it.
Lock – Stamps DL Junior Turner
As everyone tries to pry the best talent from Southern Alberta each season, Calgary would do well to keep Turner in house.
Personal Request – Argos REC Jimmy Ralph
Ralph has Alberta roots and I’d love to see Bo Levi get the gift of a shifty national slot to mix into his plethora of long athletic receivers.
Notable – Stamps OL Justin Lawrence
I know he already signed back in Cow Town but I thought Lawrence would have been a great way for the Riders interior to get younger and stay physical alongside Bladek and Shepley.
Unlikely – Argos QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson
Doesn’t seem like the right fit, but if the music stops and a few chairs are left, one of the CFL’s most productive passers in 2019 could serve as an effective emergency replacement should Cody Fajardo get banged up while running around as wildly as he did this season. A player like Bethel-Thompson could have served the Riders well in the 2019 Western Final over an injured Fajardo.
Lock – Riders P Jon Ryan
I mean, he’s not playing anywhere else in the CFL, ever.. Is he?
Personal Request – REDBLACKS DB Jonathan Rose
Long, aggressive and a way of finding the football. Rose’s approach would fit Saskatchewan well and could play quickly if Saskatchewan loses any of their key secondary to other teams.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
Notable – Esks REC DaVaris Daniels AND/OR Argos REC Derel Walker
Both are productive and explosive but could Daniels or Walker really see their third team in as many seasons? If they do end up leaving Edmonton or Toronto and teaming up with a new quarterback in Winnipeg, the Bombers’ pass attack could get a serious overhaul.
Unlikely – Ticats QB Jeremiah Masoli
New system, new pieces, new quarterback? Maybe, but I doubt it’s Masoli. He wants to be in Hamilton, Hamilton wants him back and I can say with personal experience both the fans and Dane Evans want him back as well. With all that said, in theory if Masoli became available there are worse situations than Winnipeg.
Lock – Bombers DL Drake Nevis
Guy is a bull of a human who quietly played a key role in keeping Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat singled up in 2019 while seeing Steven Richardson find success in his rookie year out of Minnesota.
Personal Request – Argos DL Tobi Antigha
He’s not really a defensive lineman, he’s not really easily defined as anything, but Antigha is multiple and has the ability to become a dynamic Bombers defender in a multiple defence if they lose Willie Jefferson.
Notable – Lions OL Hunter Steward
A mountain of a man, Steward has established roots in Vancouver but is a Kingston native. If the Lions overhaul their protection this February, Steward might become available and with teams sure to dive in on the likes of Ryker Mathews, Steward might become an appealing national option.
Unlikely – Alouettes OL Landon Rice
He’s probably tired of bouncing between Montreal and Hamilton over the last two years at this point, but who knows.
Lock – Ticats REC Luke Tasker
I just can’t imagine Luke anywhere else. They’ve been through the ups and downs together and Tasker belongs in black and gold until he decides it’s time.
Personal Request – Bombers RB Johnny Augustine
The Ticats don’t need any extra help at national running back but if they’re really dedicated to it for more than one season and don’t want to scramble to find solutions if injuries strike like this year, maybe the Guelph Gryphons product could add another dimension to a group that already includes Maleek Irons, Sean Thomas Erlington, Jackson Bennett and possibly Anthony Coombs.
Notable – Bombers QB Zach Collaros AND Stamps QB Nick Arbuckle
Dinwiddie wants Arbuckle, we know this and he should be able to get him because the Argos have a need and the Stamps are paying Bo top dollar. For Collaros, Toronto makes sense especially as a starter for now and if anything changes Arbuckle is ready to take over in full on short notice.
Unlikely – REDBLACKS QB Jonathon Jennings
I doubt Ottawa needs him, and another up and down year just proves what doubters in BC believed but if Dinwiddie recruits some extra arms I could see him attempting to harness the good and eliminate the inefficiencies in Jennings game.
Lock – REDBLACKS REC Caleb Holley
While LaPolice might want to hold onto the dynamic receiver who left Regina for Ottawa last February, he never seemed to click in the nation’s capital and a younger Armanti Edwards style pass-catcher could do well in the Argos new Dinwiddie-led passing attack.
Personal Request – REDBLACKS LB Anthony Cioffi
He’s a dynamic strong side backer who has thrived in Noel Thorpe’s defence but with turnover at the coaching level, Cioffi could become available and I could see the Argos as a solid landing spot to continue his CFL career.
Notable – Esks RB CJ Gable
If Paul LaPolice wants to scheme anything close to how he ran Winnipeg to a Grey Cup in 2019, he needs a work horse back. CJ Gable has shown he can still get it done and would give an Andrew Harris like ‘pop’ to Ottawa allowing for balance and play calling creativity.
Unlikely – Esks LB Don Unamba
If Dean leaves Edmonton after Lolley resigned what’s to say Unamba doesn’t also pick up and leave? New defensive coordinator Mike Benevides would be spoiled to get Unamba as his day one SAM linebacker.
Lock – Riders RB Marcus Thigpen
It just feels right for Thigpen, who has been super effective and criminally under-utilized in Regina, to become the follow up haymaker to the CJ Gable jab in Ottawa’s new attack.
Personal Request – Bombers QB Chris Streveler
Plaid pullover jackets, LaPolice, a need at QB.. Let’s do this.
Notable – Riders DB Nick Marshall
I’m not sure the need is there but I could see Montreal taking a shot at upping their secondary with a name like Marshall or Jonathan Mincy to pair with their top end coverage men already in house.
Unlikely – Ticats DL Ted Laurent
Hamilton is ‘home’ for Ted even though Montreal is HOME. If he ever does leave Hamilton I have to imagine it would be for Montreal.
Lock – Alouettes LB Chris Ackie
Chris has been great for Montreal after taking a quick swing to Ottawa via trade. The Alouettes should lock him up and make him the core member of their defence alongside Henoc Muamba.
Personal Request – Argos REC S.J. Green
A veteran presence makes his return to a revamped Alouettes passing attack.. The storyline alone is fun but imagine if he was productive?