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January 23, 2020

CFL.ca’s top 30 pending free agents

Peter McCabe/CFL.ca

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

Free agency arrives Feb. 11 as contracts are set to expire, signalling 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 contracts will expire on Feb. 11, 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
C.J GABLE
RB | EDM

 

Esks.com

THE LOW DOWN

C.J. Gable has been one of the best running backs in the league over the last few years, putting up back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Import tailbacks in their 30s aren’t often coveted but his ability to run and catch the ball as well as block sets the 32-year-old apart from the pack.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 30
TEAM – 5
POS — 1
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 14
RUSH YDS – 1,002
TD – 2

29
CIANTE EVANS
DB | MTL
RE-SIGNED WITH MTL (02/11/20)

MontrealAlouettes.com

THE LOW DOWN

Despite Ciante Evans missing five games last season, he still became a staple in the Montreal Alouettes’ secondary in his first year with the club. Over his five-year career, the 27-year-old has amassed 156 tackles and 12 interceptions, solidifying himself as one of the top ballhawks in the league.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 29
TEAM – 2
POS — 4
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 13
TKL29
INT – 3

28
JUMAL ROLLE
DB | HAM
EXTENDED (01/31/20)

Geoff Robins/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

In his second season in the CFL and with the Ticats, Rolle showed the league that when you test him he can respond. His five interceptions led the Ticats, tied him for second in the league and was a substantial jump from the two he had as a rookie. At 29, his best football is still in front of him.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 28
TEAM – 4
POS — 3
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
TKL – 32
INT – 5

27
JUWAN BRESCACIN*
WR | CGY
SIGNED WITH TOR (02/11/20)

Adam Gagnon/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Despite only playing in four games in 2019, Juwan Brescacin found the end zone three times – tying for a career-best (he had three in 2018 in 18 games). The 27-year-old is just starting to play to his potential and with a Canadian passport in hand, he should garner interest should he hit the open market.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 27
TEAM – 2
POS — 7
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 4
REC YRDS – 168
TD – 3

26
S.J. GREEN
WR | TOR
RELEASED (02/07/20)

Argonauts.ca

THE LOW DOWN

S.J. Green put up his third-straight 1,000-yard season in Toronto last season. He’s turning 35 this year but it doesn’t seem like the six-foot-two, 217-pounder is going to be slowing down any time soon.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 26
TEAM – 5
POS — 6
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
YRD – 1,039
TD – 4

25
CHRIS STREVELER
QB | WPG
RELEASED (02/03/20)

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Chris Streveler was a major factor in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ championship run, adding another running threat to go along with Andrew Harris. The 25-year-old tied for the league-lead in rushing touchdowns (12) with William Powell and was dangerous every time he called his own number.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 25
TEAM – 5
POS — 5
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
YDS1,564
TD:INT – 8:14

24
DARVIN ADAMS
WR | WPG
EXTENDED (02/09/20)

CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

2019 was a quiet year for Adams — it was his first sub-1,000-yard season since 2016 — but also highly rewarding. The 30-year-old was a part of one of the most memorable plays in the Bombers’ Grey Cup-winning season. In Week 20, he tightroped the end zone sideline for a fourth-quarter touchdown. The Bombers didn’t lose a game the rest of the way.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 24
TEAM – 4
POS — 5
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 13
YRD – 549
TD 5

23
DAVARIS DANIELS
WR | EDM
SIGNED WITH TOR (02/11/20)

Shannon Vizniowski/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

DaVaris Daniels may have had a quiet 2019 season, but we can’t forget that 2016’s Most Outstanding Rookie is still widely known as one of the best in the business. Just take a look at Week 11’s outing where he hauled in 207 yards against the Bombers, or his clutch performance in the Eastern Final (109 yards, one touchdown).

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 23
TEAM – 4
POS — 4
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 13
YRD – 738
TD 2

22
ED GAINEY
DB | SSK
EXTENDED (02/06/20)

Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

It appears that green is the colour for Gainey, who established himself as a ballhawk in 2017 with a 10-interception season in Saskatchewan. The 29-year-old was on the Rod Pedersen Show in December and said that the Riders wanted him back and that he wanted to be there. It sounds like all that’s left to negotiate is for how long and for how much.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 22
TEAM – 5
POS — 2
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
TKL – 56
INT – 2

21
DON UNAMBA
LB | EDM
SIGNED IN OTT (02/11/20)

Shannon Vizniowski/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Don Unamba headed to Edmonton last year during free agency and he continued to build on his breakout 2018 season at SAM linebacker. Unamba’s cover skills and ability to blitz were on full display, as the 30-year-old hit a career-high in sacks (six) and added an interception and 43 tackles in 12 games.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 21
TEAM – 3
POS — 4
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 12
TKL – 43
SACK 6

20
FRANKIE WILLIAMS
DB/RET | HAM
EXTENDED (02/09/20)

Shannon Vizniowski/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

2019’s Most Outstanding Special Teams player had an incredible season, suiting up as a returner and a defensive back for the Ticats. The five-foot-nine, 190-pounder led the league in punt return yards (949) and was third in kickoff return yards (1,071). There is no question that Williams is now one of the elite special teamers in the league.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 20
TEAM – 3
POS — 1
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 17
TKL – 50
INT – 1

19
LARRY DEAN
LB | EDM
SIGNED WITH HAM (02/11/20)

Jason Halstead/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Larry Dean continued to assert himself as one of the best linebackers in the CFL in 2019, finishing the year fifth in defensive tackles (86). The 31-year-old MIKE linebacker also added a sack and three special teams tackles in his first season donning the green and gold.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 19
TEAM – 2
POS — 3
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
TKL – 86
SACK – 1

18
SOLOMON ELIMIMIAN
LB | SSK
EXTENDED (02/11/20)

Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Age is but a number for Solomon Elimimian, who returned from injury in Saskatchewan with a vengeance and showed no signs of slowing down. The 33-year-old middle linebacker was third in the league in tackles (88) and got to quarterbacks four times in his 10th CFL season.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 18
TEAM – 4
POS — 2
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 15
TKL – 88
SACK 4

17
MIKE MOORE
DL | EDM
EXTENDED (01/31/20)

The Canadian Press

THE LOW DOWN

Moore, 26, had a breakout season with the Esks in 2019, posting career bests in tackles and sacks. That translated to a December workout with the Miami Dolphins, per 3DownNation’s Justin Dunk. The six-foot-four, 269-pound tackle will have plenty of options in front of him if he isn’t signed before Feb. 11.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 17
TEAM – 1
POS — 6
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 17
TKL – 23
SACK 9

16
EUGENE LEWIS
WR | MTL
EXTENDED (02/04/20)

MontrealAlouettes.com

THE LOW DOWN

Eugene Lewis reaped the benefits of the breakout season from Vernon Adams Jr., becoming the pivot’s favourite target in 2019. Lewis enjoyed his best year in the CFL, hauling in career-highs in receptions (72), yards (1,133) and touchdowns (five). At just 26-years-old, the best is yet to come for the pass-catcher.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 16
TEAM – 1
POS — 3
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
YRDS – 1,133
TD – 5

15
DEREK DENNIS
OL | CGY

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

After a year away from the Stamps in 2017, Dennis quickly returned to Calgary and has looked at home since. He’s started primarily at left tackle for the team for the last two seasons and was named a CFL West All-Star each year, winning a Grey Cup in 2018. Dennis may test his options, but Calgary has been a nearly perfect fit for him in the CFL.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 15
TEAM – 1
POS — 2
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 16
STARTS – 16

14
MCLEOD BETHEL-THOMPSON
QB | TOR
EXTENDED (02/04/20)

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Lost in a disappointing four-win season are some impressive feats from Bethel-Thompson, who despite being overlooked as the Argos’ starter twice led the league in touchdowns (26) and was third in passing. The 31-year-old could explore his options as a starter, or could take offers from contending teams that learned the importance of a skilled backup in an injury-riddled year for QBs. MBT will have options as a free-agent.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 14
TEAM – 4
POS — 4
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
YDS4,024
TD:INT – 26:13

13
CLEYON LAING*
DL | TOR
SIGNED WITH OTT (02/11/20)

Shannon Vizniowski/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

The 29-year-old from Edmonton is headed toward free agency as one of the top Canadian tackles in the league. Laing led the Argos in sacks and was the only defensive player on the team to be named an East CFL All-Star. A Grey Cup winner with Ottawa in 2016 and Toronto in 2017, Laing offers skill and ratio flexibility.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 13
TEAM – 3
POS — 5
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 15
TKL 27
SACK – 7

12
LEWIS WARD*
K | OTT
EXTENDED (02/02/20)

Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Special teams are an important part of football and having an accurate kicker like Lewis Ward is key for any team. Even after his incredible field goal streak came to an end, Ward was still one of the more consistent players at his position in the league.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 12
TEAM – 2
POS — 1
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
FG % – 86.0

11
SEAN MCEWEN*
OL | TOR
RELEASED (02/07/20)
SIGNED WITH CGY (02/08/20)

Shannon Vizniowski/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

A Grey Cup champion in 2017 with the Argos, the 26-year-old from Calgary was Toronto’s nominee for outstanding o-lineman the last two years. Teams across the league should be intrigued by the six-foot-three, 295-pound centre.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 11
TEAM – 2
POS — 1
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
STARTS – 18

10
CAMERON JUDGE*
LB | SSK
EXTENDED (02/02/20)

Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Cameron Judge enjoyed a career-year in Riderville in 2019. Along with his 61 tackles and five sacks, the 25-year-old also hauled in two interceptions, including one that he took for a touchdown to solidify the Riders place on top of the West Division. Plus, with a Canadian passport, Judge will be coveted as a ratio breaker for any team’s defence.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 10
TEAM – 3
POS — 1
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 17
TKL – 61
SACK – 5

9
SHAQ EVANS
WR | SSK
EXTENDED (02/07/20)

Matt Smith/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

In his second season in the CFL, Shaq Evans made the leap from good to great. He finished fourth in the CFL in receiving yards, almost doubling his production from 2018. He’ll be a hot commodity in free agency, but he won the support of Rider Nation last year, including from his QB. Cody Fajardo declared him the top receiver in the league in October.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 9
TEAM – 2
POS — 2
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
REC – 72
REC YRD – 1,334

8
MICAH JOHNSON
DL | SSK
SIGNED WITH BC (02/11/20)

Matt Smith/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Stats-wise, 2019 might be a year that Johnson would want to forget. The four sacks he had made for his lowest total since the 2014 season in Calgary, where he had three in six games played. Johnson posted a career-best 14 sacks in 2018 with the Stamps and was revered around the league for his ability to get to quarterbacks. Can he do that in Saskatchewan, or will he look elsewhere?

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 8
TEAM – 1
POS — 4
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 15
TKL – 26
SACK4

7
DYLAN WYNN
DL | HAM
EXTENDED (02/11/20)

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Dylan Wynn has become one of the most dominant pass rushers in the league. He hit career-highs in tackles and sacks in 2019 and should he hit free agency, the 26-year-old will be a hot commodity for any team looking to beef up their defensive line.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 7
TEAM – 2
POS — 3
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
TKL – 44
SACK11

6
NICK ARBUCKLE
QB | OTT
SIGNED WITH OTT (01/31/20)

Geoff Robins/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

He took over for Bo Levi Mitchell last season and Nick Arbuckle made heads turn around the league as he led Calgary to a 4-3 record over that time. His rights were traded to Ottawa but has yet to sign a deal with the REDBLACKS, meaning the 26-year-old could still hit free agency.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 6
TEAM – 1
POS — 3
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
YDS2,103
TD:INT – 11:5

5
DEREL WALKER
WR | TOR

Geoff Robins/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Even with a quarterback carousel in Toronto, Derel Walker continued to prove why he’s one of the best in the business. The receiver hauled in over 1,000 yards, the third time he’s done so in his career. The productivity is there and with a consistent hand at quarterback, the sky is the limit for the 28-year-old.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 5
TEAM – 1
POS — 1
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 15
REC – 65
REC YRD – 1,040

4
JA’GARED DAVIS
DL | HAM
EXTENDED (02/10/20)

Dave Chidley/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Ja’Gared Davis is one of the most ferocious players to line up at the defensive end position. His sack totals almost doubled last season as the 29-year-old enjoyed his first year in Hamilton. He’s no stranger to free agency, hitting the open market last year, and if he becomes available any team would be lucky to have him put pen to paper.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 4
TEAM – 1
POS — 2
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 17
TKL –54
SACK11

3
ZACH COLLAROS
QB | WPG
EXTENDED (01/27/20)

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Zach Collaros had a whirlwind 2019 season after being sidelined with an injury and traded twice, but things ended on a positive note. The 31-year-old stepped into the spotlight in Winnipeg and showcased that he’s still got it – leading the Blue and Gold to a Grey Cup.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 3
TEAM – 2
POS — 2
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 2
YDS221
TD:INT – 2:1

2
MATT NICHOLS
QB | WPG
RELEASED (01/29/20)

Shannon Vizniowski/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Matt Nichols led the Bombers to a 7-2 record and had an impressive 15:5 TD to INT ratio before being sidelined for the rest of the season with an injury. The 32-year-old was playing the best football of his CFL career and should garner attention from teams needing a starting pivot if he hits free agency.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 2
TEAM – 2
POS — 1
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 9
YDS1,936
TD:INT – 15:5

1
WILLIE JEFFERSON
DL | WPG
EXTENDED (02/10/20)

THE LOW DOWN

Should Willie Jefferson test free agency, the six-foot-seven, 245-pound pass rusher is likely going to be at the top of every team’s free agent board. The 28-year-old is the most dominant defensive end in the three-down game and it’s rare that a defensive player can impact the game the way Jefferson does.

FA RANKINGS
OVR – 1
TEAM – 1
POS — 1
2019 BY THE #’S
GP – 18
TKL – 24
SACK12