February 8, 2020

Position of Strength: Blocking talent plentiful in the trenches

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

TORONTO — While there are a litany of skilled defensive lineman on the open market, their counterparts in the trenches will be some of the hottest commodities in free agency.

With several National players set to hit the open market on Feb. 11, one of the most important positions in the entire league should see some shakeup, with veterans and up and comers alike donning new colours in 2020.

There was two individuals ranked on the CFL.ca Top 30 Pending Free Agents list. One of them was Sean McEwen. However, he was released by the Toronto Argonauts on Friday and subsequently signed by the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday.

There are 16 individuals that are set to hit the open market in just a few days time. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Official Free Agent Tracker 
Stamps sign OL Sean McEwen
Position of strength: Gable the cream of running back crop
More free agency headlines


The Elite

Derek Dennis | CGY

Following the signing of McEwen, there’s just a single man in this section, and it’s Dennis. The 31-year-old is a three-time West Division All-Star (2016, 2018, 2019) and has earned CFL All-Star honours on one occasion (2016) while also being named the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 2016. He’s held down the edge in the CFL for five seasons. Dennis is the top offensive lineman available, and he should be highly sought after.

Proven and Reliable

Dariusz Bladek | SSK

Bladek filled in at guard for the Riders during stretches this past season due to injuries to others. At just 25 years old, many believe that it’s time for the Bethune-Cookman product to get a full-time shot on an offensive line. He’s also considered a National player, which will likely only boost his value league-wide.

Tyler Holmes | TOR

Holmes was also released by the Argonauts on Friday, meaning he’s now free to go anywhere he’d like. The seventh overall pick in the 2011 CFL Draft has played 112 games in his CFL career, holding down the left guard spot for the Boatmen. The Ottawa, Ont., native would not only help a team with his ability and veteran savvy, but he’d also be able to help with the ratio.

Philip Blake | SSK

The 34-year-old played at both guard spots for the Green and White during the 2019 season. Blake only featured in eight games in 2019, but he can still help to solidify an offensive line on the interior.

David Foucault | BC

Foucault was a part of a BC defensive line that gave up the most sacks in the league in 2019. Despite that, he and the unit as a whole got stronger as the year went on. The 6-foo-5, 305-pounder is a force at the guard position and has the chance to explore new options after spending his first three years in the league with the Leos.

Thaddeus Coleman | SSK

Coleman helped the Riders’ offence stay efficient by holding down the fort at the right tackle spot in 2019. He’s suited up for all but one game over the past four seasons. The 34-year-old could help another team on the perimeter of the offensive line.

Michael Couture | WPG

Couture helped the Bombers make it all the way to the 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw with his blocking efforts in both the run and pass game. He’s one of the younger individuals available this off-season at just 26 years old. He shouldn’t have a problem getting paid.

Travis Bond | EDM

The 29-year-old earned West Division and CFL All-Star honours during the 2016 campaign. Bond played right guard for the Esks in 2019 and helped them be an extremely solid pass and run offence for the majority of the year.

Ryan Bomben | TOR

Bomben was yet another individual that Toronto released ahead of free agency. The 2010 fourth-round pick is a four-time East Division All-Star, and at 32 years old, he’ll still have some suitors interested in adding him on the inside of their line.

Ryker Mathews | HAM

The Brigham Young product started on an offensive line that helped the Ticats abuse teams through the air in 2019 en route to making it to the championship game. Mathews is just 27 years old, which should afford him a fair amount of offers from around the league. Hamilton will want him back in-house though.

Tommie Draheim | EDM

The 31-year-old has played in just 29 games during his first four seasons in the CFL. He’s also played for three different teams over that span. He’ll be looking for a shot to start with a team that needs help blocking the blindside.

Under the Radar

Justin Renfrow | BC

Renfrow made the move from the Stamps to the Lions following a trade early in the 2019 season. He suited up for 11 games with BC, playing at tackle for them. He only played in seven games during his first two years in the league, so he’ll be looking for a place that will give him playing time in 2020.

Ratio Breakers

Josiah St. John | EDM

The first overall pick in the 2016 CFL Draft hasn’t been able to find a solid foothold in the league as of yet. He bounced around between three teams in 2019, and now he’s a free agent once again. He’ll have an opportunity to land in a spot that’ll help him reach his potential.

Jean-Simon Roy | BC

The Laval product has played sparingly during his first three years in the CFL, but perhaps another change of scenery could give him more opportunity to shine.