- Free Agency
We’re now three months past the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ historic, dry-spell-snapping Grey Cup win. Since that confetti-filled night in Calgary, we’ve seen widespread change across the league at multiple levels. We’ve had four head coaching changes, new ownership in Montreal and we’ve seen a ton of player movement in free agency.
With most of the key pieces in place (still waiting on you, Derel Walker) for rosters across the league, we thought this was a good time to engage in some largely meaningless but still very fun debate at CFL HQ. Our annual way too early power rankings are below. Will you disagree? Unless you’re a Ticats fan we’re guessing you will, but that’s part of the fun, right? Right.
The bulk of the Ticats’ off-season work took place before free agency. They extended key pieces from last year’s East Division champion squad, including Jeremiah Masoli and their highly productive defensive line of Ja’Gared Davis, Ted Laurent, Dylan Wynn and Julian Howsare. DeVier Posey will slide in to try to replace Bralon Addison at receiver and the Ticats will go into camp thinking about a Grey Cup run.
The Bombers will begin the defence of their Grey Cup with Zach Collaros holding the keys to the offence, surrounded by arguably the league’s best o-line and the league’s top running back to hand off to. There were some losses to the backfield, but in keeping Willie Jefferson, Winnipeg’s defence should remain elite for the foreseeable future.
Behind Cody Fajardo’s blossoming as a starting QB, the Riders were a pleasant surprise in 2019. Micah Johnson will be missed on the defensive line, but with Jason Maas in at offensive coordinator and Shaq Evans back as Fajardo’s No. 1 option, the Riders are poised to take another step in 2020.
There are some important ifs hanging over the Stamps right now. If Bo Levi Mitchell is fully recovered from shoulder surgery and if Kamar Jorden has fully healed from his knee injury of 2018, Calgary has an elite QB-receiver tandem. If they’re not ready, the Stamps could be up against it early in the always competitive West.
Edmonton has a new voice on the sidelines, in Scott Milanovich and Trevor Harris will hope to stay healthy this year, operating behind one of the top o-lines in the league. Defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe knows Edmonton well and should have the Esks’ defence razor sharp out of the gate this year. An area that could spark them to Ws and up the power rankings? The return game.
The Als head into a new decade with new ownership, a new president and GM and their four-year playoff drought finally behind them. The challenge this year will be to take the next step forward. A defence that gave up 485 yards last year (third-worst in the league) will have to tighten up. There will be no sneaking up on teams this year.
The Lions have had a productive off-season, bringing in head coach Rick Campbell and making two big signings in the trenches, in OL Ryker Mathews and DT Micah Johnson. They’ve beefed up their receiving corps, with Dominique Rhymes and Caleb Holley. Don’t forget about Mike Reilly and Bryan Burnham, either. The Lions have a lot of pieces. Now they need to win games.
Cue your favourite version of Changes, whether it’s David Bowie or Tupac. After back-to-back four-win seasons, the Argos will head into 2020 with just about a new everything. Bringing all of these new faces together is a tough task, but it’s been done in the CFL before. Watching how the Argos try to do it will be part of the fun this year.
A new head coach in Paul LaPolice (with a new staff), a new starting QB in Nick Arbuckle and a fresh start for a REDBLACKS team that hit bottom last year. If Arbuckle pans out, Marcel Desjardins could make the 26-year-old his franchise quarterback for a long time.