It’s amazing how much can change in a year, especially the one we just went through.
The last ‘normal’ thing I remember before Coronavirus hit and affected every step we take was talking CFL free agency. Sure, we did more radio shows after that — a full month’s worth in fact — but none of them felt as big and fun as the bonanza that is Canadian football’s version of 90-day fiancé.
At this time last year we were coming off a Bombers Grey Cup with the runner-up Hamilton Tiger-Cats looking to solidify their core and make a push to make back-to-back Grey Cup appearances, this time in Saskatchewan.
The big names available included Nick Arbuckle and Zach Collaros and Jeremiah Masoli, who once again found himself this winter the topic of speculation until re-signing with Hamilton weeks before entering the free market.
Big name pass catchers up for grabs included Derel Walker, Naaman Roosevelt, DeVier Posey and DaVaris Daniels. Three of which chose to play for new teams and never got the chance, the fourth (Walker) not signing anywhere until this winter when he agreed to terms with Edmonton to serve his third tour of duty in Green & Gold.
Sean McEwen was a big steal for Calgary from Toronto and Danny Maciocia recruited numerous RSEQ alumni back to Montreal in his first year running the Alouettes free agency attack. The biggest name — and body — of all was Willie Jefferson and he decided Winnipeg was where he wanted to be, despite visits with Hamilton and Toronto, where he sat court side at a Raptors game.
Remember when people used to go to Raptors games?
Remember when they used to play in Canada?
Those were the days.
Through ups and downs, masks and moments of unparalleled sacrifice by front line workers, here we are again.
Early February came with enough names available to make your head spin. I built endless lists on spreadsheets to track player movement last December. It now looks like an abstract art expression by a paint-throwing Hamilton Hipster at Supercrawl, which made me wonder what is this all for?
Admit it, no matter how big a fan of the CFL or Canadian football at all levels you are, you feel hesitant right now. It’s only natural that when you invest in something and feel a sense of loss that there is a mental hurdle to overcome in trusting you won’t be hurt again.
We all felt that pain when the 2020 CFL season was cancelled. As we near the unofficial start of the CFL fandom calendar, the beginning of spring’s anticipation and the longing for hot June training camp days, I have felt energized by the idea that a new season is just around the corner.
When it gets here, what a lineup of talent we will have on display, with plenty more to yet decide where to call home in 2021.
Arbuckle is an Argo, Nichols is a REDBLACK.
That alone would be enough to power the hype train into June, but look around and you’ll see that 2021 CFL free agency goes much deeper than the quarterbacks. Timothy Flanders appears to have the inside track at starting running back in Ottawa after signing with Paul LaPolice’s club, while his previous star back Andrew Harris has eyes firmly planted on winning another Grey Cup in Winnipeg.
The Ticats’ receivers might be the best positional unit in the entire league with Banks, Addison, Acklin, Posey and possibly more to come signed on the dotted line, while the Argos’ pass rush has been bolstered by the addition of Charleston Hughes and Cordarro Law.
Edmonton continues to stockpile talent including new head coach Jaime Elizondo while Calgary has taken a personnel hit. History should remind us all of the Stampeders’ ability to discover, develop and replace production with fresh names.
At first glance on sheer numbers it might seem as though not much is left in the pool of pending free agents, but don’t let the lack of names fool you on quality available.
Rising Canadian QB Michael O’Connor should be in demand while BC running back John White, one of the CFL’s most productive last time we played, remains available.
One of Winnipeg’s most productive receivers, Dan Petermann is not yet official while former Edmonton pass catcher Ricky Collins Jr. is sure to be a game breaker for any team that finds the financial flexibility to sign him.
With all that’s changed over the last year, one thing remains and that’s the CFL bringing some light to your day on a cold Tuesday in February. Kick up your feet on the virtual boardroom desk, make the long trek down the hallway for lunch and set yourself up for a day getting lost in the CFL’s annual off-season reminder of how much talent there is available once we step between the lines once again.