Free agency is all about evaluating your team, finding out the strengths and weaknesses and trying to do everything to attack those weaknesses.
And when the CFL has over 300 names on the pending free agent list, there has to be nine general managers licking their chops to get after a few of the big names that can fill a void to try and help them to win a championship if they hit the open market next month.
So, I’m going to play GM in each market and give you a player I’d be zoning in on.
SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS – PATRICK LEVELS
Are you nuts???????????? That’s what Rider fans will say when they have me going with a defensive player rather than an offensive lineman/tackle due to the need. But is there a game-changing left tackle available for the Riders? Stanley Bryant is turning 36 so, sure, if he feels he has a year left. Ucambre Williams in Calgary could be an option.
Why, Patrick Levels? Well if there was one spot on the defence that never was settled for the Riders all season it was SAM linebacker. No one grabbed that spot and took over. It also didn’t help when safety Mike Edem went down and Loucheiz Purifoy had to be moved all over the place.
Patrick Levels is a game changing linebacker and in a year the Riders want to win the Grey Cup, a top defence will get you there.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS – BORIS BEDE
That’s right … a kicker. They have everything else if they can lock down their key free agents. Part of this piece is being unable to know who they lose in free agency to know where the leaks might be come February 8th.
The reason I go with Boris Bede is because after Justin Medlock left, they had to fill his spot with two kickers at times. Bede fills both the punting and place kicking role and while he’s not quite Justin Medlock level, he’s still very good and a lot more consistent than what the Bombers were battling with last year.
I fully expect Kyle Walters to have more holes to fill next month as it won’t be easy as many players on the roster will be high priority signings for other teams and you can’t pay everybody in a salary cap era.
OTTAWA – BRANDON REVENBERG
REDBLACKS fans, say it with me, ‘THEY NEED A QUARTERBACK!’ Sure, they do, but it won’t matter who the quarterback is if they’re on their back side all season long.
I will admit the first name I wrote down was Jeremiah Masoli as a veteran presence to try and turn the ship around but as I just mentioned, the REDBLACKS offensive line was among the worst in the league in 2021. They allowed 53 sacks so locking up a perennial All-Star in Revenberg would go a long way to try and solidify the group in the interior line as they, Saskatchewan and others won’t be the only ones looking for a lock down left tackle.
BC LIONS – A.C. LEONARD
This is the opposite of the REDBLACKS. The BC Lions need a pass rush. They have a good young linebacking corps and a decent group of defensive backs but they need help up front. The Lions had the lowest QB pressure and that is always going to cause problems.
They also had the fewest amount of sacks and allowed over 100-yards per game rushing. A good pass rush is imperative in the CFL to have success.
A.C. Leonard has developed from a guy who was catching passes as a BC Lion at the early point of his career to one of the most dynamic pass rushers. In fact, if it wasn’t for a three-game suspension in the middle of the season, there was a shot Leonard could have been the top defender in the West Division in 2021.
MONTREAL ALOUETTES – FRANKIE WILLIAMS
The Montreal Alouettes were good across the board in 2021. They had a quarterback that could win games, William Stanback running wild and they also had a decent receiving group and a top defence.
Their need? A return game that strikes fear in the opponent. The Alouettes only had two big plays in the return game in 2021.
So, why not go after the 2019 Most Outstanding Special Teams Player? And I’ll be honest, this was a last minute change as well. Williams made more sense making the move to Montreal instead of Edmonton, who also needs a game changing return man, because Williams’ former coordinator Jeff Reinebold is heading to Montreal as their new special teams boss.
EDMONTON ELKS – MICAH JOHNSON
My oh my, did the Elks miss Almondo Sewell in 2021. Teams were able to chew them up and spit them out along the ground last season. Head coach Chris Jones will want a defensive tackle who can not only plug holes but also head up field and get to the quarterback. Micah Johnson had a resurgent 2021 after a disappointing 2019 season with ankle injuries.
Having a big presence in the middle of the defensive line should allow those pass rushers to get back to their game after it was easier to slide some protection outside against the Elks.
TORONTO ARGONAUTS – KA’DEEM CAREY
Carey turned into one of my favourite running backs in the league. I like his physicality, plus he’s shown he can catch the ball out of the back field and will run through and around players if need be.
I think Carey would help add some balance to Ryan Dinwiddie’s offence and he’d know Carey pretty good from watching him in the offence when Dinwiddie was in Calgary.
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS – BRETT LAUTHER
That’s right. TWO KICKERS in this piece. Did we not learn how vital trust in your kicking game was in 2021 between the Bombers and the Tiger-Cats? While both teams made the Grey Cup they were scrambling to find someone the coach could rely on to pound it through.
Brett Lauther has turned into Mr. Clutch for the Roughriders over the last few seasons as he’s worked his butt off to get another opportunity to prove he’s one of the best kickers in the league. The Tiger-Cats would be smart to lock up a reliable kicker that they know will put the ball through when need be.
This is also a compliment to the Tiger-Cats for having a great group on offence and defence.
CALGARY STAMPEDERS – JA’GARED DAVIS
This is 100% re-writing a wrong for the Stampeders. Davis is a game changer and he was the heir apparent to Charleston Hughes in Calgary until the Stamps were unable to retain him and allowed him to go to Hamilton, where he’s turned into a perennial All-Star calibre defensive end.
Hufnagel found him and brought him in and now, bring him back. Shawn Lemon wasn’t bad off the edge but Davis is better.
NOTE: Davis arrived in Calgary in 2016 and then left to Hamilton in 2019. You know what that means, right? Davis has been in the CFL in five seasons and his team has made the Grey Cup EVERY SEASON!!!!! Although his record is a disappointing 1-4, but if you want a trip to Saskatchewan in 2022, maybe Davis should be at the top of every team’s priority list.