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January 19, 2022

CFL.ca’s top 30 pending free agents

The Canadian Press

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

Free agency arrives Feb. 8 at noon ET, as contracts are set to expire, signalling plenty of movement on the way.

While some of the players listed will sign extensions, it’s time 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. 8, 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
TRUMAINE WASHINGTON
DB | EDM
(SIGNED WITH OTT 02/10/22)

The Canadian Press

THE LOW DOWN

Lost in the misery of a three-win Edmonton season was a career year for Washington. His five interceptions were a personal best and were good enough to give him the league lead in picks, one of which he returned for a touchdown. After played 12 games in 2019 with the Argos, Washington doubled his productivity in 14 games, with 55 tackles.

29
HENOC MUAMBA*
LB | TOR
(EXTENDED 01/25/22)

Peter Power/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Henoc Muamba is one of the best in the business to patrol the middle of a defence and with his Canadian passport in hand, he’ll be highly coveted should he hit the open market on February 8. The six-foot, 230-pound middle linebacker amassed 49 defensive tackles, two special teams tackles, two sacks and an interception in his first year in Toronto in 2021.

28
JUMAL ROLLE
DB | HAM
(RE-SIGNED 02/08/22)

CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

In his third year with the Ticats, you wonder what might have been for Rolle if he were able to get a full 18-game season in. The 31-year-old finished the 2021 campaign with 40 tackles and two interceptions and his first CFL touchdown, putting him right around the output he’d had in 17- and 18-game showings. It’ll be interesting to see if he opts to stay with the defence he’s had success in, or if he looks for a different opportunity in free agency.

27
JEVON COTTOY*
WR | BC
(EXTENDED 02/02/22)

The Canadian Press

THE LOW DOWN

Jevon Cottoy was third on the Lions in receiving yards, behind Burnham and Lucky Whitehead, with 519 yards in 10 games. Cottoy’s big frame, he’s six-foot-five and 230-pounds, along with his Canadian passport will likely turn the heads of any GMs looking for an impact ratio breaker if the 25-year-old decides to test the waters next month.

26
NOLAN MACMILLAN*
OL | OTT

OttawaREDBLACKS.com

THE LOW DOWN

The REDBLACKS’ first-ever draft pick, a 2016 Grey Cup champion and an East Division all-star in 2019, MacMillan is one of those players you could picture in the same uniform for the duration of their career. If the six-foot-five, 295-pounder wanted to look around though, he’d likely find his share of suitors. At 31, MacMillan should have plenty of good football years left in him.

25
KA’DEEM CAREY
RB | CGY
(EXTENDED 01/31/22)

THE LOW DOWN

Ka’Deem Carey was a workhorse in 2021, finishing the year second in rushing yards (869), just behind Montreal’s William Stanback. The 29-year-old also led all running backs in touchdowns (seven) in the regular season and exploded in the Western Semi-Final with 117 yards and two major scores.

24
GREG ELLINGSON
WR | EDM
(SIGNED WITH WPG 02/08/22)

GoElks.com

THE LOW DOWN

Greg Ellingson may not have had the year statistically that he had hoped for in 2021, but he’s still a perennial 1,000-yard pass-catcher, hitting the milestone five seasons in a row (2015-2019). Despite having different QBs behind centre throwing him passes over the course of the season, Ellingson still hauled in 687 yards and one touchdown in 10 games. If he decides to hit the open market, he’d be a great addition to any receiving corps in the league.

23
DYLAN WYNN
DL | HAM
(EXTENDED 02/03/22)

CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Through four CFL seasons, Wynn has consistently gotten after quarterbacks, been a part of teams that go on deep playoff runs and has racked up accolades for it along the way. A CFL all-star in 2019 and an East Division all-star in 2017, 2019 and 2021, Wynn had five sacks through 12 games in 2021 and had two in the Ticats’ playoff-opening win over Montreal. Whatever his free agent decision is, we expect to see plenty more of one of the best sack celebrations in the league throughout 2022.

22
JOVAN SANTOS-KNOX
LB| HAM
(EXTENDED 02/01/22)

CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Perhaps lost somewhat in the spotlight that his teammate Simoni Lawrence pulls in with the Ticats, 2021 was a stellar year from Santos-Knox. His 72 tackles were one less than Lawrence and good for sixth overall in the league in 2021, while he added a sack and a forced fumble along the way. Just 27, Santos-Knox could be the Ticats’ – or any other team’s – linebacker of the present and future.

21
CARIEL BROOKS
DB | HAM
(EXTENDED 02/02/22)

Geoff Robins/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Brooks, 30, thrived in Orlondo Steinauer’s defence in 2021, pulling in a career-best five interceptions that tied him for the league lead with Edmonton’s Trumaine Washington. The five-foot-10, 200-pounder added a sack and 23 tackles in 12 games. Brooks will look to build on the strong season he had, wherever he’s playing in 2022.

20
ED GAINEY
DB | SSK
(SIGNED WITH EDM 02/08/22)

Matt Smith/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Gainey established himself as a ballhawk in 2017 with a 10-interception season in Saskatchewan and never looked back. While he didn’t hit that mark in 2021, he did tally three interceptions and 37 tackles. Will he stay in Rider green or see what else is out there on February 8?

19
KWAKU BOATENG*
DL | EDM
(SIGNED WITH OTT 02/08/22)

GoElks.com

THE LOW DOWN

The 2021 season may be one that Boateng would like to forget, given the Elks’ struggles. Very few doubt Boateng’s ability to get to quarterbacks. Through four seasons, the Wilfrid Laurier product has 25 sacks, with 21 of them coming in those first four seasons. The 26-year-old should have plenty of options if wants to explore them in February.

18
FRANKIE WILLIAMS
DB/RET | HAM

The Canadian Press

THE LOW DOWN

Williams continued to play double duty in Hamilton in 2021, suiting up as a returner and a defensive back. He played in the first nine games of the season before missing the rest with an injury. While he was in the lineup, the five-foot-nine, 190-pounder collected 25 defensive tackles and an interception on defence and added a touchdown on a punt return. Will Williams remain in Hamilton or decide to take his talents elsewhere?

17
JAKE WIENEKE
WR | MTL
(EXTENDED 02/07/22)

Geoff Robins/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

All Jake Wieneke did in 2021 was score touchdowns. The pass-catcher led the league in receiving touchdowns (11) in his breakout year with the Alouettes. With 1,467 yards over two seasons to his name, the six-foot-four, 215-pounder would be a significant addition to any team looking for a boost to their offence if he doesn’t sign an extension to stay in Montreal.

16
KAMAR JORDEN
WR | CGY
(EXTENDED 01/26/22)

The Canadian Press

THE LOW DOWN

Jorden successfully returned from some serious knee injuries sustained in the 2019 season and showed that he can still be a top-performing receiver in the CFL. Through 11 games, some of them without QB Bo Levi Mitchell, Jordan still pulled in 767 yards last season and scored four touchdowns. He’ll no doubt have some suitors, but Calgary is the only team he’s suited up for in the CFL. We’ll find out soon if that will change or not this year.

15
DUKE WILLIAMS
WR | SSK
(EXTENDED 02/05/22)

Matt Smith/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Williams returned from a three-season stay with the Buffalo Bills and slotted into some hefty responsibilities in Saskatchewan, where the Roughriders were looking for some top-tier help in the receiving game. Williams gave the riders 285 yards and a touchdown through the four games he dressed in and managed to pull in three onside kicks. Players returning from the NFL often seem to struggle somewhat as mid-to-late-season additions in the CFL. There’s little doubt here that Williams, now 28, can’t be a top-tier player again in Canada. Whether he opts to stick with Cody Fajardo and O.C. Jason Maas remains to be seen.

14
ANDREW HARRIS*
RB | WPG
(SIGNED WITH TOR 02/08/22)

Jason Halstead/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Andrew Harris missed some games in 2021 with injuries but was still a key piece of the Bombers’ championship run, proving he’s one of the best to run the rock when he’s healthy. Will he decide to test the market or stay in Winnipeg looking for the three-peat in 2022?

13
TUNDE ADELEKE*
DB | HAM
(EXTENDED 01/20/22)

Geoff Robins/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Tunde Adeleke was the Tiger-Cats’ Swiss Army knife in 2021. The versatile defensive back played all over Hamilton’s secondary in his second season donning black and gold, tallying 44 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions. If the 26-year-old hits the open market next month, he’s like to be highly sought-after based on his skillset and his Canadian passport.

12
DARNELL SANKEY
LB | CGY
(SIGNED WITH SSK 02/08/22)

Stampeders.com

THE LOW DOWN

The league’s leading tackler in 2021, with 97 in 14 games, Sankey leaves no doubt that he’s great at what he does. The 27-year-old out of Sacramento State made a tremendous impression in his first CFL season. Now he just needs to figure out where he’d like to ply his trade in 2022.

11
BRANDON REVENBERG*
OL | HAM
(EXTENDED 01/19/22)

Peter Power/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Brandon Revenberg was the East Division’s nominee for Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 2021 and for good reason after he helped the Tiger-Cats to the East Division’s second seed. Hamilton finished with the second highest pass efficiency and the second-best pass completion rate, while averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game. 

10
SIMONI LAWRENCE
LB | HAM
(EXTENDED 01/28/22)

Photo: Ticats.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Simoni Lawrence led the Tiger-Cats in tackles (73), tallied four sacks and scored twice in 2021. The 32-year-old hasn’t played anywhere but Hamilton since joining the team in 2013 but if he does decide to test the open market, any team would be excited about having the WILL linebacker on their roster.

9
MCLEOD BETHEL-THOMPSON
QB | TOR
(EXTENDED 01/31/22)

Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

McLeod Bethel-Thompson helped lead Toronto to the top of the East Division with a 9-5 record and finished the year sixth in passing yards (2,303). The six-foot-four, 220-pound quarterback could explore his options in free agency if he decides to hit the open market, or could stay in Toronto and finish what they had started after losing the Eastern Final against Hamilton.

8
ADAM BIGHILL
LB | WPG
(EXTENDED 01/20/22)

CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Adam Bighill was a major part of the historic Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence that hit the field in 2021 on their way to winning a Grey Cup. Bighill tallied 70 tackles to go along with two sacks, two interceptions and a touchdown and was named 2021’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player at year’s end. Will he stay in Winnipeg looking for the three-peat or look to test the waters?

7
SEAN MCEWEN*
OL | CGY
(EXTENDED 01/19/22)

Larry McDougal/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

The cat was out of the bag on McEwen essentially from the moment he made his way into the league. The third overall pick in the 2015 CFL Draft, the young centre was the team’s nominee for rookie of the year. He was then the Argos’ nominee for Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and was their nominee for Outstanding Canadian in 2018 and 2019. In Calgary last season, he was named a CFL all-star for the second time in his career. At 28, McEwen holds the cards as a free agent once again and should be able to have his pick of where he’d like to play.

6
KENNY LAWLER
WR | WPG
(SIGNED WITH EDM 02/08/22)

Jason Halstead/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

After leading the league in receiving yards in 2021, Kenny Lawler will likely be a hot commodity if he does indeed hit the open market in February. He was the only pass-catcher to surpass the 1,000-yard mark last season (1,014) on his way to helping the Bombers win their second-straight Grey Cup. Will Kyle Walters make sure the 27-year-old stays in Winnipeg or will Lawler explore his options?

5
STANLEY BRYANT
OL | WPG
(EXTENDED 01/21/22)

CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

Stanley Bryant took home the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award in 2021, which was the third time he’s received that accolade. He was part of an offensive line that allowed a league-low 16 sacks, while topping the CFL in offensive points (23) and finishing second in rushing yards (119.7). If he doesn’t stay in Winnipeg, there are eight other teams that would welcome his services with open arms.

4
JA’GARED DAVIS
DL | HAM
(SIGNED WITH TOR 02/08/22)

CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

If he becomes available, Ja’Gared Davis would be a welcome addition to any team looking for a big-play defensive lineman. Davis was stellar in the regular season, tallying 39 tackles and six sacks, but it was his post-season performance that turned heads. The six-foot-one, 238-pounder, who has played in the Grey Cup in all five of his CFL seasons, will be highly coveted should he hit the open market on February 8.

3
JEREMIAH MASOLI
QB | HAM
(SIGNED WITH OTT 02/07/22)

Geoff Robins/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

With the Ticats signing Dane Evans, it looks like Jeremiah Masoli might not be in the plans for the future in Hamilton. With his skillset, Masoli has proven that he can play at a high level and effectively lead an offence. He’ll be at the top of the free agent board of any team looking for a No. 1 quarterback heading into the 2022 season.

2
BRYAN BURNHAM
WR | BC
(EXTENDED 01/28/22)

Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

If you were looking for a highlight reel catch in 2021, all you had to do was look at the body of work from Bryan Burnham. The 31-year-old was just 35 yards shy of hitting 1,000 yards receiving and hauled in five touchdowns on 67 catches. If he doesn’t sign an extension in BC, he’ll be a welcome addition to any team looking for an impact receiver with a reliable set of hands.

1
ZACH COLLAROS
QB | WPG
(EXTENDED 01/20/22)

Geoff Robins/CFL.ca

THE LOW DOWN

It’s likely that Zach Collaros is a must-sign for Winnipeg, but if for some reason he does test free agency, the 33-year-old would be an asset to any team looking for a winning QB. All Collaros did was win since joining the Bombers at the end of the 2019 season and his 2021 campaign was his best yet. He was named MOP and helped Winnipeg to their second Grey Cup in a row.

 

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