With just over a month to go before the official opening of Free Agency, we are starting to hit that special time of year where speculation runs rampant and fans get to dream about what stars their general manager will sign.
With that in mind, I have put together my all-pending free agent team but with one small twist; I’m going to actually try and show a little restraint. Maybe because we are in the month where so many people try and dial back what they eat and drink after an indulgent holiday season, I am going to (attempt) to do the same.
» Market Ready: The 2023 CFL Free Agent Tracker
» Cauz: My off-season wish list for every team
» Nye: Top 3 pending FAs on every East team
» Nye: Top 3 pending free agents on every East team
So, my list is not just made up of the most expensive, shiny pending free agents. I did my best to put together a (semi/kinda) realistic team that would fit with the salary cap (I mean you may have to round down here and there) and the Canadian ratio.
QUARTERBACK: Trevor Harris
And after talking about my noble austerity, I’m grabbing Trevor Harris. He will be less expensive than Bo Levi Mitchell and always puts up numbers. Yes, he hasn’t won the “big game” but neither did McLeod Bethel-Thompson until this year. Harris was impressive in both playoff games with the Alouettes throwing for over 600 yards with two touchdowns, completing 80% of his passes, and was a score away from a possible trip to the Grey Cup.
RECEIVER: Kurleigh Gittens Jr.
There is so much quality Canadian talent at this position so let’s go for the Wilfrid Laurier star who has gotten better each year and just posted his first 1,000-yard season in his third year with the Toronto Argonauts.
RECEIVER: Kaion Julien-Grant
Sticking with the theme of young up-and-coming Canadian receivers, Kaion also took a big leap in his third year with Montreal and brings much needed size for the position.
RECEIVER: Darvin Adams
We need an older, more experienced receiver for this group so let’s add a proven commodity with nearly a decade of experience. Despite his “age” (32 is NOT old in “human” years) Adams has been quite durable over the past five seasons.
RECEIVER: Nic Demski
I promise Winnipeg I’m not purposely targeting you; I just want someone who had put up double digit touchdowns in 2022 and despite missing five games set a career-high in receptions and receiving yards.
RUNNING BACK: Sean Thomas Erlington
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats running back falls into the category of the player I always wish got the ball more. I’m sure Orlondo Steinauer had excellent reason for Thomas Erlington’s usage, but I’ll take the speedy fifth-year back who happens to have a Canadian passport. Speaking of speed, in three different seasons Sean averaged over six yards a carry.
RUNNING BACK: A.J. Ouellette
Now that we have our speed back, we’re going to need our battering ram. Ouellette’s hair alone can convert most short yardage situations.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE: Stanley Bryant
Time to splurge on one of the best to ever do it. Bryant is still playing at such a high level at the age of 37 and will give Harris plenty of calm on those pesky second-and-long situations.
OFFENSIVE GUARD: Sukh Chungh
Chungh hasn’t made an All-Star team since 2018 but he is a more than good enough lineman who has started 30 of the BC Lions last 32 games, and was part of a BC team that finished first in net offence, second in first downs, and fourth in rush yards. At 30 years old Chungh still has plenty of good years ahead.
CENTRE: Justin Lawrence
I get a 26-year-old centre who made the East Division All-Star team that started every game for the eventual Grey Cup-winning Toronto Argonauts! The Edmonton native is about the easiest pick on this list.
OFFENSIVE GUARD: Zack Williams
Our run of Canadian linemen continues with the ultra-durable and steady Williams who has not missed a game the last two years with the Calgary Stampeders. Love his age (25) and that he was a part of an offensive line that helped make life easier for Ka’Deem Carey in 2021 and 2022, as Calgary led the CFL in rushing this past season.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE: Jermarcus Hardrick
Listen Winnipeg, if you don’t want me raiding your team then maybe start losing more games or quit developing so many quality players. Love me the 32-year-old man mountain with two All-Star team selections, the last being in 2021.
DEFENSIVE END: Julian Howsare
Julian’s end of season three tackle, one sack, and one interception performance in a Hamilton win over Calgary sticks out as the finest moment for the 2022 All-Star. Howsare led the Tiger-Cats with seven sacks and chipped in with two interceptions. He was a constant nuisance for offensive tackles and quarterbacks alike.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Ted Laurent
I’m hoping I can get Ted at a bit of a discount considering his age. There aren’t that many Canadian defensive linemen that can occupy so much space in the middle of opposing offensive lines. Despite all the wear and tear of playing that position for so long Ted still only missed one game in 2022! Remarkable.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Ja’Gared Davis
This is not the first time I’m going to cheat and take Davis as one of my tackles and it won’t be the last. My team is now guaranteed to make the Grey Cup with the league’s best good charm.
DEFENSIVE END: Pete Robertson
If Pete is healthy for the majority of the season there is no way that I’m not getting double digit sacks from a man who had nine sacks in his first eight games with the Roughriders last year.
LINEBACKER: Chris Edwards
I’m a big fan of grabbing playmakers from teams who know how to take the ball away from their opponent. The 2021 All-Star is great in coverage, has got his hands on nine interceptions in 80 career games, and was a big reason Toronto led the league in turnovers forced.
LINEBACKER: Jesse Briggs
At this point all Bombers fans should just send their hate mail to my editor; I’m used to it from every time I went against Winnipeg in our weekly picks section. This is the least flashy selection but if I’m picking a team with a mix of talent and pedigree, I love having a durable linebacker who has spent his entire career under the tutelage of Mike O’Shea. Briggs will also contribute on special teams coverage.
LINEBACKER: Darnell Sankey
Hey, look the defender who has led the league in tackles the past two years is available! Sometimes you don’t need to overthink it.
DEFENSIVE BACK: Monshadrik Hunter
An All-Star in 2021, Hunter is just 27 years old and has recorded at least two inceptions in each of his four years in the league, including a career-high four last season. Hunter only missed six games in the last year and every team needs a player whose nickname is “money.”
DEFENSIVE BACK: DaShaun Amos
Amos is the second ball hawking member of the Argonauts defence I’m stealing away. See Winnipeg, I’m not just going after your free agents! Amos checks a lot of boxes for me as he is under 30 years old and is coming off a career best season for tackles (49) and his four interceptions are one off his career-high.
DEFENSIVE BACK: Elie Bouka
I mean, who wouldn’t want a player who is as dedicated to his community as Elie is with his passion for mentoring young athletes? On top of all the feel good, we’re getting a versatile Canadian defensive back who played 14 games for an excellent Stampeders defence.
DEFENSIVE BACK: Royce Metchie
The former Guelph star has been a productive safety for two excellent defences over his first four years in the CFL, first with Calgary and with the Argonauts in 2022. Metchie has never made an All-Star team, but he is the sort of solid week in, week out contributor you need to fill out any elite level defence.
DEFENSIVE BACK: Garry Peters
Time to open the wallet for one of the best defensive backs of the 2022 season. Peters made the CFL All-Star team on the strength of his five interceptions as the best member of a very talented Lions secondary. I know I have been harping on durability as a major sticking point for my selection process and Peters fits right in as over the past four years. He has made over 200 tackles, picked off 11 passes and has not missed a game due to injury in that time.
KICKER: Michael Domagala
There are not a ton of high-end kickers available so why not go with the Canadian kicker with so much versatility? In Hamilton Michael was a Swiss army knife as he has been employed as a punter, field goal kicker, and has handled kickoff duties as well. It gets forgotten as the Tiger-Cats lost but Domagala was a perfect 3-for-3 in that windy 2021 Grey Cup in Hamilton.