Each year CFL rosters evolve. Your best players are prioritized, the core value players get brought back and then you go hunting.
When I build out my list of pending free agents each December, my mind always begins to wander. I start thinking about who would work best in a certain situation, how this player would fit into a team’s salary cap structure and which big time name that we all assume is going to stay put just might flip a switch and jump at the chance for some new scenery in 2023.
With that in mind, here are some matches I think could help tell the story of free agency in 2023.
REC Kenny Lawler
With Bryan Burnham gone, one of the first names that comes to mind as a replacement is Kenny Lawler, who signed for big money in Edmonton last year after being offered a substantial amount by BC. The pairing of Lawler’s deep ball acrobatics with Vernon Adams Jr.’s vertical tendencies could be electric paired with Dominique Rhymes and Keon Hatcher, amongst others.
OL Derek Dennis
RB James Butler
How could you possibly not sign this man to an extension? James Butler looked like he was playing at twice the speed of everyone around him through various points of 2022 and battled through an ankle injury in the Western Semi-Final.
RB Andrew Harris
DL Malik Carney
The new Lorenzo Mauldin IV, Hamilton scouts and develops defensive line play well and Malik Carney is due for his chance to start and show what he really has. Geroy Simon and Chris Jones will unquestionably have Carney on their radar should Hamilton not make a deal before February 14.
REC Duke Williams
Not a great fit, but after an off year maybe Jones and co. get Duke Williams at a slight discount and give quarterback Taylor Cornelius a vertical threat, should Lawler leave.
REC Derel Walker
Derel Walker is going to get his touches, make his plays and continue to rack up seasons served in green and gold. Walker is clearly an Edmonton guy for life in his third trip around the Commonwealth sun.
LB Kameron Kelly
I have a hard time seeing Hamilton part with Kameron Kelly, but he just feels like a Chris Jones type player. He’s athletic, young, and has upside, length and can play multiple positions.
REC Nic Demski
Jake Maier is not going to sling it all over the place like Bo Levi Mitchell based on his first couple of seasons, but he can pick you apart with the intermediate throws when supported by a creative run game. What better marriage (other than Collaros in Winnipeg) than Nic Demski in Calgary?
QB Cody Fajardo
Should Dane Evans get moved to Saskatchewan, Cody Fajardo is likely looking at a backup role. I don’t see Tommy Stevens as a true number two, but the Stamps could make sense as a soft landing spot for Fajardo to work in amongst the Calgary culture and make the most of his opportunities.
DL Shawn Lemon
Much like James Butler in BC, you just can’t let this guy go after how he excelled in 2022. Age be damned, pay the man on a one-year deal and hope he does it all over again.
REC DaVaris Daniels
After years away in Edmonton and Toronto, DaVaris Daniels fits nicely with Maier’s mentality and would be brought up to speed quickly on a system he understands well from his time as both a Stamp and Argo.
OL Philip Blake
The Riders need strength, veteran presence and positional versatility. Add in his time with Saskatchewan in the past and Philip Blake is the most logical fit for what ails the Riders.
DL Ja’Gared Davis
I’m not sure Saskatchewan needs, or even wants, Ja’Gared Davis but they should think about picking him up based solely on his Midas touch when it comes to reaching Grey Cups.
DL Pete Robertson
Pete Robertson is sensational, athletic and fundamentally sound. He was the most important member, when healthy, of that Riders front and it would be strange to see him let go.
OL Hunter Steward
More lineman, please. Don’t stop signing and spending on them until the answer is found. Hunter Steward fits the bill as a skilled Canadian who has seen it all.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
RET Janarion Grant
As explosive and smooth as any return man in the league, Janarion Grant has to stay in Winnipeg or he’ll make them pay with a game-changing play, the same way he boosts the Bombers win probabilities every time he touches the ball.
REC Shaq Evans
Shaq Evans needs a change of scenery and the Bombers could be just what the doctor ordered. I’m not sure of his pure fit here, but I could see his production returning to his breakout season in Saskatchewan and he’d certainly spice up Labour Day Weekend.
REC Greg Ellingson
He loves Collaros, and he should. They were meant to play football together.
DL Micah Johnson
This would be chaos, but as my mind wanders through this article creation process I had to laugh at how ridiculous Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat would be with Micah Johnson eating up multiple players inside.
OL Jamal Campbell
After a solid career in Toronto and a year away in Saskatchewan, the Ticats have to keep shiny new signing Bo Levi Mitchell as clean as possible in 2022 and Jamal Campbell could really help that effort.
REC Kurleigh Gittens Jr.
I don’t see it happening, the even crazier pairing would be Ottawa after Kurleigh’s breakout season, but Hamilton needs better production from Canadian receivers and the lure of Mitchell as huddle leader might be enough to interest the former Laurier Golden Hawk slightly West.
DL Julian Howsare
He doesn’t say a lot, and he doesn’t have to. His play speaks for itself and Hamilton has a new star at defensive end who they must bring back.
REC Kamar Jorden
The Jorden-Mitchell marriage can’t end like that right?! The connection was once elite, but struggled in 2022. What if Hamilton got Kamar Jorden at a value price in 2023 and turned back the clock with a Stamps duo that so often haunted them?
RB A.J. Ouellette
While the Argos don’t run it enough for this to be a big impact, A.J. Ouellette’s influence down the stretch was unquestioned and he could be a steadying force regardless of post-championship turnover for the Double Blue.
REC Eugene Lewis
It sounds like Geno is going to hit the open market on February 14. If Kurleigh and DaVaris Daniels were to leave as potentially postured earlier, would Toronto make THE splash of 2023 Free Agency and take the Alouettes top man?
DB Royce Metchie
I can’t imagine Toronto trading away an elite linebacker like Cameron Judge for just one year of Royce Metchie and not bring him back. Judge has already signed an extension in Calgary and Toronto needs to do the same here.
DL Kwaku Boateng
I fully expect Boateng to return in Ottawa coming off a really unfortunate season-ending injury, but Robbie Smith has opened the door in Toronto to adding quality rush ends with Canadian passports and Kwaku Boateng makes sense here in a healthy rotation.
DL Thomas Costigan
Thomas Costigan flashed on tape in Edmonton and Montreal last season, especially on special teams which could draw the eye of new head coach Bob Dyce while also adding some edge pressure opposite Mauldin.
RB Walter Fletcher
I’m not sure Ottawa wants to build out the offence from running back, but Walter Fletcher is arguably the most exciting player available at the position with huge upside. If the Montreal exodus occurs with Geno Lewis looking elsewhere, I wonder if the REDBLACKS front office would make him an offer he can’t refuse.
LB Avery Williams
Tackling machine. This isn’t complicated. He runs the middle of that defence and should continue to do so.
QB Dane Evans
Masoli and Evans part 2? Why not. Dane Evans is arguably an upgrade from either Caleb Evans or Nick Arbuckle and the QB room chemistry could really help get Dane back on his feet after, most likely, being shown the door in Hamilton.
LB Chris Edwards
DB Jumal Rolle
I can’t see Hamilton letting him go, but a true lock down corner with Jumal Rolle’s size would be a huge asset to Montreal’s defence.
QB Trevor Harris
Jason Maas is the head coach and the offence is setup for Trevor to pick people apart. He’ll sign an extension sooner than later unless the Alouettes get wild and want Evans or Fajardo, which would come out of nowhere.
LB Frankie Griffin
One of the more underrated linebackers ascending through the CFL’s ranks, Frankie Griffin is a tackles for loss monster and could compliment recently extended Tyrice Beverette very nicely for the Als regardless of whether or not Adarius Pickett signs an extension.