There I was, minding my own business last Wednesday evening in what is typically the calm before the storm in CFL Free Agency. It’s a time in late January when prioritized players have already signed extension and those ‘pending’ slide further towards a new setting.
The players who make it to the second Tuesday in February are often backups or low impact starters, as teams do their best to bring back the biggest names in the league early.
Which is why seeing Montreal (for now) receiver Eugene Lewis tweet out an iconic Allen Iverson rant about winning anywhere he goes jump off the screen. Lewis pressed send on the very obvious messaging with the caption ‘See y’all in Free Agency #BetOnYourself‘.
» Market Ready: The 2023 CFL Free Agent Tracker
» CFL.ca’s top 30 pending free agents
» FA Most Wanted: Eugene Lewis
Immediately my mind began to race, imagining how Geno would pair with available clubs. I spent a lot of time studying his game, tendencies and impact in 2022 as he set the standard for workload and maintaining a high level of play when others with the same number of targets faded down the stretch.
Despite not playing a major role in the Alouettes Eastern Semi-Final loss to Toronto, there is no doubt Lewis changes coverages and makes everyone around him better. So the question now becomes, what are the top five ‘fits’ for one of the CFL’s best pass-catchers?
Outside looking in: Saskatchewan Roughriders, Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Elks
With quarterback instability in Saskatchewan and looming protection issue that need solving, the Riders might not be the most attractive destination, especially after deep ball inactivity for the Riders in 2022.
Jake Maier is a surgeon underneath, but Calgary isn’t really the fit for Lewis’ career playing style and strengths, though he would add size and perhaps coax the Stampeders into being more aggressive in both the screen and vertical game.
Edmonton is intriguing with Taylor Cornelius always wanting to push the ball down the field, but the inconsistency and struggles of last season don’t match Geno’s goals in the prime of his career. The only alteration here could be if Kenny Lawler leaves freeing up substantial cap space at the receiver position.
5) WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
I know this would feel unfair, but if Winnipeg loses Dalton Schoen to the NFL after an incredible rookie season and Greg Ellingson returns, this might not be so crazy. Winnipeg wants to stay atop the West and that doesn’t mean staying stagnant. Adding Geno to Greg Ellingson would make Collaros happy as any quarterback in the CFL and if Nic Demski somehow reaches the open market, Lewis’ price tag could be justified.
4) OTTAWA REDBLACKS
The REDBLACKS’ offence needs a jolt of energy. Unquestionably, Jeremiah Masoli being back will bring together what Shawn Burke imagined when he took the Ottawa GM job before the REDBLACKS pivot suffered a season-ending leg injury. Having Geno on the team would be next level. For a squad that didn’t have a passing touchdown for much of the summer, adding Geno’s score zone threat gives them instant answers.
To take a top talent from a team Ottawa plays multiple times could make the move that much sweeter. And while they’re at it, Ottawa should target Walter Fletcher and craft their offence with Masoli and Jaelon Acklin around the Als’ top two attackers.
3) HAMILTON TIGER-CATS
Bo. Levi. Mitchell.
By trading for and signing Bo, the Ticats are clearly trying to fill the cupboards with as much talent as possible while making a true run at winning a Grey Cup after coming so close just a few years ago.
Bo is still a gunslinger and will likely be ‘reborn’ in his traditional attacking mentality this season. Offensive coordinator Tommy Condell could put Tim White – also a pending free agent – and Lewis together while shuffling the deck, which could mean losing Steven Dunbar and others. That being said, if Hamilton is really all in, making this move would confirm it.
2) BC LIONS
It’s not as simple as Burnham out, Lewis in.. but what a replacement that would be. The real kicker for me here is the friendship, familiarity and match in playing style between Lewis and now starting Lions QB Vernon Adams Jr.
If BC can swing this in a relatively cap friendly manner, protect Adams Jr. and get James Butler back in house, the Lions could be an absolute contender in 2023.
1) TORONTO ARGONAUTS
The Argos did a lot of good things offensively last season, but the deep ball was icy cold. Whether McLeod Bethel-Thompson is back or not, Lewis could finally give Ryan Dinwiddie what he’s been begging for since joining the Argos three years ago by attaining the services of an elite deep ball receiver who will shift focus away from DaVaris Daniels, Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and Markeith Ambles to improve the passing attack as a whole.
With all three of those names also pending free agents right now, the potential also exists to bring Lewis in and make him the focal point of Toronto’s attack with everything running to or through him as Toronto looks to improve and hold off the Alouettes, Ticats and REDBLACKS in the East division.