February 1, 2023

FA Most Wanted: An impact defender

Patrick Doyle/CFL.ca

TORONTO — If you watched any Toronto Argonauts game last season, you were bound to see a big play on the defensive side of the ball.

Interceptions, pick-sixes, sacks, tackles for loss; you name it and defensive coordinator Corey Mace’s group did it, as the Argos led the league in turnovers forced (48) and in interceptions with 29, 10 more than the next best teams (BC, Calgary and Hamilton).

Among the playmakers was weak side linebacker Wynton McManis, who joined the Argos last off-season as a free agent, returning to the CFL after a stint in the NFL. The 28-year-old was enjoying the best year of his career before his season was cut short with a knee injury. He returned for the team’s Eastern Final bout against the Montreal Alouettes but was injured once again (bicep) and didn’t play in the 109th Grey Cup.

The six-foot-one, 225-pounder missed a few games throughout the year, but he didn’t miss a beat when he did get on the field. McManis’ efforts earned him the No. 9 spot on CFL.ca’s top 30 pending free agents list and with an expiring contract he could find himself with plenty of options if he hits the open market on February 14.

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Prior to sitting on the sideline for a few weeks in the regular season, McManis played in 14 games, tallied 88 tackles (good for sixth in the league), three sacks, and a forced fumble. He also showed off his ball hawking abilities, picking off two passes including his eventual game-winning pick-six at last year’s Touchdown Atlantic against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, solidifying himself as a pillar on the aggressive Argos defence.

McManis was as impactful as any defender in the league, which was why his name was tossed around in the conversation of who would be named Most Outstanding Defensive Player. He made plays all over the field and was the perfect pairing with middle linebacker Henoc Muamba as the team shot to the top of the East Division and eventually became Grey Cup Champions.

He also showed off his versatility, starting on defence and playing on special teams, something he’s done throughout his CFL career.

And now McManis finds himself with an expiring contract. Based on his talents, he’s likely to attract many suitors should he reach free agency and test the market.

Prior to his time in Double Blue, he was signed by the Calgary Stampeders in 2017 and went on to play three seasons in the Red and White (2017-2019), totalling 104 defensive tackles, 41 special teams tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles in 43 games. The native of Memphis led the CFL in special teams tackles in 2018 with 25, helping the Stamps capture the 106th Grey Cup that same season.

Whatever team gets McManis this season, the Argos or otherwise, will get an immediate boost to their front seven. Toronto will surely want to try to keep the linebacker in Toronto, however, as they look to repeat as Grey Cup Champions. But if McManis does decide to see what else is out there, the rangy defender will have options.

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