November 27, 2023

O’Leary: Five free agency game changers

Daniel Crump/

The 2024 edition of CFL free agency offers a unique market.

A quick look at the list of pending free agents shows us that the vast majority of starting quarterbacks in the league are already under contract for at least next season. That doesn’t mean there won’t be change at the most important position in the game for some teams, but compared to years past (shoutout to the FA QB bumper crop of 2019), we largely already know who to expect to see under centre across the country when the 2024 season rolls around.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t moves to be made that can significantly alter a team’s outlook. There is elite, top-end talent out there to be had. After amassing an initial list of almost 30 players that I felt could drastically improve a team with their presence, I whittled it down to the following five.

One takeaway I had from putting this list together and thinking about the impact free agency has had for teams over the last few years is that as good as these players are, one single signing won’t swing a team’s fortunes in the off-season. We see examples of that with teams almost every year in free agency. Roster continuity is a CFL general manager’s greatest challenge, but the teams that have managed to establish it as best they can and pair it with that high-end talent and a good team culture are the ones that tend to float to the top of the standings.

With that said, here are five players that I think could instantly improve whatever roster they’re on next season.

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Brady Oliveira 


After a 2023 season that saw him surpass 2,000 combined yards and pick up Most Outstanding Canadian Player honours, as well as being the West Divison’s nominee for Most Outstanding Player, Oliveira seems to have a limitless ceiling above him. He established himself as the backbone of the Bombers’ offence this year and behind an excellent offensive line galloped up and down CFL fields, looking like an unstoppable force when he got the ball in his hands. At just 26, Oliveira will justifiably explore NFL options this winter, while simultaneously saying that if he’s back in the CFL in 2024, he wants it to be with his hometown team, the Bombers. Still, if the CFL is in his plans this coming season, expect every team in the league to offer to make a pitch for his services.

Mathieu Betts 

Betts used the 2023 season to set a record for sacks by a National player and to establish himself as an elite player in the CFL (Jimmy Jeong/

Betts went into the 2023 season with nine career sacks over three CFL seasons. He doubled that this year, his second with the Lions. The Montreal product was relentless in his pursuit of quarterbacks this season, racing out to the league lead in the category. His 18 set a new record for a National player and let the league know that at 28, Betts still has a big window in his football prime and that he’s in position to stay at a high level for a number of years. The Lions will no doubt want to keep Betts in their colours, but if he’s open to moving around or at least listening to what other teams have to say this winter, he could have his choice of destinations for next season.

Dalton Schoen 


Schoen has been a straight up impact player from the moment he arrived in Winnipeg two years ago. He was a no-brainer Most Outstanding Rookie in 2022, when he put up 1,441 yards and 16 touchdowns to lead the league. This year, he battled an ankle injury late in the season, which dropped him to third in the league in receiving, with 1,222 yards and 10 touchdowns. If Schoen has had fellow receiver Kenny Lawler in his ear at all this year, he may be hesitant to venture away from what have been two very rewarding years in Blue and Gold. Like Betts, though, if Schoen wants to entertain offers, he’ll have a long line of interested teams to talk with.

AJ Ouellette 


It feels strange to say it, but you could argue that Ouellette’s excellent season in Toronto was slightly glossed over after the Argos locked up the East Division in September. The 28-year-old just about doubled his 2022 numbers, posting his first-ever 1,000-yard rushing season (1,009 yards in 15 games) along with eight touchdowns. Ouellette also pulled in a pair of touchdown catches in 2023 and even threw a touchdown pass in the Argos’ Labour Day win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He has thrived over the last two seasons in Toronto, with his showing in his team’s 109th Grey Cup win a year ago serving as a launching pad where he showed the league what he’s capable of. Any team in need of some punch in its run game would instantly be bolstered with Ouellette in the lineup.

Brandon Revenberg

An offensive line signing may not be the flashiest move a team will make in free agency, but it can be a foundational piece of the off-season. For any team looking to shore up its o-line, Revenberg would be a perfect person to start with. Just a couple of weeks away from turning 31, Revenberg has been named a CFL All-Star four times (2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022) and is a five-time CFL East Division All-Star AND has been named the Ticats’ Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman four times. Revenberg has played all six of his CFL seasons in Hamilton, but would be highly coveted if he were interested in making a move. Those five big bodies at the line of scrimmage are the heartbeat of any offence. Getting someone as skilled as Revenberg in at guard can pay immediate dividends.

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