November 28, 2023

Ferguson: My top 20 pending National FAs

Kevin Sousa/

The free agent market doesn’t open until February, but a look at the list of 2024’s pending free agents shows a wealth of Canadian talent that general managers will be feverishly working to either extend in the coming weeks, or pry away to a new team later in the winter.

While GMs across the league are making those decisions and sizing up what their rosters might look like in 2024, here are my top-20 National players that as of now, are slated to hit the open market.

» CFL reveals list of 2024 pending free agents
» O’Leary: Five free agency game changers
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20. Tomas Jack-Kurdyla

An under the radar name to many fans, but to exactly zero front office members, Jack-Kurdyla was a highly regarded draft prospect coming out a few short years ago from the Buffalo Bulls program. He will have at least a handful of potential suitors this coming year.

19. Luther Hakunavanhu

I’ve always loved Hakunavanhu’s game and potential. I continue to believe his ceiling is much higher than he’s been able to show so far in his CFL career but his time is coming and someone will bring it to life.

18. Johnny Augustine

Through five years in Winnipeg, Augustine has developed into a versatile player, capable of adding punch to the offence and helping on special teams (Jason Halstead/

While all the talk is about Brady Oliveira (rightfully so), Augustine quietly can make a compelling case for developing interest in his skill set and use as a returner.

17. Josiah Schakel

Schakel is one of the most cerebral players I’ve covered in the draft, with a great amount of positional flexibility and great build. He’s an Alberta Golden Bears product and has already played for Calgary and Edmonton. Does he leave the province for an interested team this off-season?

16. Bryce Bell

Flexibility is the name of the game here. Bell has developed into a really solid piece who can swing tackle-to-tackle with ease. I doubt Calgary lets him go, but Hamilton or Ottawa could really benefit from a player like Bell.

15. Adam Auclair

Auclair is a top-end Canadian linebacking talent who has plugged many a hole for the REDBLACKS’ defence over his time in Ottawa. Many across the CFL think highly of his multiple uses and in the era of tight rosters and National talent importance, Auclair checks many boxes.

14. Micah Teitz

Proving himself after the last couple years as both a starter in 2022 and elite specialist, it’s time for Teitz to cash in on all his hard work.

13. Rene Paredes

I’m not sure we see Parades again but if we do, the ageless one from Concordia could play anywhere and make a positive impact. Close second here is Brett Lauther, who I doubt will get a chance to leave Saskatchewan after a stellar season.

12. Jeshrun Antwi

Antwi has evolved into a contributor in the Als’ run game and is a nice fit in Anthony Calvillo’s offence (Peter McCabe/

Amidst all the great stories of Grey Cup glory there might be none better at a core human level than Jeshrun Antwi. Like Augustine above, he has quietly built an impressive resume for himself and a case for a larger role whether it’s back in Montreal or elsewhere.

11. Jevon Cottoy

Just like Hakunavanhu, Jevon Cottoy is one of those body types that make you wonder endlessly about the potential in different systems and coaching staff guidance. Not that he hasn’t been effective in BC, but would someone swing at turning him into a game breaker?

10. Phillip Blake

Versatility on the offensive line remains king. Blake adds that in piles while also having the veteran savvy to connect with any locker room. An immediate upgrade to most, if not all CFL locker rooms.

9. Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund

A violent pass rusher for the Stampeders who was up against a special day from Vernon Adams Jr. in his final action of 2023, Adeyemi-Berglund is a great fit for any club dedicating a National player to the pass rusher spot.

8. Darius Ciraco

From Hamilton, to Ottawa and now Toronto, this Burlington, Ont. native has already checked off all three Ontario teams and will be offered far and wide in 2024 should the Argos — unlikely — not bring him back.

7. Stavros Katsantonis

We all knew Katsantonis had a nose for the ball, but seeing it come to life down the stretch for Hamilton only proved further that his National distinction means nothing. Katsantonis can play for any defence and make plays. The question now is who will prioritize him?

6. Patrick Neufeld

A Grey Cup veteran who communicates and protects with the best of the CFL? Sign all nine franchises up.

5. Chris Kolankowski

Amidst the wild ride of the Bombers’ core over the past five years, Chris Kolankowski has somehow become an elite CFL centre without making any noise whatsoever. If another team can convince him to make a change of location, Winnipeg would be much worse off than people realize.

4. Ben Hladik

I was crushed to see Hladik injured in the Western Semi-Final, knowing he was in line for a payday in what has been one of my favourite CFL stories of the past five years. Replacing former first overall pick Jordan Williams with little drop off shows the meddle of Hladik, who deserves to get a call from every team across the CFL.

3. Brandon Revenberg

One of the best run blockers of the last 10 years, ‘Rev’ is still very much in his prime and could be a key piece to any club; but he would never leave Hamilton, right? RIGHT?!

2. Mathieu Betts

Coming off of an explosive 2023 campaign, Betts controls his free agency fate this winter (Kevin Sousa/

A historic sack season? A Most Outstanding Defensive Player win? A Montreal teacher in the off-season, one has to wonder if Danny Maciocia can lure home the ultimate French Canadian prize in 2024 to continue to build on the strong Alouettes’ culture.

1 . Brady Oliveira

With an honest case for Most Outstanding Player, winning Most Outstanding Canadian and carving out a place in the national football landscape for himself in short order, Oliviera is in line to get paid just as his mentor Andrew Harris is winding down his career. The torch has been passed and Oliveira will carry it proudly in Winnipeg or in a landmark shift elsewhere.

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