TORONTO — It’s December which means it’s time to start looking towards the 2024 CFL season.
The CFL’s Free Agency period opens on Feb. 13, 2024 at noon ET and each team will have to make tough decisions in regards to roster building as they start the pursuit of the 111th Grey Cup.
Turnover is an inevitable reality in professional sports, but it’s the continuity that often times ends up deciding who gets to host the trophy at the of the season. To keep you in the loop in regards to your favourite team, CFL.ca’s takes you through the top three pending free agents for each team, starting with the East Division.
Beginning with the 2023 champions, the Alouettes have a few pending free agents that were key additions for their championship run.
Darnell Sankey and Shawn Lemon signed midway through the 2023 season and elevated an already-good defence to championship status. Lemon had nine sacks, two picks, a forced fumble and a defensive score on his way to helping the Als win the 110th Grey Cup. Sankey meanwhile had 31 tackles, a sack, an interception and two forced fumbles as Noel Thorpe’s defence finished with the second most turnovers (48) in the CFL.
Linebacker Tyrice Beverette is also one the core pieces of the Alouettes defence set to hit free agency in February. The 2023 East Division All-Star had a breakout season in his second year in Montreal, registering career highs in tackles (89), sacks (seven) and touchdowns (two).
An honourable mention among players that will be free agents next year for the Alouettes is running back William Stanback. The veteran had 1,041 yards from scrimmage and three majors as the leader for Montreal’s backfield. One of the longest tenured Alouettes, Stanback spent his last five seasons in Montreal after signing with the team in 2018.
The Argonauts will also have a lot of tough decisions to make in 2024 as some of their key faces on the roster are set to hit free agency. Running back AJ Ouellette had a breakout year in 2023 and is among players that the team is going to have to make a decision on. Ouellette rushed for 1,009 yards and eight majors as the leader in the backfield for the Double Blue.
Joining the runner as pending free agents are defensive back/linebacker Adarius Pickett and linebacker Wynton McManis. Both were named to the East Division All-Star team after leading a defence that finished first in sacks (68) and turnovers (54), with Pickett featuring as a finalist for the Most Outstanding Defensive Player awards after registering six sacks and a forced fumble. McManis meanwhile finished the season with career highs in sacks (four), interceptions (four) and defensive touchdowns (two).
The Ticats will have star wide receiver Tim White hitting free agency after leading the CFL in receiving yards in 2023. White finished the season with 1,269 yards and eight scores as the engine behind the Tiger-Cats’ passing game. The pass catcher has over 3,300 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns in three seasons with the Black and Gold.
Offensive lineman Brandon Revenberg is also a pending free agent for the Tiger-Cats after being named an East Division All-Star for the fifth time in his career. The veteran played in all 18 games with the Tiger-Cats, helping James Butler rush for 1,116 yards and seven touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, linebacker Jameer Thurman is also set to become free agents for Hamilton. Thurman finished sixth in tackles with 98 while also grabbing two interceptions and forcing a couple of fumbles and was part of a defence that finished tied for third in turnovers forced with 43, including a tie for the league-lead in fumbles with 15.
The REDBLACKS showed some promise in 2023 but ultimately lost too many close games to find a way to reach the post-season. As they reshuffle the roster for 2024, they’ll have to make decisions on some important names like 2022 Most Outstanding Defensive Player Lorenzo Mauldin IV, who has 22 sacks over the last two years. Fellow pass rusher Bryce Carter added 12 quarterback knockdowns in 2023 on his way to being named an East Division All-Star and is also set to become a free agent next year.
Brandin Dandrige is also on the list for Ottawa after finishing tied for second in the league in interceptions with five, including two defensive scores. The trio was part of an Ottawa defence that tied for third in takeaways with 43 while finishing second in interceptions with 24 thanks in part to a ball-hawking back end led by Dandrige who was named an East Division All-Star.