As we approach the CFL’s negotiation window it’s hard not to notice the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian has yet to sign an extension.
Yes, football fans around the nation are salivating over the opportunity to have a huge boost to their offence with a player who eclipsed 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 2023.
However, as much as every team would love to land him, you have to take a look at the landscape to see likely landing spots.
Of course the most likely scenario is Oliveira staying at home in Winnipeg. Winnipeg is his home and always has been except for university when he wasn’t too far away in North Dakota.
He’s well established in the community and is a community hero with the work he does saving animals in the area.
Will Oliveira take a ‘home town discount’? Possibly. But he’ll still demand a high salary as a ratio breaker type player.
» Jefferson to pending free agents: ‘The ball is in your court’
» MMQB: Burning questions two weeks ahead of free agency
» CFL.ca’s top 30 pending free agents
» 2024 Free Agency: Who could hit the open market?
» More 2024 Free Agency news, notes, and analysis
The appeal for Oliveira should be to see what exactly the other teams around the league are going to offer. The 26-year-old running back is entering his prime and football careers are short, so if he looks for the most money possible, no one should/will hold that against him.
But if it’s not Winnipeg, then who?
The BC Lions are a team that I think makes a lot of sense as well. The Lions have been right there at the end of the season but with their extremely strong passing game, the Lions run game hasn’t been as strong after losing James Butler to the Tiger-Cats in free agency.
They could use a hard-running tailback who can also be a great asset in the pass game for Vernon Adams Jr. in 2024.
Plus, if you want to beat the best, why not take one of their best players to help you get over the Western Final hurdle?
The Lions have shown how close they are and Oliveira would see that his chances of winning a Grey Cup wouldn’t take too significant of a blow heading West.
Now, let’s take a quick swing through the other West Division teams.
Edmonton would be a surprise with the play of Kevin Brown. Brown is a similar age to Oliveira and went for 1,300 yards of offence on a team that was struggling offensively last season.
Brown should be an integral part of the offence with McLeod Bethel-Thompson now at quarterback.
Calgary is similar to the Elks.
They’ve already extended the contract of Dedrick Mills this off-season, with Ka’Deem Carey as a pending free agent.
Mills showed he can be an every down back for the Stamps with 800 yards and he wasn’t even starting the entire season. He was splitting reps with Carey and I’d expect the Stampeders to spend money elsewhere in free agency.
Now let’s head to the Bombers biggest rival, the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Jamal Morrow was the lead back last year and has not yet signed an extension. However, the Riders have extended Frankie Hickson.
While Hickson has showed promise, the Riders also have a young National in Thomas Bertrand-Hudon which is always a good match if you’re going to flip the ratio.
The Riders could use a much stronger run game in 2024 to help out a first time offensive coordinator in Marc Mueller. Though a player like Ka’Deem Carey or AJ Ouellette who have worked with Mueller and/or new head coach Corey Mace might make more sense than Oliveira heading down Highway 1.
Now we shift to the running back landscape in the East.
I’m going to start with the Toronto Argonauts because the biggest question for the Argos is running back AJ Ouellette.
If Ouellette stays in Toronto, of course there is no chance Oliveira heads there too. If Ouellette leaves, well then you know the Argos would love to repeat history by bringing a former Bomber to Toronto like they did with Andrew Harris a few years ago.
We don’t have to look at the Tiger-Cats as long as Butler is under contract. Out of the running backs in the CFL, I thought Butler was among the best of the rest behind Oliveira in 2023.
The final two teams on the potential Oliveira landing spots are the Alouettes and the REDBLACKS.
Montreal doesn’t have either of their top running backs extended yet. William Stanback and Walter Fletcher are potential free agents. Jeshrun Antwi has signed an extension so there is National depth there for the Alouettes.
It would be a massive move for the Als to try to defend their title, especially after losing one of their top playmakers Austin Mack to the NFL this off-season.
And finally, the Ottawa REDBLACKS would have to pay top dollar to help Oliveira in their re-build. Ottawa could be one of the most aggressive with the financial aspect to make it work, and maybe seeing former teammate Dru Brown land in Ottawa could help as well.
But overall, with Winnipeg, BC, and potentially Montreal and Toronto interested, heading to Ottawa would be a risky move if winning championships is worth a little less money elsewhere. The REDBLACKS might be a few more years away, while those other teams are all in the mix for 2024.
So if you’re looking for my likely landing spots for Oliveira.
3. Toronto (if Ouellette isn’t back)