January 30, 2024

FA Most Wanted: A versatile defensive piece

Walter Tychnowicz

TORONTO — Call him a defensive back or a linebacker, all Adarius Pickett does is dominate.

If football is a game of chess, Pickett is the ultimate piece. The versatile strongside linebacker/defensive back can do it all. Sack the quarterback, tackle the runner in the backfield, force fumbles or grab interceptions, No. 6 has done it.

That’s why if he doesn’t sign an extension with the Toronto Argonauts by February 13, other teams will come calling for the No. 8 pending free agent on CFL.ca’s top 30 pending free agent list.

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Pickett had a great season in 2023, his first with the Argonauts after two years in Montreal, finishing with 105 defensive tackles, six sacks and a forced fumble on his way to being named a CFL All-Star. Pickett was also the runner-up to Mathieu Betts for Most Outstanding Defensive Player as the heartbeat of a Double Blue defence that allowed only 83.6 rushing yards and 22 points per game.

Nobody had more stops (38) – tackles or sacks that lead to an offensive failure – than Pickett in 2023, showcasing the impact that the versatile defender can bring to a defence in 2024.

The first option for Pickett going forward would be a return to the Argonauts. He was already very good in 2022 with the Alouettes but took his game to an even higher level in 2023 in Toronto. Despite defensive coordinator Corey Mace leaving to become the head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Argos remain primed to field a complete team on both sides of the ball that would give Pickett a good chance to compete for a championship. The Double Blue also traded linebacker Jordan Williams to the Tiger-Cats and could be looking to prioritize keeping one of their best defensive players on board.

If he decides to test the free agent waters, the Riders obviously make a lot of sense with the connection with Mace. Saskatchewan allowed the most net yards of offence last season, but the Green and White are hoping their new head coach can turn it around in 2024, and Pickett would be a big part of that.

A return to Montreal under Noel Thorpe could also make sense for Pickett, who was the team’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2022, but the Als have extended the contract of Darnell Sankey and could be looking to spend the money elsewhere. The Stampeders also would make sense if Micah Awe doesn’t sign an extension to remain a part of Brent Monson’s defence. Even if Awe returns, a player like Pickett that can play multiple position is a fit for almost every defence.

The 27-year-old defender seems to be getting better every year, meaning that the team that signs – or even extends him if the Argos do it by February 13 – could get an even better version of one of the best defenders in the CFL.

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