February 2, 2024

Cauz: 5 bold free agency predictions

Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca

To quote the greatest Bruce Wayne of our time, Michael Keaton, “You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts!”

We are mere days away from the glorious, chaotic, nutty start of free agency with the opening of the Free Agency Communication Window on Sunday.

I have come up with five bold predictions about what’s to come that are based on actual logic, a sneaky desire to see them come true with a sprinkle of ‘hey, let’s throw some darts at the board and see if any hit a bullseye.’

These five player personnel prognostications come with 0% guarantee of happening and 100% guarantee of being fun if they somehow come to fruition.

» Nye: Where will Brady Oliveira land?
» Steinberg: 4 potential landing spots for Mathieu Betts
» Five pending free agent running backs that could tip the scales
» 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

PREDICTION: William Stanback will be the Shawn Lemon of the 2024 CFL season

Let’s kick this off with all things Montreal Alouettes.

It was no surprise the Alouettes released their former star runner. The team already has extended the 2023 version by retaining the three-time Grey Cup champion Shawn Lemon along with Tyrice Beverette and Darnell Sankey, so I imagine money is tight and being a running back comes with a great deal of occupational uncertainty.

Stanback is a professional, he will stay in shape, and wait until a team is in need of a veteran back capable of playing a lead role for a contending team’s rushing attack. In the Division Final, Stanback will gain over 100 yards on the ground as we all recall his 32-yard touchdown run in last year’s Grey Cup.

PREDICTION: The Toronto Argonauts and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers swap bruising running backs

Both Brady Oliveira and AJ Ouellette are looking to get paid after both posted career seasons. Brady is, rightfully, seeking to be the highest paid runner in the CFL and who would blame him after hitting 2,000 yards from scrimmage while leading the league in rushing.

At just 26 years old, there is no reason to think he doesn’t have at least three more peak years in him. Bombers general manager Kyle Walters has already signed Willie Jefferson and with other elite stars like Jermarcus Hardrick, Demerio Houston, Jackson Jeffcoat and most importantly Dalton Schoen still holding expiring contracts, the Bombers may have to cut costs.

AJ Ouellette will still cost them, but he can be had at a slightly lower price tag. The bonus for Winnipeg is they won’t have to change their offence that dramatically with their new running back, who is similar enough in style to Oliveira.

Toronto will have a hard time fitting another star on the team, but the Argonauts have always found a way to make it work. They need star Canadian talent with the trade of Kurleigh Gittens Jr. In this scenario, Chad Kelly takes a slight pay cut by restructuring his contract and the team will have to say goodbye to at least one (if not two) defensive All-Stars to make it work.

But the addition of 2022 CFL All-Star defensive lineman Jake Ceresna will help to alleviate the talent drain. It’s a small price to pay for having the reigning MOP and the runner up in the same backfield at the same time.

PREDICTION: Saskatchewan goes on a youth movement at quarterback

The Roughriders have a new coach in Corey Mace so it’s time for a shake up at quarterback.

Yes, Mason Fine has been given a two-year extension, but I predict Saskatchewan brings in both Tre Ford and Dustin Crum after Trevor Harris is sent to the Pacific to be the perfect backup for Vernon Adams Jr. in Vancouver now that Dane Evans has retired (Bonus mini prediction!).

With the signing of McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Chris Jones and the Edmonton Elks are going with experience and your more classic drop back passing attack. Ford took a massive leap in his development from his rookie season and will want to be in a system that best fits his skills, which doesn’t exactly mesh with the positives that Bethel-Thompson brings.

Clearly Bob Dyce and the Ottawa REDBLACKS are all in on Dru Brown after signing him to that that lucrative two-year contract. Brown has shown more than enough glimpses when given an opportunity for Ottawa to gamble on his upside. I understand that Crum was up and down in his first year in Ottawa, but we saw plenty of explosive moments from him to at least be a dangerous backup option behind the talented Ford.

PREDICTION: Saskatchewan is not done, not by a long shot. Here comes Adarius Pickett

Will Adarius Pickett hit free agency? And if he does, what team will he end up on? (Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca)

Did you really think my Toronto Argonauts fan fiction of getting Oliveira doesn’t come with some painful side effects? Pinball Clemons just extended Wynton McManis and Jake Ceresna is an All-Star lineman that comes at an All-Star cost.

There’s enough in the coffers to retain Shawn Oakman and Dewayne Hendrix but the East Division’s best defensive player in 2023 is heading West.

Saskatchewan finished the year dead last in the following categories: offensive points allowed, touchdowns allowed, yards allowed, and average yards allowed per play. Yikes. No one player can change all that, but Pickett will go a long way, reunited with his former defensive coordinator to help turn that defence around.

PREDICTION: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats go all in at receiver

Listen, if Bo Levi Mitchell agrees to restructure his contract, he’s going to want as many weapons at his disposal. On the flip side, if Orlondo Steinauer and Ed Hervey are committed to Mitchell until at least 2025, then its incumbent on them to get the most out of their investment by putting their quarterback in the best position to win.

This will see a shiny new contract for the team’s best player, Tim White and the biggest free agency coup of 2024, the signing of Dalton Schoen!

Listen Bombers fans, don’t get angry at me, please direct your vitriol at Bob Young for this ambitious move. Don’t worry Winnipeg, you’ll be fine after bolstering both line of scrimmage and you still have Nic Demski, Kenny Lawler plus a formidable defence and Zach Collaros.

As for Hamilton, they kickoff 2024 with the 2023 leader in receiving yards (White) and the leader in receiving touchdowns (Schoen). The team is going all-in with Mitchell, let’s see how this all plays out!

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