February 12, 2024

MMQB: Final questions before free agency hits

Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca

It’s finally here.

After witnessing an absolute frenzy during the CFL’s official communication window, 2024 Free Agency officially opens tomorrow. And while the last week has been jam packed with significant contract news, there are still plenty of unanswered questions to figure out.

» Market Ready: The 2024 CFL Free Agent Tracker
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» CFL.ca’s top 30 pending free agents
More Free Agency news, notes and analysis


Where does Mathieu Betts sign?

As of hitting send on this week’s column, our CFL.ca No. 2-ranked free agent hasn’t signed an extension with the BC Lions, nor has he agreed to terms elsewhere. As we’ve started to learn in recent days, the Betts situation may not have a CFL resolution anytime soon.

After Betts worked out with multiple NFL teams late in 2023, TSN’s Farhan Lalji reported Saturday that Betts and the Detroit Lions are moving towards a futures contract. Unless Detroit and Betts don’t get past the finish line for whatever reason, the reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player is unlikely to start the coming campaign on a CFL roster.

You can understand Betts taking another shot south of the border. Betts signed with the Chicago Bears in 2019 after his U SPORTS tenure at Laval wrapped up but was one of the team’s last cuts in late August. At 28 and coming off one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory, there’s no better time to give it another go.

If Betts doesn’t stick in the NFL, you know he’ll have no shortage of CFL options come September.

What’s next in Toronto?

You got the sense from general manager Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons at league meetings in Nashville last month that free agency was going to be interesting for the Argos. That’s exactly what we’ve seen over the last week.

Toronto has said goodbye to AJ Ouellette (Saskatchewan), Jamal Peters, Brandon Barlow, and Dewayne Hendrix (Hamilton), Adarius Pickett (Ottawa), and Javon Leake (Edmonton). That’s a significant exodus, no question, but it’s also not entirely unexpected.

The Argonauts were in a unique situation and they knew it. All of the above players were an integral part of the team’s record tying 16-2 regular season last year. There’s a price that comes with success like that and it’s one that can’t always be paid in a salary cap world.

But while the Argos have had to say goodbye to numerous key players, they’ve still gotten work done ahead of free agency. The extensions of Wynton McManis and acquisition of Jake Ceresna from Edmonton are both key moves defensively. And with reigning Most Outstanding Player Chad Kelly already under contract for the next three seasons, Toronto is in good hands.

Who lands Tim White?

If Betts is the unquestioned top remaining free agent on the defensive side of the ball, White is his counterpart on offence. After leading the league with 1,269 receiving yards with Hamilton last season, White also doesn’t have a contract as we hit publish on this Monday morning. With a player like White, though, that won’t last much longer.

Whether he remains with the Tiger-Cats or opts to sign elsewhere, White has established himself as one of the CFL’s elite receivers. White has reeled in at least 1,265 yards and eight touchdowns in back-to-back seasons and has done that with a revolving door of quarterbacks. He’ll be a game breaker wherever he ends up this week.

Do the Bombers have any adds in them?

Let’s first say that Winnipeg has already gotten their most important pieces of business done by extending running back Brady Oliveira and Dalton Schoen last week. Knowing that both players were due well-earned substantial raises, the Blue Bombers had to prioritize retaining Schoen and Oliveira before they could do much else.

Unsurprisingly, Winnipeg was quiet during last week’s negotiation window, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a savvy signing or two in them. Even taking the new cap hits for Oliveira and Schoen into consideration, the Bombers should have some flexibility with reported departures like Jermarcus Hardrick (Saskatchewan), Ricky Walker and Demerio Houston (Calgary), and Jackson Jeffcoat (retirement).

I’m curious to see what type of splashes general manager Kyle Walters has in him over the next couple days. After four straight trips to the Grey Cup, the Bombers will enter this season dialled in on winning their third title in five years. A couple of smart, targeted signings could go a long way in helping them achieve that goal.

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