February 15, 2024

Landry’s 5 takeaways from Free Agency

Dave Chidley/CFL.ca

Hello, CFL fans. Hope you have been able to process all the changes that have swept over the playing fields of the great northern league this past week or so.

Me? I’m still trying to get a handle on things. Some people have a brain like a microwave. Mine’s more like a slow cooker. Set on low.

Here are the free agency (so far) takeaways.

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Recall, if you will, where things stood for the Montreal Alouettes exactly one year ago.

Quarterback Trevor Harris signed with Saskatchewan. Receiver Eugene Lewis signed with Edmonton. The team had no owner. Almost nobody thought the Als had a shot at a championship and many of us could easily foresee a season where they didn’t even make the playoffs.

This off-season, the Als made a push to extend or re-sign many of the key players who helped get them to a Grey Cup win in 2023 and they were successful with most. As unstable as the situation seemed a year ago, it’s been the opposite end of the spectrum this off-season.

Maybe Montreal didn’t do a lot of shopping in the early going of free agency. But they didn’t have to.

BONUS TAKEAWAY: Dylan Wynn and Derek Wiggan, folks. Under-the-radar adds that aren’t that far at all under the radar.


My free agent takeaways from last February had me noting that I was impressed with the moves made by four teams – the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Ottawa REDBLACKS, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Edmonton Elks. Well, here we are again.

If the Roughriders, REDBLACKS, Elks and Ticats were looking for dramatic changes to their respective team’s immediate horizon, they each have done a tremendous job in that vein.

In Saskatchewan, optimism now flows like the hair from under the back of AJ Ouellette’s helmet (personally, I cannot wait for video of Ouellette single-handedly rolling round bales up a hill as part of his latest viral video plans). Plucking offensive tackle Jermarcus Hardrick from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was a nice touch and as you know by now, these were not the only moves – major moves – made by Saskatchewan in free agency.

The REDBLACKS may have had a quiet opening of free agency but that’s only because they did most of their work prior to the period opening up, most notably by trading for and then signing quarterback Dru Brown in January. The REDBLACKS have had good off-seasons before, however. Could this, though, be the year the team converts on a bevy of impressive signings and shoots up the East Division ladder?


The Elks had already done some big pre-free agency period work in signing quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson to a deal. In agreeing to contract terms with Javon Leake – last season’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player – the Elks now have a star returner in green and gold and when you factor in the signing of kicker Boris Bede, Edmonton’s special teams get a high octane boost.

The Ticats? They have quite a different roster on their hands for 2024 and much to the glee of Hamilton fans, a lot of that change comes at the expense of the team’s chief rival, the Toronto Argonauts, who lost the likes of Jamal Peters, Dewayne Hendrix and Brandon Barlow to the ‘Cats. That’s whatcha call a massive upgrade on defence.

The Ticats, the REDBLACKS, the Roughriders and Elks have all made significant changes that appear to make them much, much tougher to deal with in 2024.

Then again, that did appear to be the case last year, too….


Nice to see the Calgary Stampeders rolling a cart full of goodies towards their car in free agency.

We’d gotten so used to the Stamps graciously – if reluctantly – saying so long to many of their stars in free agency, year after year. And not really making much of a splash in signing away free agents from other teams.

Welcome to the diving board, Stamps.

The Stampeders, I’m sure we can all agree, would be another team looking to make some changes in light of a disappointing season in 2023 and they have delivered.

Quarterback Matthew Shiltz, linebacker Micah Teitz and last year’s interceptions leader, Demerio Houston, are all impressive additions to the Calgary roster. So is offensive lineman Trevon Tate, who ought to lock down a starting tackle spot in 2024.

Recruiting and developing your own talent is very satisfying. But I’m sure Dave Dickenson would admit that grabbing a few established players from other outfits can be a nice change of pace. Shopping is fun.


Did you leave the Argonauts for dead?

After losing a clutch of star players out of the gate, the Argos appeared to be in need of positive news and they got it after the first-day dust had settled.

Defenders Quincy Mauger, Tunde Adeleke, Malik Clements and running back Ka’Deem Carey all came from somewhere else to join the Boatmen. And if Argo fans were stung by the loss of a handful of their faves, the re-signing of big Shawn Oakman was a soothing balm.

The Argos were weakened by the first winds of free agency. They have since filled many of the holes created by that storm. The question that remains is: How well?


Can William Stanback be the key to offensive balance the BC Lions have been looking for?

Can McLeod Bethel-Thompson lead a culture shift in Edmonton the way he did in Toronto?

Where you at, Tim White?

With holes to fill and no free agency money left to spend, according to general manager Kyle Walters, can the Winnipeg Blue Bombers keep the beat going? Will new faces and energy in fact, be a boon to the team?


Who has room for established stars like Larry Dean, Janarion Grant, A.C. Leonard, Rasheed Bailey, Lucky Whitehead and Robertson Daniel (list subject to change)?

Who will be this season’s Shawn Lemon?

Two experienced back-up quarterbacks, a premier rush end to take the place of Matthieu Betts, a ball-hawking veteran defensive back, and Stanback in the backfield. Didn’t the BC Lions put in a sneaky-good free agency performance?

Wouldn’t you like to see Jermarcus Hardrick attempt to leap into the stands, in Winnipeg, after a Saskatchewan touchdown?

Have the Alouettes addressed the loss of receiver Austin Mack well enough?

Can the presence of Shiltz push Jake Maier to greater heights in Calgary?

Is Adarius Pickett the catalyst that turns the Ottawa defence into the league’s best?

Same question as above, only insert Jameer Thurman and the Saskatchewan Roughriders in there.

Which player will haunt his old team the most?

AND FINALLY… Will there be more watermelons or Thor hammers at Mosaic during OK Tire Labour Day Weekend?

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