March 4, 2024

MMQB: Plotting out the rest of the spring

Welcome to March!

With Free Agency underway we’re now well past the first major winter mile marker and with the official start of spring 2024 just over two weeks away, the CFL’s off-season calendar is only going to get more interesting.

Here are some of the most important things to keep your eye on between now and when training camps open in just over two months’ time.

» Get Set For Friday: View the 2024 CFL Invitational Combine participants
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» Costabile: 3 players that could have big 2024 campaigns

Combine SZN

First up is the start of combine season later this week. The CFL Invitational Combine goes on Fri. March 8 at the University of Waterloo, which leads up to the CFL Combine presented by New Era in Winnipeg (March 19- 24). This month sees the best football talent in Canada come together in the final showcase ahead of the 2024 CFL Draft later this spring.

After seeing the country’s top draft prospects go through multiple practices, the bench press, vertical jump, 40-yard dash and more, all eyes will then be on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s spring rankings. The third and final list of draft eligible prospects will drop in April and we’ll find out if Illinois offensive lineman Isaiah Adams will retain his spot at No. 1 or if someone like Penn State tight end Theo Johnson jumps to the top.

Free agent sleepers

As 2024 Free Agency approaches three weeks old, many of the biggest names have signed elsewhere or re-upped with their teams from last year. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still some really interesting names up for grabs.

A.C. Leonard, defensive end: Perhaps this doesn’t qualify as a “sleeper” as Leonard is now the clear top unsigned free agent still on the board. Of our Top 30 Free Agents, where he was ranked 10th, Leonard is the lone player still without a contract for the coming season. Coming off a career campaign in Edmonton where he finished with 12 sacks, Leonard will sign somewhere. We’re just not sure where.

Robertson Daniel, defensive back: Despite only appearing in 11 games in 2023, Daniel was still named a CFL All-Star, and for good reason. When healthy last year, Daniel redefined the boundary halfback position with how he impacted Toronto’s defensive game plan. In those 11 games, Daniel finished with 55 defensive tackles, four interceptions and two sacks.

Larry Dean was highly productive again in 2023, but is still looking for a team to help in 2024 (Arthur Ward/

Larry Dean, linebacker: With Saskatchewan’s decision to sign Jameer Thurman in Free Agency, the veteran Dean looks to be on the market after another stellar campaign. The 35-year-old linebacker finished just shy of his career high by registering 104 defensive tackles last season to go along with two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Dean shows time and time again that he can still play at a very high level.

Avery Williams, linebacker: In what was a year full of injuries for Williams, the steady linebacker capped off 2023 by recording a pair of defensive tackles to help Montreal win the 110th Grey Cup in November. Despite a somewhat frustrating first season with the Als, Williams was as consistent as it gets for the three or four seasons prior. In 2022, his last season with Ottawa, Williams racked up a career-best 92 defensive tackles.

Janarion Grant, receiver/returner: Yes, Grant only appeared in eight games with Winnipeg last season but that doesn’t mean he’s not still one of the CFL’s most dangerous return specialists. In those eight appearances, Grant still recorded just under 900 total return yards and one touchdown. That comes after a 2022 showing that saw him finish just shy of 1,600 yards in 16 games to go along with three return touchdowns.

It’s Draft time!

Then there’s the last stop on the off-season calendar: draft week. The focus starts south of the border with the three-day NFL Draft starting on April 25. We’ll see if players like Adams or Johnson get selected by an NFL team; the same is true with Howard offensive lineman Anim Dankwah and Arizona tight end Tanner McLachlan. All four players just took part in the NFL Combine, which wrapped up over the weekend.

A few days after the NFL Draft wraps up, all eyes turn to the 2024 CFL Draft and the league’s Global Draft on April 30th. Players selected south of the border will fall down the Canadian draft order, as per usual. But the Edmonton Elks will still have plenty of attractive options when they select first overall.

Also interesting to watch: both Edmonton and Calgary have three picks in the first two rounds.

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