May 11, 2024

Everything you need to know ahead of training camp

Here we are.

Another long off-season is in the rear view mirror and training camps are upon us. The winter has brought us plenty of player movement, some significant retirements, and a few big changes to the coaching landscape.

So while everyone has a clean slate, let’s set the scene for a brand new season ahead of training camps opening on May 12!

» Cutdown Tracker: Teams make their first round of cuts
» Checking Down: Stegall, Mitchell headline day 1 of rookie camp
» O’Leary: Rookie camps get the 2024 season rolling
» MMQB: West Division training camp questions
» Where to watch 2024 CFL preseason games
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How will Cody Fajardo and the Montreal Alouettes follow up their Grey Cup-winning season in 2024? (Kevin Sousa/

Biggest off-season storyline: Great expectations

The Als put together an epic run down the stretch en route to winning the 110th Grey Cup. They did so on the strength of a suffocating defence and a steady, methodical game plan on offence. And now, with a good chunk of the core group that orchestrated that run back for another season, the expectations in Montreal are going to be high.

While the Alouettes have said goodbye to important contributors like Austin Mack, Lwal Uguak, and William Stanback, they’re still working with an impressive core. With Cody Fajardo, Darnell Sankey, Tyrice Beverette, Marc-Antoine Dequoy, and Reggie Stubblefield all returning for 2024, Montreal has every reason to target a Grey Cup repeat.

New face to watch: Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, defensive line

With Uguak, Almondo Sewell, and Shawn Lemon all not returning for 2024, the Als needed to supplement their defensive line, which they did. One of those additions was 2020 third overall selection Adeyemi-Berglund. With 13 combined sacks over the last two seasons in Calgary, Adeyemi-Berglund should fit in nicely with Montreal’s front four.

Flying under the radar: Kaion Julien-Grant, receiver

Prior to sustaining an injury in Week 8, Julien-Grant and Mack had formed one of the CFL’s best one-two receiving punches. The Canadian product was averaging more than 80 yards per game prior to the injury and, with Mack signing in Atlanta, Julien-Grant is set to assume an even larger role in this offence for 2024.


What does Bo Lokombo have in store to follow up his career 2023 season? (Steven Chang/

Biggest off-season storyline: Aerial assault

There were times in 2023 when BC’s depth chart at receiver looked like a cheat code. In the end, the Lions boasted two of the CFL’s top four most prolific receivers last season in Keon Hatcher (1,226 yards) and Alexander Hollins (1,173). Both set to be free agents, Hatcher and Hollins wasted no time signing back. The same is true for Jevon Cottoy, who just keeps getting better himself.

Even with departures of former mainstays Lucky Whitehead and Dominique Rhymes, BC enters this season with a formidable three-headed monster at receiver. And then there’s quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., the guy who brings it all together. Last year saw Adams cement himself as a bona fide superstar after leading the league with 4,769 passing yards and posting career bests in touchdown passes (31), completion percentage (68.2), and quarterback rating (105.5).

New face to watch: Christian Covington, defensive line

With last year’s sack leader Mathieu Betts leaving for the NFL, the Lions pivoted to a huge homecoming by signing Covington in a surprise move. Local product Covington had spent the first nine seasons of his pro career south of the border but opted to sign with BC earlier this month. Ranked number one by the CFL Scouting Bureau ahead of the 2015 draft, 30-year-old Covington has the chance to be a game changer in his first season north of the border.

Flying under the radar: Boseko Lokombo, linebacker

Much of the attention at linebacker in recent years has gone to Ben Hladik, and for good reason. But don’t sleep on Lokombo, who quietly set a career high with 75 tackles last season to go along with three sacks, one interception, and one defensive touchdown. With Hladik, Lokombo makes up one of the best all-Canadian linebacker duos this league has seen.


Brady Oliveira stayed in Winnipeg this off-season instead of finding a new home as a free agent (Geoff Robins/

Biggest off-season storyline: Securing the dynamic duo

It’s well in the past now, but there was a stretch leading into February’s free agency period where the Winnipeg fates of Dalton Schoen and Brady Oliveira were up in the air. In the end, though, the biggest off-season priority for the Bombers was taken care of when Oliveira and Schoen signed big money extensions within hours of one another in February.

You can understand the delay in getting deals done on all fronts. Tailback Oliveira and receiver Schoen had given Winnipeg incredible production on their prior contracts, and both were looking at large, deserving raises. The Blue Bombers, on the other hand, had a salary cap to consider during negotiations. In the end, though, the best outcome for all sides was seeing this dynamic duo stay put in Manitoba.

New face to watch: Chris Streveler, quarterback

After almost five years away, Streveler returned to the CFL during the off-season. In doing so, Winnipeg is reunited with perhaps the league’s most unique player. Streveler’s last season with the Bombers was 2019 when he threw eight touchdown passes and ran for 12 more before Zach Collaros took over late in the year. I can’t wait to see how Winnipeg works Streveler into Collaros’s offence in 2024.

Flying under the radar: Adam Bighill, linebacker

As other CFL linebackers have racked up gawdy tackle totals in recent years, Bighill has quietly gone about his business as strong as ever. Bighill remains a key cog of this defence and still touches every part of it. Last year saw Bighill rack up 74 tackles, four sacks, and one defensive touchdown.


Wynton McManis will look to lead the Argos defence in 2024 after he enjoyed a stellar second season in Toronto in 2023 (Christian Bender/

Biggest off-season storyline: Plenty of questions

It has been an eventful off-season in Toronto, and it leaves them with plenty of questions entering 2024 camp. After a record-tying 16-win season, economics forced the Argos to say goodbye to numerous core players. How Toronto replaces those players is undoubtedly their biggest question to answer, likely all season long.

On defence, the Argonauts lost the likes of Jamal Peters, Dewayne Hendrix, Brandon Barlow, and Adarius Pickett, among others. On the other side of the ball, AJ Ouellette and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. are on new teams. And Toronto will also be without quarterback Chad Kelly for at least the first nine games of the season due to suspension. That’s a lot of roster turnover to contend with.

New face to watch: Jake Ceresna, defensive line

The Argos acquired Ceresna from Edmonton in what was the off-season’s biggest trade, sending Gittens the other way in exchange. What Toronto is getting back is perhaps the CFL’s most versatile defensive linemen. Capable of excelling at defensive tackle or rush end, Ceresna racked up 12 sacks, 48 defensive tackles, and a forced fumble.

Flying under the radar: Wynton McManis, defensive line

Somewhat lost in all of this winter’s roster shuffling is the Argos re-upping McManis prior to free agency. Back for a third year in double blue, McManis is one of the league’s most well-rounded middle linebackers and finished last season with 79 defensive tackles and career highs with four interceptions and four sacks. He’s set to be an even bigger part of Toronto’s defence in 2024.


Jamal Peters swapped blue for black and gold as he signed with the Ticats as a free agent this off-season (Christian Bender/

Biggest off-season storyline: Milanovich takes over

If you don’t count his brief stint in Edmonton, Scott Milanovich is back as a CFL head coach for the first time since 2016. And he’s going to be tasked with snapping the league’s longest Grey Cup drought. With a strong resume preceding him, installing Milanovich as head coach seems like a worthy bet in Hamilton.

Since finishing his last head coaching gig with the Argos, Milanovich has spent time as quarterbacks coach in Jacksonville and Indianapolis. Also set to serve as offensive coordinator, I’m curious to see if Milanovich can get the most out of a talented Tiger-Cats roster that has underachieved over the last couple seasons.

New face to watch: Jamal Peters, defensive back

Hamilton reportedly made Peters the league’s highest paid defensive back when they pried him away from archrival Toronto in free agency. And you can understand why. Peters may very well be the CFL’s best lockdown corner and should be a perfect fit on the boundary for his new team.

Flying under the radar: James Butler, running back

Fresh off his second straight 1,000-yard season, Butler deserves more recognition than he gets. After breaking out for 1,060 rushing yards with BC in 2022, Butler signed with Hamilton for last season and upped that total to 1,116 yards. A consistent and reliable runner, there’s no reason Butler shouldn’t make it three straight years over the millennium mark.


AJ Ouellette decided to go west in Free Agency, signing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders (Christian Bender/

Biggest off-season storyline: A new era

After two straight non-playoff years, both closed out by debilitating seven-game losing skids, it was time for a change in Regina. The Roughriders moved on from head coach Craig Dickenson in October and zeroed in on rising star Corey Mace as his replacement. After successful stints as Calgary’s defensive line coach and Toronto’s defensive coordinator, 38-year-old Mace seems beyond ready for this.

And hiring Mace was just the beginning. General manager Jeremy O’Day attacked free agency aggressively and used the league’s negotiation window masterfully. Saskatchewan officially signed tailback AJ Ouellette, offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick, and linebacker Jameer Thurman on day one of free agency to go along with a strong contingent of returning players.

New face to watch: AJ Ouellette, running back

After a breakout season in Toronto, it feels like Ouellette is just getting started as he joins the Riders. One of the CFL’s most punishing runners, Ouellette finished 2023 with a career high 1,009 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Still just 28, Ouellette should be a huge part of Saskatchewan’s offence this season.

Flying under the radar: Shawn Bane, receiver

Bane was one of the breakout players of 2023 and likely didn’t get the attention he deserved. In his first season with Sask, Bane led the CFL with 93 receptions and 140 targets while posting an impressive 1,104 receiving yards including 434 after the catch. I’m expecting similar numbers, if not larger, from Bane this season, especially if quarterback Trevor Harris plays the whole season.


Last year’s interceptions leader Demerio Houston signed with the Stampeders as a free agent this off-season and will look to build on his stellar 2023 campaign (Thomas Skrlj/

Biggest off-season storyline: Not acceptable

Yes, the Stampeders extended the league’s longest active playoff streak to 18 years in 2023. Calgary’s 6-12 record, however, was their worst mark during that post-season run. It was also their worst season since finishing 4-14 in 2004, the last time the Stamps failed to make the playoffs. Extending the streak or not, last year wasn’t acceptable by Calgary’s standards.

Knowing that, head coach and general manager Dave Dickenson didn’t rest on his laurels this winter. The Stamps made big free agent splashes by signing defensive back Demerio Houston and quarterback Matthew Shiltz. Gone is mainstay running back Ka’Deem Carey along with defensive linemen like Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund and Derek Wiggan. When standards are high like they are in Calgary, change like this is inevitable.

New face to watch: Demerio Houston, defensive back

Hamilton’s Peters wasn’t the only high-end boundary corner changing area codes over the winter. After leading the league with seven interceptions last season, Houston signed with the Stamps on day one of free agency. Already deep at secondary, Houston figures to be the crown jewel of Calgary’s defensive backfield.

Flying under the radar: Julian Howsare, defensive line

The team’s biggest free agent addition just over a year ago, Howsare had a quietly strong first season in red and white. The versatile defensive end racked up a career high 48 tackles to go along with six sacks in 2023 and remains a perfect fit in defensive coordinator Brent Monson’s scheme.


Eugene Lewis and the Elks are looking to take the next step this year after missing the playoffs in 2023 (Kevin Sousa/

Biggest off-season storyline: McBeth returns

Knowing three years out of the playoffs was far too long in Edmonton, head coach and general manager Chris Jones had his eye on a veteran quarterback for this season. Even with the success of Tre Ford in the second half of 2023, Jones felt a quarterback with a proven, winning track record was a priority. That’s why he pounced when Bethel-Thompson became available after one year away from the league.

Bethel-Thompson has almost 50 CFL starts under his belt. He’s a Grey Cup champion and has gone over 4,000 passing yards twice in his career. In 2022, his most recent season north of the border, Bethel-Thompson led the league with 4,731 passing yards, 387 completions, and 579 attempts. In terms of available vets with proven resumes, it doesn’t get better than MBT.

New face to watch: Kurleigh Gittens Jr., receiver

The other half of the Ceresna trade referenced earlier, Gittens joins the Elks looking to replicate his breakout season in 2022. Gittens went for 1,101 receiving yards and five touchdowns en route to being named a CFL All-Star that season with Bethel-Thompson throwing him the ball. A recreation of that magic would be huge in Edmonton.

Flying under the radar: Eugene Lewis, receiver

During his last few seasons in Montreal, Lewis established himself as one of the league’s most explosive receivers. But due to injury, Lewis’s first season with the Elks didn’t go exactly according to plan in 2023. Yet, despite missing six games, Lewis still led the team with 844 yards in a quietly productive 12 appearances.


Will Dru Brown be the Ottawa REDBLACKS starting quarterback this season? (Kevin Udahl/

Biggest off-season storyline: It’s Dru Brown’s time

Ottawa’s search for the right quarterback has been a difficult one since Trevor Harris left following the 2018 season. Whether due to bad luck, injury, or poor performance, it just hasn’t gone according to plan with the likes of Jeremiah Masoli, Nick Arbuckle, Matt Nichols, among others. In acquiring Brown, though, the REDBLACKS are hoping that search is finally over.

After three seasons understudying behind Zach Collaros in Winnipeg, Brown feels as ready as he’s going to be for a starting opportunity. With his most CFL work to date in 2023, Brown started two games for the Bombers with impressive returns. Brown threw for 983 yards, nine touchdowns, and zero interceptions and established himself as the consensus “next one” entering the off-season.

New face to watch: Adarius Pickett, linebacker

One of Toronto’s key departures is a massive gain for Ottawa. Pickett exploded at SAM linebacker for the Argos in 2023, accumulating 105 defensive tackles, six sacks, one forced fumble, and two recoveries. Pickett could very well be the defensive impact maker the REDBLACKS have been looking for.

Flying under the radar: Justin Hardy, receiver

Much like Bane in Saskatchewan, Hardy’s breakout season may have gotten lost in the shuffle with some of the other gawdy seasons at receiver. In his first full CFL year, Hardy led Ottawa with 1,009 receiving yards and looks to add to those totals with Brown at quarterback.

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