By: RodPedersen.com Staff
Let’s run Out of the Tunnel and take a look at a busy week in the CFL. The free agency period began in earnest on Tuesday with a mass of signings, and by the weekend, it slowed to a trickle.
Right now, CFL teams are re-setting and forecasting their 2018 salary cap to see what more they can do before they begin bringing in non-CFL Americans from various free agent camps and the CFL draft in May.
There are still some needs for each team. Time and money will tell whether they will fill holes with an existing CFL free agent or rely on their scouting staff to complete their roster.
There were some great stories from all nine teams.
Top Signee(s): Canadians everywhere
Still Need: Interior defence (LB/DT)
Under the Radar: Signing Johnny Augustine and Adam Laurensse. Two all-conference Canadians that will have a shot at seeing the main roster in 2018.
After two years of making big splash American free agent signings, head coach, G.M. and V.P. of Football Operations Chris Jones may have had his smartest first week of free agency. He had to make up for over five years of poor drafting (not all on Jones & Co.) by picking up Zach Evans, Jake Harty, Sam Hurl and Jerome Messam.
Some tough decisions had to be made to make room for pricy Canadians with the release of last year’s gem of the free agency crop, Derek Dennis and their leading tackler from 2017 Henoc Muamba.
Top Signee: Re-signing Canadian LB, Adam Konar
Still Need: Defensive back
Under the radar: Eskimos football operations taking a chance on enigmatic receiver/kick returner Speedy Noil.
The Eskimos' biggest need was re-signing many of their own players and other than Euclid Cummings, Cory Watson and Joel Figueroa all signing with B.C., they did so. Edmonton didn’t really take a deep dive into free agency (other than Alex Bazzie and Juron Criner) choosing instead to ink a pile of non-CFL free agents.
Top Signee: Bringing Derek Dennis back
Still Need: WR and RB
Under the radar: The retirement of all-star Canadian offensive tackle Dan Federkeil.
Calgary was mostly quiet this week with the exception of the splash later in the week by bringing back offensive lineman Derek Dennis. He had an interesting 2017 in Saskatchewan. With the lack of Canadian depth on the offensive line, (the 2016 CFL Lineman of the Year was a left tackle with the Stampeders) Dennis had to play guard. He was then released earlier this week by the Riders to free up salary and was immediately brought back to the fold in Calgary. With Dan Federkeil retiring, Dennis will bring a veteran presence to the offensive line.
It looks like Calgary will pound the pavement and rely on their scouting staff to fill out the roster at running back and receiver.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Top Signee: Defensive end Craig Roh
Still Need: A Canadian on defence
Under the Radar: Signing Canadian running back Kienan LaFrance as a backup to all-star Andrew Harris.
The Blue Bombers are stacking up their lineup with veteran CFLers across the board, but much of their work was done before free agency began. This looks like an organization that is happy with their current lineup. There is still a question of Canadian depth. With the loss of Canadian defenders Jamaal Westerman and Sam Hurl, that is two Canadian starters on defence out of the fold. There will be a need to find a way to fill one of the two spots, or re-jig their seven Canadian starters.
Top Signee: Offensive lineman Joel Figueroa
Still Need: Linebacker
Under the radar: Re-signing quarterback Travis Lulay.
After missing the playoffs in 2017, Wally Buono and Ed Hervey have been busy overhauling the roster and coaching staff over the last couple of months. The overhaul continued during the first week of free agency, as the Lions were the busiest team bringing in ten more players. It looks like they are not quite done on the free agency front.
Top Signee: Canadian defensive end, Jamaal Westerman
Still Need: Help everywhere on offence
Under the radar – Revamped their secondary.
They could have been the most interesting story in the CFL. With a glut of vets under contract over 30-years-old, many expected the release of more than just Kyries Hebert. This team needs help, a lot of help. The offence needs it the most: there are six quarterbacks on the roster with Drew Willy as the lone veteran, the receivers are in need of Canadian help, and running backs Stefan Logan and Tyrell Sutton are over 30-years-old. This will be a long rebuilding process.
Top signee: Linebacker Rico Murray
Still Need: Defensive line
Under the Radar – Signing Julian Feoli-Gudino prior to losing Jake Harty to the Riders.
The Redblacks had one of the biggest potential free agent lists in the CFL. Marcel Desjardins did an incredible job re-signing many of their top pending FA’s and also dipped into the pool by inking a pair of veteran defenders Rico Murray and Kyries Hebert. This was a very young team that needed some veteran presence to get them back into the Grey Cup race in 2018.
Top Signee – Swayze Waters
Still Need: Linebacker
Under the radar: Signing receiver Jordan Westerkamp. He was an outstanding pass catcher at Nebraska and will be a great fit at slot under Marc Trestman.
The Argos did a lot of their work prior to the free agency period by picking up James Franklin and re-signing several key players. It looks like Jim Popp will fill out the roster with the draft, free agent camps and NFL cuts.
Top signee: Re-signing defensive tackle Ted Laurent
Still Need: America offensive lineman
Under the Radar: Signing a former Canadian Olympic sprinter Akeem Haynes, following a long line of track stars-turned football players.
Kent Austin and company had the smallest class of potential free agents, and he re-signed the bulk of them. Getting Ted Laurent, Luke Tasker and Larry Dean back into the fold this week was huge.
The moves will continue, but when you look at the CFL transaction page (when it’s back up and running), many of the moves will be signing recent NFL cuts and players from free agent camps. There are still a few solid free agents available, but that news will be few and far between.
Keep an eye on the wire, and see you next week!