We are a little over a week away (11am CST on February 12th) from the beginning of CFL Free Agency Season and the slow hum of news will soon turn into a loud frenzy. With the looming expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) it may not be as frenzied as it has been since the one-year contract option was installed in 2014.
To get you ready, this week we will look at each team's needs in the West Division then we will hit the East Division next week. So, let’s have some fun!
They originally had the least amount of pending free agents with just 25, they have only re-signed four (Zack Evans, Loucheiz Purifoy, Patrick Lavoie and Mike Edem), but three of them are big Canadian signings.
Some of this may be because of the flux in the front office and some is because the pair of O’Day and Dickenson want to slowly build a team that they think will take the final step to a Grey Cup win.
With the re-signing of Lavoie and the potential return of Jake Harty (he suffered that devastating training camp knee injury) the Canadian pass-catcher is on lock-down, but other than that there are some holes to fill. We didn’t put offensive line on this list because there is still the potential of signing last year’s number one pick Dakoda Shepley and picking up another one or two in the draft.
Of the remaining pending free agents, more than half are either receivers or defensive linemen.
1. Quarterback – Enough has been said about this.
2. Playmaker on offence – This was a sore spot on the offence in 2018. All but one (Shaq Evans ) are either pending free agents or have been released to pursue NFL options (Williams-Lambert). The need for a playmaker or two is desperately needed.
3. Defensive line – Other than Evans and Charleston Hughes, all are free agents. Re-sign Willie Jefferson and the rest will fall into place.
When the pending free agent list was released at the end of the 2018 season things looked grim for a team that has improved every year over past three. General manager Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea have been busy re-signing many key names.
This is the only team in the West Division that doesn’t have to worry about re-upping a quarterback with both Matt Nichols and Chris Streveler under contract for 2019.
They did take a huge hit on the offensive line with Matthias Goossen announcing his retirement this week.
1. Canadian offensive linemen – With Goossen gone and Sukh Chungh still on the free agent list there is a big hole on their interior offensive line. To ink Chungh and pick up another one or two Canadians will be key.
2. Receiver – The one thing missing from the Blue Bomber offence for the past few seasons is a big play American receiver. Darvin Adams was productive but needed a ton of targets to collect his 1,000-yard season. Also, some pressure needs to be taken off Canadian running back Andrew Harris because he is collecting a tonne of mileage the past few seasons.
3. Re-sign Taylor Loffler – He is the straw that stirs the Blue Bomber defence. It looks like he may want to test the free agent waters, but it’s almost a must that the Bombers bring the all-star safety back.
They have been busy re-signing seven potential free agents, but it was a long, star-studded free agent list to begin with.
The biggest name is Mike Reilly. One of the biggest potential free agents in the CFL has been open about being leery to sign a contract without a signed and sealed CBA. It is possible to have an agreement in place before hand, but this isn’t a comfortable position for Edmonton.
They have also lost both receivers Duke Williams and Marquise Mitchell to the NFL and there are rumblings Derel Walker will test the NFL waters again.
Defensively, they need a lot of help across all areas and the re-signing of Canadian defensive lineman Kwaku Boateng this week was big for the club.
1. Quarterback – Like everyone else in the West (with the exception of Winnipeg) they need to find a QB. Will they try to bring back Reilly or will they go in a different direction?
2. Receiver – Brock Sunderland must have found a golden pipeline of receivers with the likes of Walker, Williams, Mitchell and Brandon Zylstra coming to the fold the past few seasons. Will they continue to tap into that or try to farm the potential free agent list?
3. Defensive backfield – All of their starting Americans are pending free agents and that means there is a lot of work to do rebuilding their backfield. Canadians Neil King and Arjen Colquhoun are still under contract so it's not a completely bleak outlook.
Oh man, where to begin.
They will need to sign a quarterback because it looks like they have moved on from pending free agent Jonathan Jennings and Travis Lulay is also a pending free agent. This will be the first huge signing for second year general manager Ed Hervey without the hawk-eye of Wally Buono around.
The Lions look like a team in transition and they need to make some incredible headway in free agency to fill some holes as they step away from the shadow of Wally.
The two spots where they seem to have a solid foundation are along the offensive and defensive lines. The bulk of the work needed in free agency seems to be on the offensive side of the football.
1. Quarterback – see above.
2. Receiver – All six of their starting receivers are pending free agents. This seems to be a complete restart with both American and Canadian pass catchers.
3. Running back – Same position as receiver but the big pending free agent is multi-purpose back Chris Rainey. The Lions were a much better team with the former Florida Gator in the lineup.
The defending Grey Cup champions are in a complete state of rebuild and it starts with their leaders on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Bo Levi Mitchell has been doing the tour of NFL teams looking for just a chance to make a roster and for his sake, we hope he does. With what Mitchell has done in the CFL, his age (he will be 29 when the season begins) and the lack of quality mid-level quarterbacks in the NFL he should. If he does make it into the NFL, the CFL will be worse off without one of the best passers in the last 15-years.
The 2017 top defensive player and two-time all-star Alex Singleton is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and this leaves a huge hole in the defence. Singleton having a Canadian passport making the loss even more difficult for the Stampeders. They can’t automatically fill such a role so it may have to be done by committee.
1. Quarterback - see above.
2. Linebacker - see above.
3. Defensive line – Their two top defensive linemen (and two of the top 10 pending free agents per the CFL) are up for a new contract and to get Micah Johnson back on the interior and Ja’Gared Davis on the outside would be a great start.
One note from the Super Bowl and it has nothing to do with the game but with the pricing of the basic food at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
A SB Nation article nicely lays out how the owners of the stadium made food and beverages (including a basic beer for $5!) affordable for all at the stadium.
The best quote from the article, “Mercedes-Benz Stadium launched a mini-trend in 2017 with a radical strategy: don’t try to bleed every human until they hate being inside your building.”
A great thought for all stadiums to think about.
See you next week!