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CFL Free Agent Must Haves

Published: Sunday, Feb 5th 2023, 1:02am

by Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)


The official CFL free agent tampering window opens in just a few hours! It wasn’t open before because NO CFL team talks to players that aren’t under contract with them. EVER (wink wink, nudge nudge). Teams will now be able to make their official pitches to potential free agents and potential free agents can find out what the market is for their services. I love this week. All the rumours, gossip, etc. It gets me excited for the start of the season.


Here in Saskatchewan, Roughriders General Manager Jeremy O’Day NEEDS to be busy… I mean, he hasn’t been busy since… ummm… well he did an interview or two at the GM meetings in January. Other than that, he really hasn’t done much according to many Rider fans in the province. Only 7 of 32 potential free agents have been signed. ONLY 7!! I know, they were 6-12 last year, so changes better be coming to the on field product… but that still baffles me.


He DID sign star Defensive End Pete Robertson to a new deal on Saturday, so progress is clearly being made. Hopefully a few more big names will be sticking around and we’ll hear about that in the coming days.


It does appear that O’Day will be more busy in free agency than he has been over the last few seasons, though. Here’s a list of 16 potential free agents from other teams that I would be looking at, not necessarily the best players on their current teams, but players I think would really have the most impact on the needs for the Riders:


BC Lions – OL Sukh Chung & OL Joel Figueroa – The Riders O-Line was historically bad in 2022. The BC Lions O-Line was surprising really good in 2022 after being awful for a few years. The Riders need help in the trenches and they can’t afford to wait a few more years while they develop their young draft picks. They need STARTERS and they need them NOW. I know Chung and Figueroa are getting up there in (football) age at 30 and 33 respectively, but they are proven. You get a guard and a tackle to protect whoever the heck is going to be your QB. I’d hope that the former O-Lineman turned General Manager here in Saskatchewan is looking HARD at his O-Line and how he can change it around fast. Here’s how you do it.


Edmonton Elks – WR Derel Walker & LB Deon Lacey – I suppose everyone on a Chris Jones team could be a free agent at any moment… The other day I mentioned that it appears the Riders are completely revamping their American receivers. Well, there’s two here in Edmonton that would help that problem here in Saskatchewan. Kenny Lawler and Derel Walker. I wouldn’t break the bank on Lawler and I don’t expect him to come to Saskatchewan, but I think Walker could be available. You get a proven, veteran receiver to come in and become an automatic 2nd down conversion guy for the O. As for Lacey, it appears that both Darnell Sankey and Larry Dean are leaving Riderville, so you need a couple of Linebackers to come in. Maybe Lacey could be pried away.


Calgary Stampeders – WR Shawn Bane & DB Branden Dozier – There are some BIG names available from Calgary, so it was hard to narrow it down to just two. I wanted to put Jameer Thurman in here, but I don’t think he makes it to free agency. With Bane, you continue your re-haul of American receivers with a young guy looking to take that next step and be a potential #2 guy down the road. Adding a Dozier in the secondary gives you another vet back there and would help solidify a secondary that started out well in 2022, but seemed to just get tired in the second half of the year.


Winnipeg Blue Bombers – OL Michael Couture & DL Casey Sayles – The obvious two that you’d want are WRs Nic Demski and Greg Ellingson. I don’t see one of, let alone both making it to free agency (or to Saskatchewan), so I had to pivot with my picks. The obvious need at OL and the fact that Couture seems to be the odd man out in Winnipeg gives him my first nod here. As for Sayles, he finished off last season with 4 sacks in his final 5 games, The Riders need to do something on the D-Line if they don’t find a way to keep Anthony Lanier around. Sayles would get a more prominent role in Saskatchewan and could be a bargain for any team.


Hamilton Tiger-Cats – DL Micah Johnson & QB Matt Shiltz – The only team other than the Riders who just hasn’t been re-signing their guys. I expect that to change now that the Bo Levi Mitchell saga is over. Ok, I REALLY wanted to put Simoni Lawrence here just to see the reaction, but I don’t think Jeremy O’Day could bring himself to doing that. I like chaos, however and I hope it happens. That said, I went with Micah Johnson and Matt Shiltz. Would Micah come back for a 3rd time? I’m not sure, but the Riders were missing their 2 best defensive tackles last year after Garrett Marino was released and Anthony Lanier got hurt. Micah Johnson, aside from being just a wonderful human, is a big time body in the trenches and the Riders need that. As for Matt Shiltz, I liked what I saw from him last season. He’s not a guy I’d hand the keys to franchise over to, but he should have been the starter instead of Dane Evans last year for Hamilton. Since Dane Evans isn’t a free agent, I couldn’t put him here… I’ll talk about him more in a few days when I look at the Riders QB situation… Shiltz would get a legitimate chance at starting here in Saskatchewan, but would provide very good insurance as the backup if that’s how it shakes out. I’d be calling his number pretty quickly.  


Toronto Argonauts – DL Ja’Gared Davis & WR Juwan Brescacin – Ja’Gared Davis is simple… you have him, you go to the Grey Cup. Done. For the other spot, I went with the Canadian receiver in the event that Justin McInnis and Mitch Picton (both remain unsigned pending free agents as of today) aren’t brought back. Not only is Brescacin a very good receiver, he’s one heck of a person and he’d be wonderful for the culture in the locker room.


Ottawa Redblacks – DL Kwaku Boateng & OL Ucambre Williams – Get tougher in the trenches. Kwaku is still young and is not far removed from a few dominating season in Edmonton. The achilles injury is a bit concerning, but Boateng is worth the risk. Williams is starting to get up there in age from a football standpoint, but can still play at a high level and can play any position on the OL, including tackle, where the Riders need the most help there. Improve your O and D Lines!!


Montreal Alouettes – WR Geno Lewis & QB Trevor Harris – For whatever reason, the two star players of the Als are no longer happy with how they are being treated by the front office. Here’s your chance, Jeremy O’Day. You get the best available QB and arguably the best WR in the league… both of whom have worked with each other for a while now. This is the splash you have to make to win back some fans and make this team competitive again. 


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