We are 24 hours into CFL Free Agency and what a 24 hours it was. There was so much movement as expected with one of the largest free agent classes in CFL history. Big name QBs were on the move, established vets found new homes and the West got stronger if that was even possible. Some teams got better, some got worse and I figured I’d try and put them in order after the first day.
1) Edmonton Eskimos
If I was told the day before free agency started that the Edmonton Eskimos would be substantially better on paper 24 hours after losing one of the top two quarterbacks in the league I wouldn’t have believed it, but here we are. With Mike Reilly shipping out the Esks went to work. On day one they added a whole new group of linebackers, Don Unamba, who can play Db or LB, Larry Dean and Jovan Santos-Knox. Greg Ellingson comes over from Ottawa as one of the leagues top receivers from a season ago, not to mention adding receivers DaVaris Daniels and Ricky Collins jr. as well. With Derel Walker not returning to Edmonton those three will work as a committee to fill the void. They beefed up the offensive line adding SirVincent Rogers from Ottawa and brought in Anthony Orange from B.C. Am I missing anyone? Oh, yeah they brought in quarterback Trevor Harris from Ottawa as well to fill the gap left by Mike Reilly. It was a historic day for Edmonton on day one. They did lose three defensive backs to B.C. so going forward that is where they may look to add.
2) B.C Lions
The Lions picked up the biggest signing of the 2019 free agent class nabbing up quarterback Mike Reilly early in the day and in all reality they had him the night before the festivities even started. They paid a big price for Reilly but if they can put it all together it will be worth it. In addition to Reilly the lions did work everywhere else on the offence as well. They grabbed star offensive lineman Sukh Chungh from Winnipeg, added Canadian receiver Lamar Durant from Calgary and added running back John White from Hamilton. On the defensive side DB Aaron Grimes leads the way of big named players. The Lions do have some spots to fill on both sides of the ball still and should be active for the remainder of free agency. I think adding at the offensive line and receiver position should be high on their priority list going forward.
3) Calgary Stampeders
The Stampeders lost quite a bit of talent on day one but secured the biggest piece of them all re-signing quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. It sounds as though Mitchell was seriously fielding offers from Toronto and Saskatchewan but in the end decided to keep himself planted in Calgary. If they couldn’t get a deal with Bo done the Stamps would be near the bottom of my list. However, there isn’t too many elite QBs in the league and he proved last year that even with an injury depleted offence he could carry the team to a title. With Bo Levi Mitchell under centre you can’t count out the Stamps. They definitely have some holes to fill after losing some big name players on day one. DaVaris Daniels, Tunde Adeleke, Micah Johnson, Patrick Levels and Lamar Durant are some of the names out of the Stamps lineup with Johnson being the biggest. It will be interesting to see if John Hufnagel will look to free agency to fill those spots or promote from within as the Stamps usually do.
4) Hamilton Tiger-Cats
After day one I feel like this Hamilton team is poised to win the East and it might not be close. they didn’t do a whole lot but they didn’t lose a whole lot either aside from a few pieces on the defensive side of the ball. I think their biggest splash may have been re-signing Brandon Banks. He has become a star receiver with Jeremiah Masoli and I don’t expect that to change this season. Hamilton should be the team everyone in the east is looking up to this season and if they can beef up the defensive side of the ball in the coming days in addition to already adding Tunde Adeleke, they could be a team to watch across the league.
5) Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Winnipeg only added one player in the first 24 hours of free agency but it was a huge addition in defensive end Willie Jefferson from the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The problem is they may have lost more than they gained. Jovan Santos-Knox, Kevin Fogg and Sukh Chungh are all out and they are going to need to work to replace those players. The positive for the Bombers team is that they haven’t lost a whole lot on offence and having an established starting QB is what puts them at five on my list. On paper this Bombers team should be middle of the pack in the west but if they don’t find a way to fill a couple gaps in the linebackers and defensive backs spot they could be on the outside looking in, in the CFL’s West Division.
6) Saskatchewan Roughriders
Depending on who you ask it was a good or bad first day of free agency for the Riders. Most in Riderville were hoping to get an elite QB on day one but that didn’t happen. The Riders will settle for re-signing Zach Collaros who showed flashes of his former self last year but just couldn’t stay healthy. The Riders did however sign William Powell, the biggest free agent of the year at running back. He will add nicely to an already pretty good one-two at running back with Tre Mason and Marcus Thigpen, it will be interesting to see how the three are used. The Riders lost fan favourite Willie Jefferson to the hated Blue Bombers but added someone who is equal or better in Micah Johnson. Johnson had four more sacks than Jefferson last year and plays the inside. Hughes and Johnson lining up on the same side this year could be scary for opposing QBs. For the Riders to move up the list they need to improve at receiver and get another QB. If they could sign Namaan Roosevelt or big name free agent Derel Walker and add someone like Travis Lulay they could be in business.
7) Montreal Alouettes
Montreal has done a pretty good job so far adding some depth and talent but the biggest signing for me is the re-signing of receiver B.J. Cunningham. He was a bright spot on a dark season last year for the Als and will be a big part of turning this franchise back into a contender. They also added DeVier Posey to the receiving corps to give Antonio Pipkin or Johnny Manziel more options. Canadian lineman Spencer Wilson should start for Montreal and Patrick Levels and Bo Lokombo will help on the defensive side of the ball. I don’t think we’re talking contender yet but this should be a much improved Als team from a season ago.
8) Toronto Argonauts
The Argo’s haven’t really lost anyone from a season ago to free agency but they weren’t very good last year so adding to this roster has to be the key. They addressed some of their defensive woes from last season, where they were near the bottom of the league in almost every defensive category, by adding DB Kevin Fogg from Winnipeg, linebacker Tobi Antigha from Sask and bringing back defensive lineman Shawn lemon. These three should help the defence out quite a bit. On the offensive side of the ball they brought in a pair of running backs in Mercer Timmis and Chris Rainey. Rainey is a dynamic back that can help the offence keep defences off balance. It all really comes down to if James Franklin can have a better second season with the Double Blue. This season, where he goes the team goes, and it will be interesting to see what happens.
9) Ottawa Redblacks
This Ottawa team got gutted on offence on day one of free agency. Their starting QB Trevor Harris, top running back in the league William Powell, second option in the pass game Greg Ellingson and best offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers all signed elsewhere. Rogers and Ellingson both said that the offers made to them by Ottawa were underwhelming and they didn’t feel respected by the Redblacks front office. Well I hope they have a plan in the works because it looks really bad on the Redblacks organization right now. In response to losing all of those players the Redblacks were only able to sign a QB. Jonathan Jennings comes over from B.C. Jennings is an up and down starter who was replaced by an often hurt Travis Lulay for the majority of last season. I don’t know if Jennings has the ability to get the Redblacks back to the top of the CFLs East Division but I guess we are going to find out. Ottawa needs to try and pick up Namaan Roosevelt or Derel Walker to fill the void left by Ellingson.
This was the most crazy opening 24 hours of free agency I have ever experienced. My whole Tuesday was dedicated to refreshing a twitter feed to see what CFL news was coming up. There are still lots of moves to be made and these rankings could change by the hour. Buckle up CFL fans it is going to be an exciting couple of weeks.