Who won free agency in the West Division?

Fans are always curious after the hustle and bustle of free agency: who won? This is such a subjective gauge of performance that really is nothing more than an individuals opinion at this point of the year. The better judge of performance is seen in wins, playoff appearances and, for one team, a Grey Cup. Now free agency is one small part of this but is an important one as it can either benefit or hinder your chances of your success.

Below I’ve looked at each team’s performance from the West Division and given my subjective opinion on how they did based on key signings (either just before free agency or afterwards), losses (players signing with other CFL teams) and players to keep an eye on.

BC Lions

Key signings: Ronnie Yell, Mic’hael Brooks, Tony Burnett, Bryan Burnham, Dequin Evans, Chris Williams, Marco Iannuzzi, TJ Lee, Hunter Steward, Bryant Turner

In Yell and Brooks, general manager Wally Buono has solidified two major parts of his defence in a complete cover defensive back and upper echelon defensive tackle. The addition of Burnett flies a bit under the radar but shouldn’t, he will help fill a huge hole left by Adam Bighill. Bryan Burnham has turned into a premier CFL receiver and arguably has the best ability to come down with the ball in traffic in the league. His stock will continue to rise as he plays more and more and learns more about CFL defences. Evans can be a premier pass rusher in the league but some fluke injuries have slowed him down.

Losses: Jabar Westerman

This loss will force head coach Buono to look for help to replace a legitimate ratio starter which is much easier said than done. Luckily, this isn’t Buono’s first rodeo and Lions fans shouldn’t be worried as I’m certain the plan is in place for the ratio replacement already.

Keep an eye on: Chris Williams

This could turn out to be the steal of free agency. On a two-year deal, the Lions may have brought on the most explosive player in the league depending on how he recovers from his ACL injury.

Calgary Stampeders

Key signings: Micah Johnson, Marquay McDaniel, Dan Federkeil, National depth

John Hufnagel is never one to bust that bank in free agency and seems to focus on re-signing his own players and letting his scouting staff bring in fresh talent to be coached up by one of the top staff’s in the league – and it works. Johnson may be the best defensive tackle in the CFL, certainly in the conversation. McDaniel while voted the most underrated player last year is anything but that. He’s a legit threat as a No. 1 receiver and if he’s underrated those who voted so need to lift their head from the sand, the guy can flat out play. The signings of Anthony Woodson, Rory Kolhert and Beau Landry adds what every team needs, more quality Canadians. Keep an eye on Landry, he has a load of potential, yet to be fully realized.

Losses: Derek Dennis, Glenn Love, Adam Berger, Bakari Grant

Dennis is an all-star left tackle and if you followed me during the free agency on Twitter you’d know how strongly I feel about the need to have quality at that position. Filling that position isn’t as easy as it may seem. Love may have started on a half dozen teams elsewhere in the CFL in 2016, he is that good. His loss will be felt on special teams but also will test Calgary’s depth.

Keep an eye on: Offensive line changes

There is little doubt in my mind that Calgary will go into the season with all cylinders firing on offence. The interesting thing to look at will be how they are going to do that while losing the Most Outstanding Lineman in Dennis. Huf and crew have done such an amazing job making lesser known players into stars, so there is no reason to believe that won’t continue. Also look for Landry to make a big impact on special teams and add needed depth for his body type.

Edmonton Eskimos

Key signings: Marcus Howard, Philip Hunt, Ashton Whiteside, Travon Van, Sean Whyte, Alexandre Dupuis

In Howard, Hunt and Whiteside the Eskimos may have solidified the best group of pass rushing defensive ends in the CFL on paper. They’ll be an exciting crew to keep an eye on and will force many quarterbacks to get rid of the ball before they’re ready. Whyte is Mr. Consistency and has shown it his whole career. As he takes on all three kicking roles, as he did in Montreal, it will be important for him to maintain that consistency through 18-plus games.

Losses: Don Oramasionwu, Aaron Milton

The loss of quality Canadian talent is tough to digest with any team. Ed Hervey will need to look to fill this roster loss but has some quality draft picks from 2016 to look to if he can get them signed.

Keep an eye on: Phillip Hunt

Back for the first full CFL season since his time in Winnipeg, expect Hunt to make an impact on opposing passers.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Key signings: Marc-Olivier Brouillette, Glenn Love, Kienan Lafrance, Chad Owens, Derek Dennis, Aaron Milton, Bakari Grant, Ryan White

Dennis is the key piece to these signings. The left tackle position while maybe at times unnoticed, as most fans will follow the ball, is extraordinarily important to have a smooth functioning of an offence. He’ll make quarterback Kevin Glenn better which will make the receivers better which makes the offence better. Lafrance at the reported salary he signed for will likely mean that the Riders are moving towards a Canadian backfield. Owens will provide additional veteran leadership to the offence. Look for Love to come out of camp in a starting role. He’s long and likes to hit people, two of Chris Jones’s requisites to running a strong defence. Brouillette will bring physicality and leadership to a young defence.

Losses: Matt Webster, Andrew Lue, Shamawd Chambers, Jeff Fuller

It’s never easy to lose Canadians that are drafted by your club. That said, Chris Jones didn’t draft Webster and maybe he’s looking at a different position to fill his Canadian depth.

Keep an eye on: Kienan Lafrance

I think LaFrance will do very well carrying the football with his new team but more importantly is how will his pass protection hold up over the course of the season.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Key Signings: Drake Nevis, Clarence Denmark, Tristan Okpalaugo, Sam Hurl, Jesse Briggs, Matt Coates

When Kyle Walters and company took over in Winnipeg they were in need of a rebuild and it looks like they have started to work from a position of strength.  They have key players in place and may only need to provide some tweaks here and there. There is a ratio change happening with the release of Canadian defensive tackle Keith Shologan and signing of international Nevis, who I regard as a top three defensive tackle in the CFL. The signing of Denmark provides consistency through the offence and a comfort level for Matt Nichols who found great chemistry with him last season.

Losses: Khalil Bass, Tony Burnett

While Ian Wild will likely be moved into the box and will help in the transition of losing these two high-quality linebackers the loss of these two players is material. Along with their productivity, they brought a high level of physicality which will need to be replaced.

Keep an eye on: 2017 Canadian Draft

With four picks in the first 23 selections, including first and sixth overall, the likelihood is that Winnipeg will aid the loss of ratio-changer, Shologan, by drafting at least four players who look to be on their roster come June (provided they don’t use a pick on a player exploring NFL opportunities). A strong draft could bring them to where they haven’t been in many many years, near the top of the league in Canadian talent.

Time will tell how each team did. There will be more signings in the days to come and the CFL Draft is around the corner. Excitement runs rampant as we build up to mini-camps and training camp. The season will be here before fans know it and now they have new players they can learn about before they see them on the field in June.

Joey Abrams

Joey Abrams

Joey Abrams spent 12 years in football operations with the Montreal Alouettes, rising to the position of assistant general manager.
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Joey Abrams
About Joey Abrams (3 Articles)
Joey Abrams spent 12 years in football operations with the Montreal Alouettes, rising to the position of assistant general manager.

37 Comments on Who won free agency in the West Division?

  1. Steve Rodgers // February 21, 2017 at 5:12 pm //

    Why didn’t you include Tristan Okpalaugo and Kenny Stafford to Winnipeg’s additions? Guys like Hunter Steward and Marquay McDaniel (re)signed with their respective clubs prior to Feb 14th

  2. overall grading:
    Calgary A
    BC B+
    WPG B
    Edmonton C
    Saskatchewan C-

    • If you reverse those, you would be actuate. As it is, glue is upon your nose.

      • how do you figure?

      • ok I’ll reverse it just for you ladd law

        Saskatchewan C-
        Edmonton C
        WPG B
        BC B+
        Calgary A

      • Steve Rodgers // February 21, 2017 at 7:55 pm //

        Your saying the riders should have an A? Dennis is a good signing but after that…
        LaFrance had a great EF game in a blizzard, other then that is is very unproven.
        Brouilette is a 31 year old with some concussion concern. If Courtney Stephen doesn’t get hurt, no way he gets eastern all star nod. No5t much of an upgrade on Hecht but likely cost more.
        Milton 1 career rush for 4 yards.
        White is likely Andrew Jones 2.0
        Owens is a 35 year old with serious health concerns and hasn’t returned with any regularity in years.
        Grant an unnecessary acquisition in an already crowded receiving corp
        Marshall I believe will end up being your starting RB kind of devalues the 2 NI rb pick ups since you already have Morris if you need a NI sub.
        No glue on noses needed, the riders made a big opening splash with Dennis, but certainly didn’t do well afterwards.

    • Please elaborate! I pay close attention to all the moves and am wondering how you can grade the teams the way you did.
      1) I look at who has left as oppose to who has come in.
      2) I wouldn’t grade the stamps even as close to that high because they haven’t needed to go after proven players. Because they have a pretty good stable from years previous.
      3) does Mitchell Gale put you in that A+ category?
      4) I’m looking so forward to seeing how the stamps do now that Murphy is gone. Only time will tell. As well it will be priceless to see your comments after your team falls apart.

      Reading all your other non sense is laughable and shows how little you know, and how much sleep you loose over the Riders.

      Sleep well tonight I imagine you will be by yourself.

      • Calgary gets A because they signed ALMOST all there own FAs (of which there were many!) and their entire core (save for Dennis) from a team that was 15-2-1 last year and came within a hair of grey cup.Besides that added good Canadian back ups behind 2 ratio breaking Canadians ( Landry behind Singleton and Woodson behind Messam). Besides that signed Canadain receiver Rory Kolhert to replace Canadian Receiver Charbeneau. Lastly yes an experienced QB to back up BLM replacing more expensive Tate. There was purpose and method to what was done ,without headlines we actually improved our Canadian talent across many positions.For little money.
        As for Riders..Dennis while good is an expensive import on your o line ( a liability in many ways),Rider team should be able to find a good import ( as most teams seem to have them). If Jones has this amazing scouting system in place lead by the brilliant Murphy this shouldn’t be difficult instead you’ve stretched your dollars to the brink with already expensive players like labatte and Best. You went all in with an expensive Canadian running back that is more like a 2nd string caliber player and added depth behind him. While this did add Canadian talent it was all focused poorly and wrongly in 1 position. Next you added window dressing -Chad Owen?-this is a guy you might add to a team with a single deficiency that he could fill on championship Caliber roster ,Lets face it that’s not the riders you are a rebuilding team. Lastly Duron Carter..really how long before he’s not happy ? Especially on a team overly deep in his position.

        • A decisive summary.Like Chris Williams with BC,he is a power player who can alter the future,create happenings if you grasp it – the power.

          Bang Bang,

          Until tomorrow.

      • 1 more thing .
        how good will we be without Murphy?? Let me answer that with another question to you..How good were we without Roy Shivers? How good were you with him?

  3. You missed Chambers in Edmonton who could force Coehoorn inside and that would improve the second level blocking for White immensely.

  4. Steve Rodgers // February 21, 2017 at 5:39 pm //

    chambers and Lawrence. not that I think highly of either of them, but a return to where they had their most success could be good for them.

  5. Ill give sask and A and Calgary a C- if its about big name recognition and grabbing the headlines sure

  6. Bottom line – the Riders were 21 pts behind the Stamps, 10.5 games, & 11 pts out of a crossover spot. I think the Riders have done a pretty good job of finding some pieces but you have to wonder how many are around after training camp. For example, for all the hype last year & this spring around Collins, Holley & Edwards, you probably will keep 1 unless you want to dump some FA talent signed @ receiver. Did they get enough talent to make up the 5.5 game difference to catch 4th place? The big question @ QB hasn’t been answered. Jones keeps saying he’s got the talent but is chasing Young & Manziel. Jones said he wasn’t going to be active but it’s pretty obvious he has a lot of holes to fill and his actions in FA support that. A lot of work ahead yet (Jones said that too).

  7. that right EW he did say he wasn’t going to be active yet was. Sounds very obvious Jones is flying day to day with little direction,,stick to x’s and o’s you can’t run a team,His eventual firing will devastate the organization

  8. Riders only deserve an A for name recognition. The LT Dennis is their one truly excellent signing. Owens is a huge risk as odds are he won’t play more than 12 games in 2017. I don’t see how Grant earns a full time role in the offence unless they dump one of the receivers already on their roster. I really like LeFrance but only time will tell if he can carry a full workload. Getting the rock six times a game is one thing but it is the pass blocking that he will need to excel at in order to be a truly effective RB in the league. Stamps were great at keeping their own minus Dennis. That is big. Either they are really confident in their younger linemen or they grab so,done like Batiste who was pretty solid for the Esks. Lions with Rainey and a healthy Williams plus Burnham and Arceneaux should be exciting. But there is no replacing Bighill on defense this season. That guy was a beast in the CFL. I like what the Esks are doing on D but not as much on offence with Lawrence and Chambers. I would rather have seen Bell re-signed and Kolhert as a national receiver although Chambers should be an upgrade over Getzlaf who looks to be very close to retirement. He simply did not play at a high enough level consistently in 2016. The Bombers could be the dark horse in the west. I like their O Line and they have a very good set of receivers. Bass is the one guy they will miss on D. Wild and perhaps, Hurl will really have to elevate their games. I like Wild but am not sure if Hurl can be a starter. If he could, the Bombers ratio would gave more flexibility.

    • I’m sure Calgary will draft O line at some point in draft..Besides that Dennis direct replacement will come from one of Randy Richards,Ucambre Williams,Reuben Carter.

    • steve rodgers // February 22, 2017 at 2:16 am //

      I honestly hope hurl only sees the field on teams. The signing today of Jackson Jeffcoat has me hopeful he can convert to MLB and the loss of Bass is minimal. TBH I didn’t think much of Bass in the middle, he was much better at WIL, but we have Wild there so it was one or the other

      • Jeffcoat is a DE, he always has been. MLB will be filled by Kyle Knox, Will Smith or maybe a name we haven’t heard of yet.

    • Big Gus, You have outdone yourself.Grok it here and now. Smooth.

      Chris Williams is a bullet within a rocket on a mystic journey.Danger to all teams is immensive for he can alter futures, make happenings.Vancouver his city, time is his,every other team is tomorrow.

      Bang Bang,

      Until tomorrow

    • Gussy at this point in time anything is speculation and name recognition is all you can go by….duh!!!!!

      • Nik..if big name recognition is so important than the riders should sign Joe Namath as QB, Deion Saunders as returner and OJ Simpson as Running back

  9. yes Dennis is good but over paid as an import (if he was Canadian that would be different).Teams all seem to find their own imports on oline and surely the great riders under Murphy and their scouting agency could..That money is better spend on signing a Qb now or in near future.By avoiding paying Dennis that amount and being able to Trade Tates big salary look for stamps to announce BLM extension before Labour Day

    • Larry all you do is speculate based on anything that makes the riders look bad and the stamps look good. NO one takes you seriously

  10. steve rodgers // February 22, 2017 at 2:24 am //

    If the number being bandied about is correct (170k for Dennis) thats pretty much at or around what top importants are getting.I’ve heard Bryant when he first signed with Winnipeg was around $160k and has since been restructured. Have also heard Olafioye in BC is somewhere around 190-200k.

    Considering Dennis played the entire year and in several spots on the line while taking home lineman of the year, $170k is a good price and a good signing by the riders. But thats the only good signing by them so far.

  11. Marc Lebut // February 22, 2017 at 9:25 am //

    The best team is the one that doesn’t need FA to remain on top contenders year in and year out. This is why the Stampeders don’t seem to have won that FA first week, but they did to me. They patched where they needed to, and rely ong top notch scouting to fill what’s left. As Kavis Reed said, who knew who Derek Dennis was 12 months ago? They’ll do just the same this year.

    Lots of turmoil here about the Riders, but coming from so far away, it’s hard to say they settled all their issues. Kevin Glenn will be a deception. He lost quite a bit of his art, save that game killing pick he throws here and then late in the game. Unless he has prime protection and top notch receivers, Glenn won’t make miracles, and most probably much less then that. The Riders went from 6-12 to 5-13 with Durant at QB and an absent O line. Now, they have upgraded the LT position but not so much for the balance of the O line. They also lost Durant, replaced by an over the hill QB and didn’t exactly matched up where their divisional opponents reached. Souting and drafting will be critical for them.

  12. NumeroTreize // February 22, 2017 at 12:47 pm //

    Stampland needs a life.

  13. Unkle Nik and Rider fans- signing the biggest names in free agency means nothing. Most of the signings are past their prime as players. Ex. Chad Owens. He is probably a future hall of famer but who honestly thinks that he can play at an all-star level in 2017. Not impossible but improbable. Same goes for Kevin Glenn. Dennis was an excellent signing and LeFrance is important if the Riders plan on playing a national RB to free up another American somewhere else like D Line or receiver since that have so many import receivers. Riders will be competitive but they are in tough out west with the Alberta teams, Lions should also be solid and I believe the Bombers will surprise many and put up at least 10 wins. I believe Raiders still lack a true starting QB. Vince Young is not the answer. Too much to learn in too short of time in too old of a body. Speculation and big name signings do not go hand in hand. Calgary has made several low key transactions which will help their team win games. … and I am not a Stamps fan at all.

  14. This message is for VOR
    You ask me to elaborate and I do. You thought in doing so I would have no response and simply curl as a strategy to prove I was just blowing off hatred to riders.I came back with a clear explanation now you have disappeared .I guess I was I who proved I was right.The argument against is untenable for you

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