The start of free agency brings with it a tendency for teams to overspend on players. With this in mind, I sought to grade each signing that took place during the first 24 hours of last season’s free agent frenzy on a team-by-team basis.
This piece includes grades for each early West Division free agent signing; later, watch for the East Division edition.
DB Matt Bucknor — C
Bucknor was to signed to enhance B.C.’s national depth in the secondary and appeared in all eighteen regular season games as the club’s back-up safety last season. He recorded just four tackles in 2017 — two on defence and two on special teams.
LB Tony Burnett — D
Originally thought to be the replacement for Adam Bighill at weak-side linebacker, Burnett was eventually replaced in B.C.’s starting line-up by rookie Micah Awe. With just eight special teams tackles through fourteen games, the Lions released Burnett in October.
DL DeQuin Evans — D
Evans appeared in just five games for the Lions in 2017, recording eight tackles and one sack. He remains under contract with B.C. through 2018.
FB Alexandre Dupuis — C
Dupuis caught three passes this past season in Edmonton, while chipping in four tackles on special teams. Not eye-catching statistics, but fullbacks who stay healthy — Dupuis has missed just six games over the course of his four-year career — always have value.
RB Kendial Lawrence — F
The speedy return specialist was released following training camp. Though he was brought back a few weeks later following a season-ending injury to John White, Lawrence sustained his own season-ending injury after fielding just 20 returns over the course of two games.
DB Andrew Lue — D
Lue appeared in just seven games in 2017, recording four special teams tackles. He remains under contract with Edmonton through 2018.
LB Beau Landry — F
Landry never appeared in a regular season game for Calgary prior to being released in August. The former first-round draft pick ended the 2017 season with Saskatchewan.
OL Derek Dennis — D
Dennis became the highest-paid offensive lineman in the CFL when Saskatchewan signed him to a three-year contract on day-one of free agency last year. Eventually deemed a liability at left tackle, Dennis moved in to play left guard where he fared well; the problem is that no American guard is worth $180,000 per season.
RB Kienan LaFrance — C-minus
The 2016 Grey Cup champion was the presumed starting running back in Riderville after he was signed to a big-money deal. After missing the first three games of the season due to a hamstring injury, LaFrance carried the ball just 68 times for 273 yards down the stretch. He was released by the Riders at the end of January to avoid an off-season bonus payout.
LB Aaron Milton — F
Milton retired from professional football shortly after signing with the Riders last winter. Coming out of retirement in August, Saskatchewan deployed Milton at linebacker — he was a fullback for three seasons in Edmonton — in three contests that saw the Toronto product record four tackles.
REC Chad Owens — C
Owens played only five games in 2017 — three regular-season contests, plus two in the playoffs — but he brought extra value to Saskatchewan with his veteran presence. The Riders got a lot out of their talented young receiving corps in 2017, production they may not have gotten without Owens’ influence.
OL Ryan White — F
White started the season on Saskatchewan’s six-game injured list before being demoted to the practice roster. The Bishop’s University product was not retained at the end of the 2017 season.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
REC Matt Coates — C-plus
It took until October for Coates to enter the Bombers’ starting line-up and his regular season numbers weren’t anything to write home about: seven receptions for 123 yards. The value in this signing came during playoff time when the former Ticat recorded a 100-yard game in the West Division Semi-Final. Coates remains under contract with Winnipeg through next season.
DL Drake Nevis — D
Nevis was signed to a big-money deal on day-one of free agency that simply didn’t pay off. Recording just one sack and twenty-two tackles last season, Nevis was a healthy scratch for four games in Winnipeg despite a hefty contract.
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