Free agency in the Canadian Football League opens on February 9 at noon eastern, nine in the morning pacific time. An enormous amount of players will hit the open market and be looking to cash in while finding the best fit.
After speaking with personnel men around the league, we’ve compiled position-specific rankings on the top three players possibly available at each spot on the field. Players; 2015 team in parenthesis:
1) Trevor Harris (Toronto): Produced a CFL-high 33 passing touchdowns in 16 starts last season.
2) Travis Lulay (B.C.): 2011 CFL MOP has plenty of experience.
3) Thomas DeMarco (Ottawa): The 27-year-old quarterback hasn’t started many games.
1) Andrew Harris (B.C.): Led the CFL with 1,523 yards from scrimmage in 2015.
2) Jerome Messam (Calgary): Messam can wear down defences with a pounding running style and he had the best catch rate of his career last year.
3) John White (Edmonton): Exceptional before he got hurt – dynamic when healthy.
1) Brendan Gillanders (Toronto): Young and talented Canadian that can contribute on offence and play special teams.
2) Pascal Lochard (B.C.): Spent time behind Rolly Lumbala as a fullback and adds special teams value.
3) Zander Robinson (Toronto): Coming off a season-ending knee injury in 2015.
1) Matt Norman (B.C.): Started 36 games at centre for the Lions in 2013 and 2014 combined.
2) Corey Watman (Saskatchewan): If you want a player who has some upside and athleticism, it’s Watman.
3) Jeff Keeping (Toronto): Experienced and can get you through a year at a solid level, but he’s been hurt a lot.
1) Wayne Smith (Toronto): Reliable Canadian who’s been fairly healthy throughout his career.
2) Brian Simmons (Edmonton): Steady performer who can play both guard and tackle.
3) Andrew Jones (Edmonton): Started nine games at guard for the Eskimos last season.
1) Josh Bourke (Montreal): Veteran Canadian tackle continues to be a ratio-breaker at his position.
2) Xavier Fulton (Saskatchewan): American tackle who can fill a starting hole.
3) Joel Figueroa (Hamilton): On talent alone he could be the No. 1 tackle, but he simply needs to stay healthy.
1) Jeff Fuller (Calgary): Very gifted, but he needs to keep himself on the field.
2) Kenny Stafford (Edmonton): Proven vertical stretch receiver and legitimate scoring threat.
3) Shamawd Chambers (Edmonton): If a team is looking for a Canadian receiver he could be at the top of the list – young with potential.
Offensive Wild Card
1) Chad Owens (Toronto): Teams are curious about what he has left in the tank.
1) Ted Laurent (Hamilton): No. 1 rated interior defensive lineman regardless of nationality.
2) Euclid Cummings (Toronto): Nine-sack 2015 put him on many radar screens.
3) Keith Shologan (Ottawa): Lots of his value lies in the fact that he’s a Canadian who can start on the inside.
1) Justin Capicciotti (Ottawa): Canadian sack artist has 23 quarterback takedowns in the last two seasons.
2) Tristan Okpalaugo (Toronto): American pass rushing force.
3) Justin Hickman (Hamilton): Consistent and dependable veteran on the edge.
1) Keon Raymond (Calgary): Based on career-long accomplishments Raymond claims the No. 1 SAM spot, but he’s older than the rest below.
2) Otha Foster (Edmonton): Foster’s said to be a high-end athlete and he’s one of the best special team players in the league.
3) Josh Johnson (B.C.): Proven 25-year-old who excels at a difficult position.
1) J.C. Sherritt (Edmonton): After playing all 18 games and leading the Eskimos league-best defence to a Grey Cup championship, Sherritt’s value is high.
2) Greg Jones (Toronto): Really became the backbone of Argos’ defence a year ago.
3) Taylor Reed (Hamilton): Strong against the run and physical between the tackles.
1) Winston Venable (Montreal): Capable of playing MIKE or WILL at an ultra high level.
2) Cory Greenwood (Toronto): Might be No. 1 if he was healthy because he’s Canadian and very good.
3) Alex Hoffman-Ellis (B.C.): Versatile player who can play multiple linebacker spots.
1) Aaron Grymes (Edmonton): Can flat-out play wherever you want to line him up.
2) Courtney Stephen (Hamilton): Canadian who can start at both corner and safety.
3) Emanuel Davis (Hamilton): Productive, instinctive and brings play-making ability.
1) Jermaine Gabriel (Toronto): Really undervalued player.
2) Ryan Hinds (Edmonton): Trustworthy veteran Canadian.
3) Mike Edem (Hamilton): Even though the 2013 CFL East All-Star hasn’t played a lot recently, he’s still got a lot of promise.
Defensive Wild Card
1) Vincent Agnew (Toronto): Could be a SAM, WILL or even play safety. He can play multiple positions and he’s a great special teams player.
1) Swayze Waters (Toronto): Better on punts and kick-offs when compared to Medlock personnel men say, but he gets hurt too much. The big concern with Waters is his injury history.
2) Justin Medlock (Hamilton): Best field goal kicker available. Strong ability to handle all kicking duties.
3) Lirim Hajrullahu (Winnipeg): Good punter who struggled with field goals last year, but he’s done all three and still has a bright future.
1) Chris Rainey (B.C.): Dangerous big-play threat whether the ball is in his hands as a returner or while on offence.
2) Kendial Lawrence (Edmonton): Slippery return man with a proven ability to produce chunk plays on offence too.
3) Demond Washington (Winnipeg): Value comes in Washington’s ability to be a consistent starting defensive back and a returner. In a league with small rosters, versatility becomes important.
1) Frederic Plesius (Hamilton): Demon on special teams. Some feel Plesius could still start at linebacker.
2) Ben D’Aguilar (Calgary): Only played nine games last season, but if healthy provides a special teams boost.
3) Dylan Ainsworth (Saskatchewan): Ultra-athletic for his size which causes matchup problems on special teams. Ainsworth might have the potential to develop into a starter at defensive end.
Players on this list by 2015 team: