With CFL free agency set to kick off at 12:00 PM ET on Tuesday, I thought I’d take a look at eight possible landing spots for eight of this year’s biggest free agents. Here they are.
LT Derek Dennis — Saskatchewan Roughriders
The Riders have a lot of cap space and would be wise to invest a solid chunk of it in the CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman.
Saskatchewan has two star receivers in Naaman Roosevelt and the recently-signed Duron Carter. Without an upgrade at left tackle, the club’s starting quarterback (whoever that may be) will have a difficult time getting the most out of either.
Xavier Fulton, the Riders’ long-time left tackle, recently signed a two-year contract extension in Hamilton where he was traded this past October. This ended speculation that Fulton would return to Regina as a free agent, the city where he was married this past July.
Dennis would bring physicality, grit, and exemplary technique to an offensive line that was arguably the league’s worst a season ago.
RB Kienan LaFrance — Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The Bombers made a major splash in free agency last season when they signed Winnipeg-born running back Andrew Harris away from the B.C. Lions. Expect general manager Kyle Walters to attempt to repeat the success of that acquisition in the form of University of Manitoba product Kienan LaFrance.
LaFrance, also a Winnipeg-born ball carrier, became a household name this past November when he rushed for 157 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown in Ottawa’s 35-23 victory over Edmonton in the East Final. He would provide the Bombers with a second national ball carrier to preserve the club’s ratio should Andrew Harris succumb to injury or in-game fatigue.
SB Andy Fantuz — Hamilton Tiger-Cats
There’s no reason to fix what isn’t broken — even if Fantuz won’t be ready to start the 2017 regular season due to a torn ACL.
Fantuz has recorded 3,997 receiving yards since joining the Ticats in 2012, the most of any Canadian receiver over that time period. He’s from nearby Chatham, Ontario and, at 33, is nearing the end of his career. It’s in the best interest of all parties for Fantuz to retire a Tiger-Cat — I’m betting it happens.
DT Jabar Westerman — Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The Lions have already confirmed that Westerman will make it to free agency and a Monday evening Instagram post from Jabar’s older brother (Blue Bomber sack master Jamaal Westerman) clearly indicated that Winnipeg will make a play for the second overall pick of the 2012 CFL draft.
Westerman makes perfect sense for a Bomber team that released nose tackle Keith Shologan just under two weeks ago. Jabar would immediately slot into the starting line-up at defensive tackle with Jake Thomas, Rupert Butcher, and Brandon Tennant serving as capable depth.
SB Ernest Jackson — Toronto Argonauts
Jackson will command premium dollars after being named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Player in 2016, a price the Argonauts should be able to afford.
Toronto has seven international receivers under contract for next season who have appeared in a combined seventeen career CFL games, recording just 327 receiving yards. Clearly, a bona fide number one target is needed in the Big Smoke.
Signing Jackson would reunite the big-bodied slotback with his college quarterback Drew Willy, an added bonus for a club that needs to provide its starting quarterback with every advantage heading into 2017.
LB Cory Greenwood — Montreal Alouettes
The Larks are undergoing a ratio change where, after close to a decade of featuring an all-Canadian offensive line, the club will start a minimum of one American tackle in 2017.
Montreal traded for veteran Frederic Plesius on Sunday before agreeing to a contract extension with the underrated Nicolas Boulay. The Als are loading up at Canadian linebacker and, when healthy, Greenwood is as good as any in the CFL.
— Herb Zurkowsky (@HerbZurkowsky1) February 13, 2017
With two-time East Division Most Outstanding Defensive Player Bear Woods already starting at middle linebacker, look for Montreal to run plenty of 3-4 defensive fronts to accommodate an extra Canadian starter in 2017.
RT Dan Federkeil — Calgary Stampeders
Federkeil’s CFL rights belonged to the Argonauts for seven seasons before the Medicine Hat native expressed interest in signing a CFL contract. Given Federkeil’s unwillingness to play far from home, Toronto traded his rights to Calgary in exchange for Canadian linebacker Akwasi Antwi.
Federkeil is now 33 and has a history of concussions. He’s retired once before (2009-2012) and it’s possible he’ll elect to do so again instead of playing in 2017. If the Calgary product elects to return to the field, however, it’s hard to imagine him leaving the Stampeder organization he waited so long to join.
RB Shakir Bell — Saskatchewan Roughriders
Shakir Bell is as electric as any ball carrier in the CFL — the question is whether or not he can be effective over an extended period of time.
Bell has appeared in just fifteen CFL games over his two-year career, missing time to both injury and being sat in favor of veteran John White. Boasting a career average of 91 yards from scrimmage per game, it’s clear that Bell can produce. The question is whether or not he can be a true feature back over the course of a long eighteen-game regular season.