CFL free agent rankings: Defensive Backs

As we approach the opening of CFL free agency on Tue., Feb. 13, 3DownNation’s Justin Dunk, Drew Edwards and John Hodge are ranking every player potentially available by position. Here are the strong side linebackers and defensive backs divided by nationality.

Strongside linebackers (SAM)

1. Chandler Fenner, BC
Age: 27
Starts in 2017: 18
Key stats: 76 tackles, 27 special teams tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT
Notes: Fenner is an absolute stud who flourished at SAM linebacker in 2017. He piled up special teams tackles too. If he gets to the market there will be plenty of suitors.

2. Otha Foster, SSK
Age: 29
Starts in 2017: 3
Key stats: 11 tackles, 184 for his career
Notes: If Foster can stay healthy he should be able to reach his old form. Might be a bargain for the team that lands him.

3. Jerrell Gavins, OTT
Age: 29
Starts in 2017: 15
Key stats: 41 tackles, 1 INT
Notes: Season-ending ACL injury last October might give some teams pause, but Gavins can still ball.

Defensive backs (International)

1. Tommie Campbell, CAL
Age: 30
Starts in 2017: 17
Key stats: 37 tackles, 2 INT
Notes: Elite, long cover man. It would be a shock if Calgary allows him to hit the open market.

2. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, TOR
Age: 29
Starts in 2017: 11
Key stats: 30 tackles
Notes: Underrated player who has manned the boundary corner spot in Toronto without a lot of fanfare, but he’s legit.

3. T.J. Heath, WIN
Age: 30
Starts in 2017: 18
Key stats: 64 tackles, 5 INT
Notes: Personnel men in the league have questioned his willingness to tackle and physicality, but there are no doubts about his cover and ball skills.


4. Mitchell White, TOR
Age: 27
Starts in 2017: 6
Key stats: 11 tackles, 3 INT
Notes: The last two CFL teams White has played for won the Grey Cup. Good luck charm, but no coincidence.

5. Ronnie Yell, BC
Age: 26
Starts in 2017: 18
Key stats: 64 tackles, 3 INT
Notes: Still young with a lot of experience, Yell could boost any secondary he joins.

6. Loucheiz Purifoy, BC
Age: 25
Starts in 2017: 18
Key stats: 49 tackles, 3 INT
Notes: Ultra-athletic defensive back. If he reaches the potential he’s flashed at times could be high calibre.

7. Emanuel Davis, HAM
Age: 28
Starts in 2017: 6
Key stats: 18 tackles, one forced fumble
Notes: Injured in training camp, then fell out of favour last season but has two all-star seasons on his resume.

8. Joe Burnett, CAL
Age: 31
Starts in 2017: 6
Key stats: 11 tackles, one interception
Notes: After losing his SAM linebacker job due to injury, Burnett needs a landing spot to reclaim his value as a starter.

9. Forrest Hightower, EDM
Age: 25
Starts in 2017: 9
Key stats: 21 tackles, one interception
Notes: Time on the six-game injured list bumped Hightower down the list, but he’s in his prime age range.

10. Rico Murray, TOR
Age: 30
Starts in 2017: 18
Key stats: 55 tackles, one sack, one interception
Notes: A healthy Murray is a productive one – undeniable talent.

11. Garry Peters, EDM
Age: 26
Starts in 2017: 8
Key stats: 35 tackles
Notes: If Peters could cover receivers as tightly as he grabs officials he would be an all-star.

12. Johnny Adams, EDM
Age: 28
Starts in 2017: 6
Key stats: 55 tackles, two interceptions
Notes: There were glimpses of Adam’s returning to all-star form, but it seemed like a patchwork job with all the injuries in Edmonton.

13. Dominique Ellis, HAM
Age: 28
Starts in 2017: 4
Key stats: 15 tackles, one sack
Notes: A veteran guy who has played multiple positions.

14. Johnny Sears Jr., TOR
Age: 30
Starts in 2017: 7
Key stats: 28 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT
Notes: Sears is undeniably talented and can play multiple positions but just cannot stay healthy. That’s unlikely to approve post-30.

15. Keelan Johnson, OTT
Age: 28
Starts in 2017: 2
Key stats: 29 special teams tackles, 13 defensive tackles
Notes: Dynamite special teams player who is finding his comfort level on defence.

16. Brandon Stewart, MTL
Age: 31
Starts in 2017: 12
Key stats: 42 tackles and one interception for a touchdown
Notes: One of the few bright spots in a dark Alouettes 2017 season.

17. Josh Mitchell, TOR
Age: 25
Starts in 2017: 0
Key stats: 1 GP
Notes: Needs an opportunity to get on the field.

18. Anthony Jackson, BC
Age: 28
Starts in 2017: 5
Key stats: 17 tackles and one interception
Notes: Six-foot-one players with Jackson’s athleticism are hard to find, but he’s had a difficult time being consistent.

Defensive backs (National)

1. Jermaine Gabriel, TOR
Age: 27
Starts in 2017: 8
Key stats: 25 tackles, one interception
Notes: Skills are there health is the only concern for the talented Canuck.

Hamilton Tiger Cats’ Terrence Toliver (80) goes high to make a catch while being defended by Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Tevaughn Campbell (26) during the first half of CFL football action in Hamilton on Saturday, August 20, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

2. Tevaughn Campbell, MTL
Age: 24
Starts in 2017: 8
Key stats: 13 tackles, two forced fumbles, one interception
Notes: Elite speed, great size and starting experience. Excellent add for the team that nabs Campbell.

3. Adam Berger, OTT
Age: 27
Starts in 2017: 1 (18 GPs)
Key stats: five tackles and four special teams tackles
Notes: Depth player who has starting experience and can play specials.

4. Dominique Termansen, MTL
Age: 23
Starts in 2017: 0 (8GP)
Key stats: Three tackles, one special teams tackle
Notes: Long, lean and young – three traits coveted in any defensive back.

5. Dan West, OTT
Age: 31
Starts in 2017: 0 (18 GPs)
Key stats: 13 special teams tackles
Notes: Trustworthy special teams player who can fill in at safety if needed.