After all the anticipation, the opening bell of CFL free agency will ring at noon EST on Tuesday and with that in mind, let’s take a look at where some of the big names could end up when the ink is dried.
Remember, this isn’t exact reporting more just a type of informed speculation: if breaking news happens, you’ll know it.
Ted Laurent, defensive lineman (Ticats)
The 30-year-old played in 12 games making 13 tackles and four sacks in 2017. He’s a force in the middle and the Canadian passport makes him even more valuable. If Laurent actually leaves Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal are the two possible fits.
Jerome Messam, running back (Stampeders)
Calgary is likely going American at running back – Terry Williams – and that could provide a team with a chance to boost their Canadian ratio. While Messam might want to play in his hometown of Toronto, Hamilton could be a possibility and the Riders – the 32-year-old spent two seasons in Riderville (2014 and 2015) where he reasserted himself as a primary ball carrier – too. Chris Jones is said to have an affinity for the bruising runner who is coming off two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Calgary.
Nic Demski, receiver and returner (Riders)
The sixth overall pick from the 2015 CFL draft seemed about to break out in 2017 but was slowed by injuries. Demski is a dynamic talent who has the rare ability to contribute as a returner as a national. He would be an intriguing target for Montreal if the Alouettes can keep him from going home to Winnipeg. The Bombers would like to start two nationals at receiver and Demski fits that perfectly.
Jamaal Westerman, defensive end (Bombers)
A talented Canadian who has proven he can get to the quarterback with consistency, but the funds haven’t matched yet in Winnipeg. Westerman has played in 47 CFL games making 32 sacks and forcing four fumbles. Edmonton and Ottawa could make bids for the 32-year-old, but Westerman’s highest offer could come from Montreal. The Alouettes need to supplement their pass rush and secure quality Canuck starters and Westerman would address both of those areas.
Bear Woods, linebacker (Argos)
The veteran defender provided a boost in the middle and brought leadership to the Argos defence after his surprise release from Montreal in training camp last season. Woods’ first four seasons in the CFL were played under Noel Thorpe with the Alouettes. Over the years, Thorpe has been loyal to players on defence and Woods fits that category. The 31-year-old had 90 tackles in 17 games for Toronto, which shows the production remains strong. He could help teach players Thorpe’s defensive scheme in the nation’s capital.
T.J. Heath, defensive back (Bombers)
Heath burst onto the CFL scene with seven interceptions in 2016 and five of those came in Toronto under then-Argos defensive coordinator Rich Stubler. The long-time CFL coach is the special advisor to Kahlil Carter in Montreal, a team in need of secondary help after Jonathon Mincy left for the NFL. The ball-hawking cover man would improve the Alouettes secondary instantly. Ottawa might be in the mix but so too the team on the Left coast, looking to upgrade the secondary with the coverage ability he brings.
A.C. Leonard, defensive lineman (Riders)
After Chris Jones turned Leonard from receiver to defensive player, Leonard is about to cash in on that change. The 26-year-old was disruptive – 67 tackles and 10 sacks in two seasons – in Jones’ scheme which has some similarities to what Noel Thorpe does on defence (hint: Ottawa). Edmonton and Montreal could make a play for Leonard as well.
Ese Mrabure, defensive lineman (Riders)
Arrow up for Mrabure. The fifth overall pick in the 2015 CFL draft has played multiple positions the last two seasons in Saskatchewan and should be set to get a raise. B.C. drafted him which could mean there is lingering interest and Edmonton might want a Canadian option on the interior. Mrabure would be an upgrade over Jake Thomas in Winnipeg and Ottawa could make sense from a scheme perspective. Montreal can use a young, rising Canuck. Plenty of options.
Travis Bond, offensive lineman (Bombers)
It seems as though the Bombers have decided to go with two American tackles and three Canadians on the offensive line, which means Bond likely hits the open market. Making a move to the west coast to the B.C. Lions could happen as upgrading the offensive line with an all-star calibre player would serve the Lions well. Bond has played tackle in the CFL and he can thrive at guard too.
John White, running back (Eskimos)
Just when White appeared to be on the verge of a 1,000-yard season (17 carries for 104 yards and one touchdown in Edmonton’s Week 1 win) he tore his ACL in the Eskimos second game of the 2017 season. But the University of Utah product is only 26 years old and produces when healthy. In 2014, White put up over 1,000 yards from scrimmage, including 852 rushing yards in nine games and 2016 saw him produce 1,350 yards from scrimmage with 886 on the ground. The talent is there if White can get his body to withstand the punishment a lead back takes. A reunion with Ed Hervey or Chris Jones are easy connections to draw while returning to Edmonton could also be in play. And in the East, Toronto is the lone team without a primary ball carrier after James Wilder Jr. decided to sit out the 2018 season.