Grading each team after Day One of free agency

CFL free agency opened at noon on Tuesday with the usual frenzy of activity as teams scooped up some of the bigger names available in the early going. 3DownNation’s Drew Edwards and John Hodge reviewed what each team did on day one and gave each team a grade on their work thus far.

* denotes a re-signing.

T.J. Heath

Toronto Argonauts

INT DB T.J. Heath (WIN)
INT DB Johnny Sears*
NAT DB Jermaine Gabriel*

Heath is an all-star calibre defensive back who returns to Toronto after the disastrous Drew Willy trade two seasons ago. Gabriel is a starting Canadian safety and Sears is a valuable piece if he can stay healthy.

Grade: B

Lirim Hajrullahu

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

NAT K Lirim Hajrullahu (TOR)
NAT LB Nick Shortill*
INT LB Larry Dean*
NAT DT Ted Laurent*

Dean and Laurent never got to free agency, but re-signing them still feels like a get for the Ticats. Hajrullahu gives them a proven Canadian kicker and the roster flexibility that comes with it while Shortill is a solid depth piece and a borderline starter. The Ticats now have their ratio in order with backups in place.

Grade: B+

A.C. Leonard (right)

Ottawa Redblacks

INT DE A.C. Leonard (SSK)
INT DB Loucheiz Purifoy (BC)
INT DB Rico Murray

Leonard should provide some help off the edge, though $145,000 is too much to pay for a second-tier rush end. Purifoy and Murray are veteran defensive backs who will provide versatility having seen time at a number of positions in the secondary. Losing a Canadian starter in Zack Evans (and Arnaud Gascon-Nadon, it appears) hurts, however, and Ottawa could use some national help.

Grade: C

Tommie Campbell.

Montreal Alouettes

INT DB Tommie Campbell (CAL)
INT DB Joe Burnett (CAL)
INT DB Dominique Ellis (HAM)
INT K Boris Bede*
INT OT Xavier Fulton*
NAT DB Tevaughn Campbell*
NAT OL Matt Vonk*
NAT REC S.J. Haidara*

The Alouettes are desperate for help in two areas: quarterbacks and Canadians. This list features zero quarterbacks and no new Canadians. Campbell was one of the best defensive backs available, but he (like Burnett) is on the wrong side of 30. Not a strong day in La Belle Province.

Grade: D

Joel Figueroa (right)

B.C. Lions

INT OL Joel Figueroa (EDM)
INT OL Jeremy Lewis (MTL)
INT DL Euclid Cummings (EDM)
INT DB Garry Peters (EDM)
NAT LB Mitch Barnett (HAM)
NAT DB Dominique Termansen (MTL)
INT DB A.J. Jefferson (OTT)

New GM Ed Hervey said the offensive and defensive lines were a priority and he took steps to address them on day one with veteran tackles Figueroa and Lewis and the excellent Cummings. A number of the players brought in on day one had Hervey connections as he puts his stamp on the club but this list lacks a much-needed impact Canadian.

Grade: C+

Zack Evans (right)

Saskatchewan Roughriders

NAT OL Zack Evans (OTT)
NAT OL Dan Clark*
NAT FB/TE Spencer Moore*
NAT RB Jerome Messam
INT OL Travis Bond

Evans is a feel-good story as a Regina boy who comes back to his hometown team (where he’s already won a Grey Cup) and he’s a bona fide Canadian starter to boot. Clark and Moore are useful Canadian pieces. Adding national content makes this a good haul for the Riders but questions remain on what the cap implications might be just ask Derek Dennis.

Grade: B+

Nic Demski

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

NAT REC Nic Demski (SSK)
NAT RB Kienan LaFrance (SSK)
INT DB Chandler Fenner (BC)

Fenner was a huge – and surprising – get for the Bombers while Demski and LaFrance are hometown kids. Demski got starter money so he will need to stay healthy while LaFrance provides affordable insurance behind Andrew Harris. These are smart, well-executed moves by the blue and gold.

Grade: B+

Alex Bazzie

Edmonton Eskimos

INT RB John White*
INT DE Alex Bazzie (BC)
NAT LB Adam Konar*
INT DB Johnny Adams*
INT DB Forrest Hightower*

White is a great backup or No. 1A back behind C.J. Gable. Bazzie is a younger pass rusher than the departed Odell Willis and reunites with defensive coordinator Mike Benevides. Konar will get another chance to stay healthy and win a starting job while Hightower and Adams are veterans with experience in Benevides’ scheme. $160,000 may be too rich for Bazzie, but keeping Konar helps the Esks’ grade.

Grade: B

Emanuel Davis

Calgary Stampeders

INT DB Emanuel Davis (HAM)
NAT DB Adam Berger (OTT)
NAT DL Ese Mrabure (SSK)
INT LB Deron Mayo*
INT RB/KR Roy Finch*

Finch might be the most dynamic playmaker in the CFL while Mayo is a starter on defence. Davis is a two-time all-star at halfback while Mrabure will benefit from the tutelage of former CFL defensive linemen Corey Mace and DeVone Claybrooks. This list isn’t sexy, but Calgary has had a lot of success using free agency to make underrated depth moves. This year appears to be the same.

Grade: B