The CFL released their list of pending free agents on Friday and it’s time to delve into Winnipeg’s roster of free agents and who should stay and who should go this winter.
The club has already made a couple of moves, as Jermarcus Hardrick and Stanley Bryant agreed to terms on contract extensions, while strong-side linebacker Maurice Leggett was released following an injury-plagued season.
But general manager and Canadian mafia member Kyle Walters still has plenty of work to do. Here are some suggestions:
Pay the man
DB Brandon Alexander
Field-side halfbacks aren’t easy to find and Alexander, 25, has developed into a good one. The second-year pro has a solid frame, runs well, and has a nose for the football. Named Winnipeg’s Most Outstanding Rookie in 2017, Alexander is a piece to build around for the future.
LB Adam Bighill
Bighill was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player for the second time in his career this season — what more is there to say? The man is dominant player, an excellent leader, and still in his physical prime. The only way Bighill doesn’t end up back in Winnipeg next season is if Ed Hervey is able to lure him back to the west coast.
OL Sukh Chungh*
Named a West Division all-star for the first time in his career this season, Chungh has started all but three regular season games for the Bombers since being drafted second overall in 2015. Chungh is athletic, powerful, and plays with a nasty edge. The Bombers need to find a way to retain his services — preferably long-term.
OL Matthias Goossen*
Goossen, like Chungh, was named a West Division all-star for the first time in 2018. The five-year veteran approaches the game with the same grit as Chungh, has started virtually the same number of games as Chungh, and was even born the same year as Chungh. And, like Chungh, Goossen is one of the Bombers’ must-sign players. Seriously, Winnipeg — re-sign Goossen and Chungh.
DL Jackson Jeffcoat
Rushing the passer is the top priority for virtually any CFL defence and Jeffcoat is the best pass rusher the Bombers have. The 26-year-old battled injuries this season, but the Texas product recorded four sacks in two playoff games. He’s a game-changer.
DB Taylor Loffler*
Loffler was recently named a West Division all-star for the third consecutive season. The UBC product has an imposing frame (6’4, 225 pounds) and can run, cover, tackle, and hit. Loffler is a versatile defensive play-maker and has quickly established himself as a top-tier Canadian player. The Bombers need him back.
FB Mike Miller*
Miller isn’t a household name, but the Acadia product is one of the CFL’s best special teams players. With 44 special teams tackles in 36 games as a Blue Bomber, Miller is a key player for Winnipeg to retain this winter.
DL Drake Nevis
This former NFLer had a nice bounce-back season in 2018, recording 26 tackles and two sacks in eighteen regular season games. Consistently drawing double-teams from opposing offensive linemen, Nevis makes life easier for those around him on the defensive line.
For the right price
LB Jesse Briggs*
Drafted in the first year of the Kyle Walters/Mike O’Shea era, Briggs has missed just three games due to injury through five seasons. The former second round pick has 56 special teams tackles in 87 career games.
OL Michael Couture*
The Bombers have been developing Couture since he was selected in the second round of the 2016 draft. Despite Couture’s versatility, the signing of Geoff Gray makes the 24-year-old somewhat expendable. Winnipeg should bring him back — but only for the right price.
REC/RB Nic Demski*
The Winnipeg native had a solid year, finishing the season with 802 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. The Bombers have some exciting young national receivers in Drew Wolitarsky, Daniel Petermann, and Rashaun Simonise as well as two first-round picks in a receiver-heavy 2019 CFL draft. Demski’s a good player, but he can’t price himself out of a job.
DB Kevin Fogg
Fogg is pretty good at field-side cornerback, popular in the locker room, and remains one of the league’s better punt returners. The third-year man is a solid utility piece, but a jack of all trades is a master of none.
LB Shayne Gauthier*
A fierce special teamer who has recorded 28 special teams tackles in 31 career games. The knock on Gauthier is his lack of durability, having missed 23 career games due to injury.
DB Jeff Hecht*
Added midway through the 2018 season, Hecht contributed on special teams and in a number of defensive depth roles. Now 33, Hecht is quickly approaching the end of his career.
K/P Justin Medlock
Enjoying a quiet bounce-back year, Medlock posted career-best numbers this season in field goal percentage (89.4) and punting average (44.5 yards). Still, the twelve-year pro is 35 and has already contemplated retirement once — a consistent kicker is valuable, but the Bombers will have to find a younger option eventually.
LB Thomas Miles*
A solid depth player with 26 special teams tackles in 36 games as a Blue Bomber. Still just 26, Miles is in his physical prime and is durable as they come.
LB Frederic Plesius*
The Laval product was brought in partway through the 2018 season after the Bombers lost a number of Canadian special teamers due to injury. Plesius recorded four defensive tackles and five special teams tackles in six games.
LS Chad Rempel*
Now the Bombers’ oldest player at 36, Rempel does a great job long-snapping and is well-liked in the locker room.
FB John Rush*
Undrafted in 2016, Rush has spent the past two years in Winnipeg as a blocking fullback and special teams contributor. The Guelph product has seven career special teams tackles.
LB Jovan Santos-Knox
Santos-Knox has developed into a very good weak-side linebacker — talent-wise, he’s a must-sign player. The issue with re-upping him is two-fold: first, he plays a position at which finding young talent is relatively easy; second, Adam Bighill’s contract extension could limit what the Bombers are able to afford elsewhere in the linebacking corps.
DL Jake Thomas*
A late re-addition in 2018, Thomas enjoyed a solid season with 17 tackles, three sacks, and two forced fumbles in 18 games. Thomas is a great rotational player — there’s just a question about whether the Bombers have a roster spot for a Canadian interior defensive lineman.
LB Kyrie Wilson
A tackling machine at Fresno State, Wilson has spent most of the past two seasons on Winnipeg’s practice roster. Wilson was in the running to start for the Bombers at middle linebacker this season prior to the signing of Adam Bighill.
DL Trent Corney*
A second round draft pick in 2016, Corney was expected to take a step forward this year in his third season with the Bombers. The Virginia product instead missed virtually the entire season due to injury, recording just one tackle in three games.
REC Weston Dressler
The future Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee has nothing left to prove — 10,000 receiving yards and 61 career touchdowns speak for themselves. With that said, the diminutive 33-year-old has missed 16 games over the past three years due to injury and his production is trending downward. It’s time for the Bombers to move on.
RB Kienan LaFrance*
Averaging just 3.8 yards per carry in spot duty behind Andrew Harris, LaFrance contributes little on special teams. The Bombers may have better depth options at running back in Nic Demski, Johnny Augustine, and a pair of draft-eligible studs in Brady Oliveira (who’s from Winnipeg) and Maleek Irons.
REC Ryan Lankford
Lankford probably has the best leg of any receiver on the planet, but the veteran pass catcher has struggled to make an impact in the receiving corps. For a speedy player, Lankford struggles to gain separation from defenders.
DB Brendan Morgan*
The former second round pick recorded just five special teams tackles in sixteen regular season games. Morgan finished the season as a healthy scratch in the West Final.
DL Tristan Okpalaugo
The veteran was brought to Winnipeg in February of 2017 on a two-year contract that paid him like one of the league’s top pass rushers. Okpalaugo hasn’t been poor — he recorded 11 sacks in 30 games as a Bomber — but he failed to meet expectations. It’s time for a change of scenery.
LB Frank Renaud*
Drafted in the eight round of the 2016 draft, Renaud has struggled with injuries through two seasons in Winnipeg. The Windsor product has six special teams tackles in 12 games as a member of the Bombers.
LB Ian Wild
The veteran linebacker hasn’t been a regular in the Bombers’ starting line-up since 2016. Struggling with injuries throughout his career, Wild is an American player at a depth role typically reserved for Canadians.
* denotes national/Canadian