So a lot has happened since we last did this.
Since the 2018 season ended, we’ve seen a number of coaching changes and a seismic amount of player movement during one of the most chaotic free agency periods in league history. Now that the dust has settled let’s take a look at where everybody stands along with where they were right before free agency (we ranked the teams on Feb. 10 but our idiot editor forgot to post them. Thanks, Drew.)
Remember, we do our power rankings by having seven 3Down contributors (Edwards, Dunk, Hodge, Filoso, Ballantine, Gasson, Smith) rank the teams from No. 1 to No. 9. The team with the fewest “points” gets the top ranking, the second fewest is No. 2 and so on.
1. Calgary Stampeders
Rank on Feb. 10: Third
The Stampeders finished last season with the No .1 ranking after winning the Grey Cup – duh – but then slid down to No. 3 right before free agency because it looked like quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was either going to the NFL or seriously entertaining the possibility of joining another CFL team.
Well, so much for all that.
Mitchell elected to stay with the Stamps and despite the fact that they lost some key contributors, Calgary gets the benefit of the doubt again from our voters – they took home six of a possible seven first-place votes. Pundits have been predicting the demise of the Stamps’ juggernaut for some time now but John Hufnagel always seems to find a way to restock with talent on the fly. Can they do it again? Probably.
2. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Rank on Feb. 10: First
With quarterback Matt Nichols under contract and uncertainty elsewhere in the West Division, the Bombers looked like they were in good shape heading into free agency and the Power rankings reflected that.
Winnipeg lost a couple of Canadian starters (guard Sukh Chung and safety Taylor Loffler) as well as quality linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox. But the addition of defensive end Willie Jefferson – one of the biggest non-quarterbacks available gives them an elite-level pass rusher.
The Bombers also have stability in the front office with the Canadian mafia returning intact for another season.
3. B.C. Lions
Rank on Feb. 10: Sixth
Ed Hervey put his stamp on the Lions in a big way in his second off-season as general manager (and first without Wally Buono around.) Quarterback Mike Reilly was obviously the biggest get but B.C. also added a number of other quality players including Chung, shutdown corner Aaron Grymes and receiver Duron Carter.
Those additions – as well as several others – were enough to bump the Lions up three spots and raise expectations significantly in B.C.
4. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Rank on Feb. 10: Second
Like the Bombers, the Ticats had their quarterback under contract and they also did a lot of work to re-sign key players before the free agency opened. Receiver Brandon Banks, linebacker Simoni Lawrence and corner Delvin Breaux would have all been prime targets had they made it to the open market.
The Ticats also picked up elite pass rusher Ja’Gared Davis, Canadian safety Tunde Adeleke and veteran defensive back Rico Murray while losing two all-star linebackers in Larry Dean and Don Unamba. The departure of four Canadians will also hurt their depth.
Still, the Ticats are the top-ranked East team, particularly given the departures in Ottawa and the uncertain quarterback situations in Toronto and Montreal.
5. Edmonton Eskimos
Rank on Feb. 10: Eighth
Last year’s playoff whiff and Reilly’s imminent departure sent the Eskimos tumbling down the rankings pre-free agency but Brock Sunderland’s work in bringing in quarterback Trevor Harris, receiver Greg Ellingson, offensive tackle SirVincent Rogers as well as Dean, Unamba and Santos-Knox seems to have calmed fears somewhat.
But importing sizeable chunks of the East Division hasn’t given the Eskimos the same bump signing Reilly and a cast of thousands gave B.C. The Esks will have to prove they can make it work in the hyper-competitive West.
6. Saskatchewan Roughriders
Rank on Feb. 10: Fifth
The unexpected departure of Chris Jones to the Cleveland Browns after last year’s 12-win season set off a chain of events that saw Jeremy O’Day (GM) and Craig Dickenson (head coach) both receive promotions. Both are holding those roles for the first time in their CFL careers.
The questions don’t end there. Re-signing quarterback Zach Collaros seems like a gamble given his injury history and the loss of Jefferson to the rival Bombers could really hurt come Labour Day.
Still, Micah Johnson was one of the most sought-after defenders on the market and re-signing Namaan Roosevelt while adding Manny Arceneaux should give Collaros some weapons. And Rider fans will have plenty of I-told-so opportunities if the team finds a way.
7. Ottawa Redblacks
Rank on Feb. 10: Fourth
A Grey Cup participant just three months ago, the Redblacks have fallen down the rankings elevator shaft since then. While it looked like the team was going to be able to re-sign Harris, he went West and took some buddies with him.
The addition of Jon Jennings gives the Redblacks another option to Dom Davis, who re-signed with the club and looked good in limited action last year. GM Marcel Desjardins other signings have been solid, if unspectacular, and the criticism from outgoing players certainly raised some eyebrows.
The Redblacks are trying to follow the Stampeder model by allowing veterans looking for a big payday to walk while rebuilding from within. It works in Calgary but…
8. Toronto Argonauts
Rank on Feb. 10: Seventh
The Argos and the Alouettes spent much of last season swapping spots in the basement of these rankings and nothing much has changed so far in 2019.
Toronto has a new coach in Corey Chamblin but struck out on Mitchell despite offering him a boatload of money (which they promptly gave a big chunk of to receiver Derel Walker.) Argos GM Jim Popp has been busy adding or re-signing a whopping 17 players since free agency opened.
Still, there are questions as to whether James Franklin can fulfil his promise as a starting quarterback and whether Brandon Bridge can take the next step. Given the importance of quarterback play in this league, that uncertainty is enough to keep Toronto at the south end of these rankings.
9. Montreal Alouettes
Rank on Feb. 10: Ninth
General manager Kavis Reed did some nice work in free agency bringing in some starting-calibre Canadian talent – offensive lineman Spencer Wilson, linebacker Bo Lokombo, Loffler – while adding DeVier Posey to a receiving line up that includes the re-signed B.J. Cunningham.
But who is going to throw to those guys remains an open question, as it has since Anthony Calvillo retired. Incumbent starter Johnny Manziel just got booted out of the league and while Antonio Pipkin showed some flashes, he’s far from a sure thing – why the Alouettes didn’t make a stronger push for the elite or even second-tier guys in free agency is a head-scratcher.
Then there’s this: the Alouettes don’t have a first-round CFL draft pick until 2022: they might have the No. 9 ranking until then.