The CFL released its comprehensive free agent list on Thursday with teams averaging approximately 30 players apiece.
It’s a daunting list, so here’s a condensed version that lays out the top priorities for all nine CFL squads heading into the 2019-2020 off-season.
Players are listed alphabetically by team.
DB Branden Dozier (A)
The 26-year-old was solid in 16 starts for the Lions after he was inexplicably released by Montreal, recording 70 tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble. Dozier has the versatility to slot in at safety, strong-side linebacker or halfback.
REC Shaq Johnson (N)
The speedster had the best season of his career in 2019, making 39 receptions for 597 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Reilly loves to push the ball down the field and a deep threat like Johnson is the perfect player to have at field-side wideout.
OL Justin Renfrow (A)
The Lions’ offensive line improved after Renfrow was acquired from the Stampeders via trade. With the XFL gobbling up talent, young free agent offensive linemen will be tough to recruit this winter. Why not bring back a player who made you better in 2019?
Honourable mention: DB Aaron Grymes (A)
Grymes suffered a torn ACL in mid-October, which means it’s unlikely that he’ll be ready for the start of training camp. He’s still arguably the CFL’s best halfback, however, which means he’s got plenty of value for the Lions.
DB Arjen Colquhoun (N)
Canadian cornerbacks are hard to find and Colquhoun is a legitimate starter regardless of passport. The Michigan State product has had trouble with injuries but his youth (27) and talent make him a player that Edmonton needs to have back.
DL Mike Moore (A)
Almondo Sewell is getting long in the tooth, which is why it’s key for the Eskimos to re-sign Moore. The 26-year-old had 23 tackles and nine sacks in 2019 and is a load in the middle at six-foot-four and 270 pounds.
SAM Don Unamba (A)
The 30-year-old started just 12 games due to injury, but still produced 43 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception for the Eskimos in 2019. Unamba is a dynamic defender who makes plays, which is why he excels at strong-side linebacker.
Honourable mention: LB Larry Dean (A)
Dean enjoyed a solid first season in Edmonton, recording 86 tackles and one sack in 18 starts. The 31-year-old American will be expensive to re-sign, however, and plays a position which scouts should be capable of finding younger, cheaper options.
REC Reggie Begelton (A)
The star receiver had a breakout season in 2019, catching 102 passes for 1,444 yards and ten touchdowns. Unless he gets signed by an NFL team, Calgary needs to do everything it can to keep Begelton with the team for the foreseeable future.
RB/KR Terry Williams (A)
Williams is one of the CFL’s most explosive players who can run the ball, catch passes out of the backfield, and return punts and kickoffs. If he can find his form from 2018, the 27-year-old will be the favourite to win the league’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player award in 2020.
OL Ucambre Williams (A)
How many offensive linemen can play at an all-star level at centre and left tackle? Williams is one of the few who can. The 27-year-old out of South Alabama is a must-sign player for Calgary, particularly if Derek Dennis leaves via free agency.
Honourable mention: QB Nick Arbuckle (A)
Having a competent backup quarterback is critical and Arbuckle has proven he can win games. The 26-year-old has expressed interest in becoming a starter elsewhere in 2020, however, which means the Stampeders probably won’t be able to afford his services.
REC Shaq Evans (A)
The star receiver was dominant for portions of 2019, catching 72 passes for 1,334 yards and five touchdowns. Cody Fajardo recently signed a contract extension through 2021 — why not give his favourite target a contract with the same term?
LB Cameron Judge (N)
The 25-year-old was excellent in his first full season as a starter, making 61 tackles, five sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble. Saskatchewan needs to lock Judge down, rewarding the West Division’s reigning Most Outstanding Canadian with a contract to match.
SAM Derrick Moncrief (A)
Moncrief is a game-changer at one of the game’s most challenging positions. If the 26-year-old doesn’t receive an NFL opportunity — which is a legitimate possibility — Saskatchewan has to get him back under contract for 2020.
Honourable mention: DB Nick Marshall (A)
The shutdown cornerback had another strong season in 2019, making 39 tackles and five interceptions. He was passed over for Tre Roberson and Winston Rose in all-star voting, but the 27-year-old is still an elite talent.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
OL Stanley Bryant (A)
The five-time CFL all-star is the league’s best offensive lineman who only seems to be getting better with age. Bryant has yet to miss a start in 90 regular season games with the Blue Bombers, locking things down at the all-important left tackle position.
QB Zach Collaros (A) or QB Matt Nichols (A)
I’m cheating by listing two players here, but these pivots are very similar in terms of age, injury history, experience, and production. The Bombers need a number-one quarterback to take them into 2020 and Nichols and Collaros are both solid options.
DL Willie Jefferson (A)
Jefferson is the league’s reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player who made life miserable for Dane Evans in the Grey Cup with three sacks and two forced fumbles. It’s time for Winnipeg to become Willie-peg.
Honourable mention: QB Chris Streveler (A)
Though he’s yet to prove he can be an effective starter, Streveler has been a fantastic change-of-pace pivot for Paul LaPolice to use as a runner and passer.
DB Tunde Adeleke (N)
The Carleton product has become arguably the best Canadian defensive back in the CFL, capable of contributing at safety, strong-side linebacker and punt returner. Adeleke will be one of the highest sought-after free agents in the league unless the Tiger-Cats are able to sign him long-term.
DL Ja’Gared Davis (A)
Davis was an exceptional addition to Hamilton’s defensive front in 2019, notching 54 tackles, 13 sacks, and three forced fumbles. The Ticats paid handsomely to acquire the 29-year-old during last winter’s free agent frenzy and will need to do so again in order to retain his services.
QB Jeremiah Masoli (A)
Dane Evans played well after Masoli suffered a torn ACL but allowing a franchise quarterback to walk for nothing is dubious. The 31-year-old remains one of the league’s best passers and is on pace to be healthy for the start training camp.
Honourable mention: REC Bralon Addison (A)
Addison had a breakout year in 2019, hauling in 95 receptions for 1,236 yards and seven touchdowns. The NFL and XFL could come into play for the young star, however, with June Jones’ Houston Roughnecks located just 30 kilometres from Addison’s hometown.
QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson (A)
Bethel-Thompson hasn’t won a lot of games as a starter but there’s no denying his production. The 31-year-old finished first in passing touchdowns (26) and third in yardage (4,024) in 2019, which is impressive considering he only started 13 games.
OL Jamal Campbell (N)
Toronto spent three seasons developing the local product and it paid off in 2019 with Campbell starting 11 games at right tackle. Allowing the six-foot-seven York product to leave now would be a waste of an investment for the rebuilding Argos.
DL Cleyon Laing (N)
The 29-year-old was Toronto’s best defender in 2019, recording 27 tackles and seven sacks. Laing is one of the CFL’s best national defenders and would be a hot commodity if he was allowed hit the open market.
Honourable mention: REC Derel Walker (A)
Walker is one of the CFL’s best targets, which the Argos didn’t seem to realize until the midway point of the season. Toronto would be wise to bring him back, but only if they hire a coordinator willing to use him appropriately.
SAM Anthony Cioffi (A)
Cioffi was one of the best play-makers on an Ottawa team that didn’t make a lot of plays in 2019. The 25-year-old has a nose for the football, plays a physical game, and covers well — he’s the type of player you can build a defence around.
REC Dominique Rhymes (A)
Rhymes was Ottawa’s top receiver in 2019, making 65 receptions for 1,056 yards and five touchdowns. Just imagine what he could do with a competent quarterback and offensive coordinator.
K Lewis Ward (N)
The Kingston native is a product of the Ottawa Gee-Gees and holds the CFL record for most consecutive field goals at 69. What more is there to say? Pay the man.
Honourable mention: OL Nolan MacMillan (N)
The Redblacks have Canadian offensive linemen for days, but MacMillan is still one of their best. The 28-year-old managed to start 14 games in 2019 despite struggling to remain healthy in recent years.
LB Chris Ackie (N)
Montreal signed the former first-round pick to a team-friendly contract in 2019, which won’t happen again this off-season. Still just 27, Ackie is one of the league’s best and most versatile defensive players.
SAM Patrick Levels (A)
The former Stampeder excelled in 2019, recording 86 tackles, five sacks, and two forced fumbles. Levels was so good that some felt he deserved consideration for the East Division’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award.
RB William Stanback (A)
One of the league’s best offensive weapons is receiving interest from the NFL, which may make it tough for Montreal to re-sign him. If Stanback returns to the CFL next year, the Alouettes need to do everything in their power to get him back to La Belle Province.
Honourable mention: REC Eugene Lewis (A)
Lewis recorded his first 1,000-yard season in 2019, catching 72 passes for 1,133 yards and five touchdowns. It’s clear the 26-year-old has chemistry with Vernon Adams Jr. and the club would be wise to allow that relationship to continue flourishing next season.