Taking a look at the free agent lists around the league, it becomes apparent that this is going to be a busy year for general managers and their signing hands.
In Calgary there are 30 names on the list and I’m going to break them down into a few categories, looking at those sure to move on, those likely to stay, and those who may not be in the league when camp is finished.
First off, we can eliminate a few names right off the top.
Adam Berger, Brandon Smith, Austin Hartley, Juwan Simpson are all already retired. Simpson was signed to a one day contract to retire a Stampeder and both Hartley and Berger were done earlier this season. Only Brandon Smith played with the team this year before calling it a day.
Jamar Wall, Derek Wiggan and Justin Lawrence have signed in recent days and so have also been taken off the list. The Stampeders secondary is incredibly young and given the retirement of Smith, Wall becomes the greybeard in the room. Keeping a player who has seen it all helps the growth of younger players.
The next group we will look at is the priority signings, which we will take individually but in no particular order:
- Reggie Begelton – The teams nominee for MOP, Begelton had a breakout season with more than 1,444 yards receiving. If the NFL comes calling, he would be foolish not to take a shot, but after the season he said he expected to be playing in Canada next season. Hufnagel had few real threats at import receiver this year, and no real emerging stars so if Begelton plays in the CFL, Bo Levi Mitchell is far better off having Begelton in the mix.
- Derek Dennis – This former Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman did everything that was asked of him this season and played down the stretch with a knee that required surgery once the season was over. Dennis works very effectively within the Stampeders game plan and would be a comforting presence on the outside.
- Ucambre Williams – Williams played a little bit everywhere this season for the Stampeders, starting at centre and kicking out to tackle when required. A very effective player on the offensive line, Williams also had a nice catch when he caught a receiver and the ball and carried both into the end zone for a two-point conversion.
- DaShaun Amos – Amos was a steady presence in the backfield. As a player you haven’t heard of often, he is exactly what you want your defensive backs to be. He had some standout performances and is in line to continue developing next year.
- Montell Cozart – As a third-string QB this season, Cozart showed promise with a strong arm. Continued development in the Dave Dickenson Passing Academy that the Stampeders have become would only help the young QB.
The next grouping sees players who the Stamps would like to keep, but may find themselves plying their trade elsewhere:
- Cordarro Law – Law played in a career-high tying 16 games for the Stamps this season collecting 10 sacks. Law was Mr. Everything for new defensive coordinator Brent Monson this year.
- Ante Milanovic Litre – Litre became the starting running back for a while late in the season. While not a home run hitting back, he produced pretty consistently. As a Canadian, expect him to attract offers if he gets to free agency.
- Chris Casher – Casher wasn’t the first choice on the defensive line when the season started, but he started 16 games for the Stamps collecting seven sacks.
- Mike Rose – Rose was the lone defensive lineman to play 18 games this year, and picked up five sacks to go with 46 tackles.
- Terry Williams – Williams suffered some injuries late in the season but when healthy and not relied upon heavily in the running game, Williams has been one of the most dynamic returners in the game. Unfortunately for Williams, returners come and go very quickly in this league.
The next group are players that were injured and some may end up never returning:
- Romar Morris – I was gutted for Romar Morris when he returned from a torn Achilles only to tear the other one in his first game back. Morris was a productive running back two seasons ago, but one wonders if tearing both of those tendons is enough to do him in.
- Juwan Brescacin – Brescacin was poised for a monster year, on pace for more than 1,000 yards when he was injured very early in the Stamps fourth game of the year. He also had three touchdowns. Assuming he is healthy, Brescacin will be back.
- Ivan McLennan – McLennan shattered his wrist while landing on the ground after he shredded the tendons in his knee. His comeback may be a tough one considering he got in because of an injury to our next defensive lineman.
- Folarin Orimolade – Orimolade has been posting on social media about his workouts and progress. It’s now up to the Stamps to see if the exciting prospect will be able to fulfill the promise they saw in him before he was injured.
- Junior Turner – I expect to be back at McMahon soon for a Turner retirement press conference. Three of the last four seasons have ended with devastating injuries for Turner. The nine-year vet may decide to hang them up rather than risk further injury.
- Cory Greenwood- Greenwood has never played a full CFL season in his career. The soon-to-be 35-year-old played at an incredibly high level when he was firing on all cylinders, but may see himself replaced by Nate Holley despite his passport.
- Ese Mrabure – The Stampeders were high on Mrabure out of camp only to lose him in the first game to a knee injury. There hasn’t been much to look at or hear about this National defensive lineman since the injury.
- Marcus Ball – Ball signed late in the year after Greenwood was put on the six-game injured list and promptly tore his ACL ending his season. As a 32-year-old linebacker, that may be it for the former Argo standout.
The next group is guys I expect won’t be back in Calgary:
- Nick Arbuckle – Arbuckle will be starting somewhere next season and if Mark Kilam or Ryan Dinwiddie end up in Ottawa, that’s where I’d expect him to land. Arbuckle played well enough to earn a look elsewhere but can’t climb to the top in Calgary with Bo Levi Mitchell at the helm for at least another three years.
- Don Jackson – This season was a disappointing one for Jackson who said he wants to test free agency following the season. I think Jackson felt disrespected in his battle with Ka’Deem Carey and was a ratio casualty for Litre later in the season. I would be surprised to see Jackson back here next year.
- Courtney Stephen – Pressed into action late in the year, Stephen was made somewhat expendable due to the play of Royce Metchie. Stephen came in as a free agent last year, but that depth can likely be found in the draft for a few dollars less.
- Jabar Westerman – Westerman filled a hole that was vacated by the loss of Junior Turner, but was likely a one season place holder. Once healthy, the Stamps defensive line likely has fresher legs then this long time vet.
- Nila Kasitati – Kasitati was in and out at tackle this season for the Stamps. He performed well when called upon at the end of the year against the Bombers defensive line, but the Stamps may look for a younger, cheaper option, or a shuffle at centre that could kick Ucambre Williams outside.