Grading the day-one signings from last year’s free agent frenzy

Everyone loves the first day of CFL free agency.

Rumours swirl wildly, teams spend lavishly, and all-star players change squads. The day is particularly exciting for fans as they pore over articles and tweets to learn of the latest signings from across the league.

29 players signed with new teams on the first day of free agency in February 2019. Some additions worked out brilliantly, while others failed the make an impact.

Below I’ve graded all 29 day-one signings from last year with the players broken down by team. We’ll start on the west coast.

B.C. Lions

OL Sukh Chungh (N) — D

The 2018 West Division all-star appeared in just eight games for the Lions after signing an exorbitant contract. Chungh was expected to help secure the offensive line in front of Mike Reilly, but the unit struggled regardless of whether he dressed or not.

REC Lemar Durant (N) — A

The Vancouver native was on pace for 972 yards when he suffered a season-ending foot injury in October. Durant was rewarded for his strong play with a lucrative two-year contract extension that he signed before the 2019 season was over.

DB Chris Edwards (A) — B+

The former Eskimo started all 18 games for B.C. at strong-side linebacker, recording 50 tackles, one sack, one interception, and two forced fumbles. He has since been released by the team to pursue an NFL opportunity with the San Francisco 49ers.

DB Aaron Grymes (A) — B

The former CFL all-star played well in 16 starts at boundary halfback, making 54 tackles and one sack. The pending free agent suffered a torn ACL in October, which has put his availability for the start of the 2020 regular season in jeopardy.

QB Mike Reilly (A) — B-

Reilly started 16 games in his return to the west coat, but didn’t resemble the perennial M.O.P. candidate he was in Edmonton. Poor protection and a young receiving corps made it impossible for the 34-year-old to live up to the hype of his free agent contract, the largest in the league.

DB Josh Woodman (N) — D

The former fifth-round pick got into nine games with the Lions as a backup defensive back, recording one special teams tackle.

Calgary Stampeders


Edmonton Eskimos

REC Ricky Collins Jr. (A) — A

The veteran put up an impressive 1,103 receiving yards and three touchdowns after signing a relatively modest three-year contract. The Eskimos got a great return on investment from Collins Jr. who set a number of new career-highs in 2019.

REC DaVaris Daniels (A) — B

The former Stampeder started just 13 games due to injury but made a nice impact, averaging 56.8 yards per contest. The 27-year-old is a pending free agent and could look to strike rich with a new team again next month.

LB Larry Dean (A) — B+

The former East Division Most Outstanding Defensive Player made 86 tackles and three sacks in 17 starts. Dean served as a strong leader on defence, replacing long-time Eskimo J.C. Sherritt who retired in January 2019.

REC Greg Ellingson (A) — A

Ellingson’s chemistry with Trevor Harris — more on him in a moment — went uninterrupted by a move out west, connecting for 1,170 yards and five touchdowns. The 31-year-old remains under contract for 2020, which should allow him and his quarterback to enjoy another strong season in Edmonton.

QB Trevor Harris (A) — B+

On pace for 6,000 yards by the midway point of the season, Harris slowed down in the second half following an injury to his throwing arm. The pivot had a monster performance in the East Semi-Final, however, completing 36-of-39 attempts for 421 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

DB Anthony Orange (A) — C-

The 2018 CFL all-star started just eight games due to injury, recording 26 tackles and one interception. Edmonton’s secondary didn’t skip a beat without Orange, with Josh Johnson and Tyquwan Glass sharing duties at boundary cornerback.

OL SirVincent Rogers (A) — F

This signing was a flop by no fault of Rogers or the Eskimos. Suffering a torn tricep in May, the three-time East Division all-star missed the entire season with Tommie Draheim and Kyle Saxelid handling the duties at left tackle.

LB Jovan Santos-Knox (A) — D

The former Blue Bomber started just four games due to a foot injury, recording 13 tackles and one sack. Vontae Diggs performed well in his absence, however, securing the weak-side linebacker position.

SAM Don Unamba (A) — B-

Unamba was limited to 12 games in 2019 due to injury, but still managed 43 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception. The 30-year-old is a pending free agent who may hit the market following the announcement of a three-year extension with Brian Walker.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

LB Dyshawn Davis (A) — C

The former Lion dressed for all 18 regular season games in Regina but produced only 16 tackles. Davis’ role was reduced after Solomon Elimimian returned from injury, taking over a starting role at linebacker.

DL Micah Johnson (A) — C

Johnson’s numbers plummeted in 2019, recording just 26 tackles and four sacks. Though still an effective player, he didn’t resemble the dominant force he was with Calgary in 2018.

RB William Powell (A) — B+

Powell ran for 12 touchdowns in 2019, which tied for the league-lead. The 31-year-old also put up 1,389 yards from scrimmage with a solid 5.1-yard per carry average, alleviating pressure on a young Cody Fajardo.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

DL Willie Jefferson (A) — A+

Jefferson put up a career-high 12 sacks along with six forced fumbles and an interceptions. Named the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player days before an excellent performance in the Grey Cup, this signing was a home run.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

DB Tunde Adeleke (N) — A

The Carleton product recorded a career-high 52 tackles and two interceptions in 18 games in 2019, 16 of which he started at safety. Adeleke recently signed a two-year contract extension with Hamilton, which means this match will extend into 2020 and beyond.

REC Brian Jones (N) — F

Jones was released in June, though he eventually rejoined the Ticats in August. He finished the season without a catch in nine games.

Toronto Argonauts

DB Kevin Fogg (A) — C-

The Liberty product started seven games at field-side halfback for a struggling Argonauts’ secondary, missing 11 games due to injury. Fogg made 24 tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble in his seven appearances.

RB Chris Rainey (A) — C+

Rainey had a 79-yard punt return touchdown in Week 4 against B.C., but was otherwise relatively quiet in the return game. Toronto used the veteran more on offence as the season progressed, finishing the year with 354 yards from scrimmage.

RB Mercer Timmis (N) — F

Timmis started the season on the six-game injured list before announcing his retirement at the age of 25. The Calgary product never dressed for the Argonauts.

Ottawa Redblacks


Montreal Alouettes

DB Patrick Levels (A) — A

Levels established himself as an elite strong-side linebacker in 2019, recording 86 tackles, five sacks, and two forced fumbles in 18 starts. The pending free agent is a player the Alouettes can ill-afford to lose.

LB Bo Lokombo (N) — B+

The linebacker started ten games at safety following a season-ending injury to Taylor Loffler, allowing Montreal to preserve its ratio. The heavy hitter made 51 tackles, two interceptions, and one forced fumble in 2019.

FB Christophe Normand (N) — C

The Laval product went essentially unused on offence, but contributed consistently on special teams with 11 tackles.

REC DeVier Posey (A) — A-

The veteran provided Montreal with a much-needed deep threat, recording 780 receiving yards on just 50 receptions. Injuries limited Posey to just 12 games, but he should be over 1,000 yards in 2020 if he remains healthy.

OL Spencer Wilson (N) — D

The versatile blocker started just seven games — six at right guard and one at right tackle — after signing a lucrative contract. He has since been released by the Alouettes.

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