CFL free agent rankings: defensive backs

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Plenty of former all-stars could be up for grabs on February 11, which is good news for teams looking for help in the secondary.

With players like Chris Edwards (B.C.), Derrick Moncrief (Saskatchewan), DaShaun Amos (Calgary), Marcus Sayles (Winnipeg), and Winston Rose (Winnipeg) having signed NFL contracts this winter, there are plenty of openings in the West Division for defensive backs.

We started off our free agent rankings yesterday with specialists — kickers, returners, and long snappers — which you can find here. Check back tomorrow for our linebacker rankings.


1) Patrick Levels, Montreal Alouettes

The East Division all-star played all 18 games at strong-side linebacker last season, recording 86 tackles, five sacks, and two forced fumbles. The 25-year-old covers well and plays well above his weight as a run stopper and pass rusher.

2) Ciante Evans, Montreal Alouettes

The fifth-year man locked things down at field-side halfback for the Alouettes in 2019, making 29 tackles and three interceptions.

3) Anthony Cioffi, Ottawa Redblacks

The 25-year-old was one of few bright spots for Ottawa in 2019, recording 61 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble at strong-side linebacker.

4) Monshadrik ‘Money’ Hunter, Edmonton Eskimos

The 24-year-old spent time at safety and boundary halfback in 2019, making 59 tackles, two interceptions, and one sack.

5) Don Unamba, Edmonton Eskimos

The soon-to-be 31-year-old fought through injuries in 2019, but still managed 43 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception.

6) Branden Dozier, B.C. Lions

Capable of starting virtually anywhere in the secondary, the physical 26-year-old put up 77 total tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble in 16 games.

7) Richard Leonard, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The 28-year-old started 18 games for the Ticats at field-side halfback, recording 55 tackles, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles.

8) Josh Johnson, Edmonton Eskimos

The 29-year-old had a bounce-back year in Edmonton, making 43 tackles, two interceptions, and one sack in starts at boundary cornerback, field-side halfback, and field-side cornerback.

9) Garry Peters, B.C. Lions

Peters played well in 18 starts at boundary cornerback in 2019, recording 63 tackles, four interceptions, and one forced fumble.

10) Frankie Williams, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Our top-ranked returner also cracks or defensive back list, coming off a 50-tackle, one-interception performance at field-side cornerback.

11) Jonathon Mincy, Toronto Argonauts

The former East Division all-star appeared in just one game last year following a season with the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

12) Randall Evans, Ottawa Redblacks

The 28-year-old made 68 total tackles in 2019 in starts at field-side cornerback, boundary halfback, and safety.

13) Jonathan Rose, Ottawa Redblacks

Best of the rest: Jonathan Rose, Ottawa Redblacks; Trumaine Washington, Toronto Argonauts; Abdul Kanneh, Toronto Argonauts; Tyquwan Glass, Edmonton Eskimos; Kevin Fogg, Toronto Argonauts; Crezdon Butler, B.C. Lions; Maurice McKnight, Edmonton Eskimos; Chandler Fenner, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; Chris Randle, Ottawa Redblacks


1) Arjen Colquhoun, Edmonton Eskimos

He’s struggled to stay healthy over the past three seasons, but the Michigan State product is arguably the best Canadian cornerback in the CFL.

2) Jermaine Gabriel, Toronto Argonauts

The seven-year veteran recorded 39 tackles and two sacks in 12 games last season at safety and strong-side linebacker.

3) Anthony Thompson, B.C. Lions

The 29-year-old is coming off a down year, but he remains one of the league’s few Canadians who can start at cornerback or safety.

4) Courtney Stephen, Calgary Stampeders

The 30-year-old was relegated to backup duty behind Royce Metchie in 2019 but still posted 20 total tackles.

5) Derek Jones, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The six-year veteran had a strong return following an injury-riddled 2018 campaign, recording 21 total tackles and a forced fumble.

Best of the rest: Jay Langa, Hamilton Tiger-Cats; Jeff Hecht, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; Josh Woodman, B.C. Lions; Kevin Francis, Ottawa Redblacks

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.