Sorry, CFL fans: mass free agency’s not going anywhere (at least for one more year)

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

CFL free agency is a lot of fun — except when it’s not.

One of the most common complaints I hear from CFL fans is that the free agent list has grown far too long in recent years. Sure, it’s exciting when top players reach the open market but fans want a sense of continuity.

It’s tough to buy a jersey or pick a favourite player when so many of them reach free agency on a seemingly annual basis.

Like it or not, fans across the country need to be prepared for at least one more year of mass free agency after the 2021 season is done.

The following is a list of recently-signed contract extension that are all one-year deals: Matthew Boateng, Toronto Argonauts; Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders; Justin Howell, Ottawa Redblacks; Jorgen Hus, Saskatchewan Roughriders; Eugene Lewis, Montreal Alouettes; Wayne Moore, B.C. Lions; Nakas Onyeka, Saskatchewan Roughriders; Dominique Rhymes, B.C. Lions; Naaman Roosevelt, Montreal Alouettes; and Tony Washington, Montreal Alouettes.

Defensive end A.C. Leonard and defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy recently restructured their contracts with Saskatchewan but no years were added. They remain slated to become free agents in February 2022. The same is true for Calgary Stampeders’ defensive linemen Derek Wiggan and Connor McGough.

The only new deal of which I’m aware that goes beyond 2021 is William Stanback’s extension with the Montreal Alouettes. The running back inked a two-year deal with the team through 2022, making him ineligible for free agency until February 2023.

It’s perfectly understandable why so many players are opting to sign one-year deals. With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire in May 2022, there’s no telling what the CFL’s financial landscape will look like after the upcoming season. There’s also the ongoing pandemic to account for, which has impacted businesses everywhere — the CFL and its member clubs included.

The league has talked about using COVID-19 to address its business model and build a more sustainable future. Finding a way to end mass free agency — for example, implementing restricted free agency — should be part of those discussions.

Until then, CFL fans, get used to mile-long free agent lists. They’re not going anywhere — at least for one more year.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.