2021 CFL free agent rankings: the top 25

Photo courtesy: Hannah Souster

February 9 is finally upon us, which means the sparks are about to fly in CFL free agency.

Check out our rankings of the top 25 pending free agents and see how many sign on Tuesday by following our live blog.

1) LB Cameron Judge, Saskatchewan Roughriders (N)

The 26-year-old is a ratio-breaker who ascended to prominence in 2019, making 72 total tackles, five sacks, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles on his way to being named the West Division finalist for Most Outstanding Canadian.

The son of a Stargate actor, Judge’s athleticism and physicality are positively otherworldly. Where his gavel lands in 2021 could be the biggest non-COVID-19 story left this off-season.

2) LB Henoc Muamba, Montreal Alouettes (N)

Muamba beat Judge out for Most Outstanding Canadian in 2019, but the 31-year-old will be viewed as slightly less valuable than his up-and-coming competitor.

The Alouettes want Muamba back in the fold but granted him the opportunity to begin discussions with other teams before the legal tampering window had even opened. In 108 career CFL games he has racked up 543 total tackles, 12 sacks, five interceptions and 14 forced fumbles.

3) QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Toronto Argonauts (A)

The 32-year-old flew under the radar with the Argos in 2019 but was the only CFL quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards and over 25 touchdowns.

Bethel-Thompson opted out of his CFL contract in August and has since played in The Spring League while awaiting a possible NFL opportunity. Toronto will hold his exclusive negotiating rights until February 9 at noon ET if he opts back into his deal.

4) DT Micah Johnson, B.C. Lions (A)

Johnson is one of the most impactful defensive linemen in the CFL, recording 184 tackles, 45 sacks, six forced fumbles, and two interceptions in 96 career games.

Justin Dunk has reported that the 32-year-old has had interest from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders.

5) SAM Patrick Levels, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)

The 26-year-old is an elite strong-side linebacker who is also capable of starting at halfback or cornerback.

He was an East Division all-star in 2019 with Montreal, recording 86 tackles, five sacks, and two forced fumbles. Levels’ combination of athleticism, physicality, and versatility make him one of the league’s best defensive backs.

6) DB Ciante Evans, Montreal Alouettes (A)

The 28-year-old made 125 total tackles, nine interceptions, and three forced fumbles over 45 games with the Calgary Stampeders and was named a CFL all-star in 2017 and 2018.

His production remained high in 2019 with Montreal, making 29 tackles and three interceptions in 13 games. If teams are looking for a talented cover man at cornerback or halfback, Evans is the perfect fit.

7) K/P Justin Medlock, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)

It’s possible that the 37-year-old will retire, but Medlock remains the greatest placekicker in CFL history.

He has connected on 377-of-436 career field goal attempts — 86.5 percent — with a long of 58 yards. Medlock has also become one of the league’s best punters with a net average of 37.3 yards in 2019.

8) OL Matt O’Donnell, Edmonton Football Team (N)

The six-foot-eleven, 350-pound guard is the second-tallest player in the history of professional football. He’s also really good.

O’Donnell started games at guard and tackle this past season as part of an Edmonton offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks in the CFL. He may be turning 32, but all-star Canadian blockers don’t make it to free agency often.

9) LB Larry Dean, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)

The 32-year old has four productive CFL seasons under his belt, amassing 365 tackles, six sacks and three interceptions in 72 career games.

The East Division finalist for Most Outstanding Defensive Player and a divisional all-star the past three years, Dean has yet to miss a game due to injury and remains highly effective despite his age.

10) OL Evan Johnson, Ottawa Redblacks (N)

The 2017 first-round pick has been an impact player since joining the Redblacks, proving he can start at guard while also chipping in at tackle.

It’s unlikely that the 26-year-old will be back with Ottawa in 2021. Is it possible that he’ll be playing for his hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders? Certainly likely.

11) LB Deon Lacey, Free Agent (A)

The 2014 West Division all-star was supposed to make his CFL return in 2020 after three years in the NFL, but the pandemic caused him to opt out and return to the Buffalo Bills.

Prior to departing for the NFL, Lacey spent three years in Edmonton where he racked up 114 defensive tackles, an incredible 68 special teams tackles, seven sacks and three interceptions.

12) REC Bryant Mitchell, Free Agent (A)

The 28-year-old had a breakout season with Edmonton in 2018 when he made 60 receptions for 867 yards and three touchdowns in just eleven games.

Mitchell left for the NFL in 2019, though he suffered a torn Achilles in training camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He returned to the Bucs in 2020 but was waived in September and has remained a free agent since.

13) LB Solomon Elimimian, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)

The 34-year-old will be a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee, but teams are woe to pay top dollar in the current market for an aging player at any position, let alone middle linebacker.

Still, the current CFL Players’ Association president was a West Division all-star in his only season in Riderville, recording 88 tackles and four sacks in 15 games after then-B.C. GM Ed Hervey told him his time was up. Doubt Elimimian at your own risk.

14) DT Almondo Sewell, Edmonton Football Team (A)

The future Hall of Fame inductee has already bid farewell to Edmonton, acknowledging that he’ll be heading to the free agent market.

The six-time CFL all-star might be 34, but he’ll look to prove he can still make an impact in 2021. It has been rumoured that Sewell is on his way to La Belle Province to play with the Montreal Alouettes.

15) REC Ricky Collins Jr., Free Agent (A)

The 28-year-old was released ahead of an off-season roster bonus by the Edmonton Football Team on January 31.

Collins is coming off the best season of his career, making 78 receptions for 1,103 yards and three touchdowns.

16) OL Tyler Johnstone, Montreal Alouettes (N)

The six-foot-six, 295-pound blocker came to the CFL as a heralded left tackle from the University of Oregon.

He’s only played in six career games due to knee problems, but the 28-year-old has had a platelet injection since the 2019 season. If he can stay healthy, Johnstone is a true ratio-breaker at tackle.

17) DE Nick Usher, Free Agent (A)

The 26-year-old was an effective rotational pass rusher with Edmonton in 2019, recording 36 tackles, six sacks, and three forced fumbles.

He’s now a free agent after a brief stint with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020.

18) DE Craig Roh, Toronto Argonauts (A)

The 30-year-old isn’t flashy coming off the edge, but he’s been remarkably consistent over the course of his five-year career.

Roh has made 34 sacks in 74 career games, never finishing with fewer than six in a season.

19) OL Jason Lauzon-Seguin, Ottawa Redblacks (N)

The Laval product’s career got off to a hot start in 2016 when he was named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Rookie.

Since then he’s missed some time due to injury, starting only seven games in 2019. The 30-year-old should still have some juice left in the tank, though he might be better-served by a move to guard.

20) DB Taylor Loffler, Montreal Alouettes (N)

The 28-year-old Kelowna native is an impact player at safety when healthy, though he’s coming off a torn ACL.

A three-time CFL all-star, Loffler has recorded 212 career tackles with nine interceptions, eight forced fumbles, and one sack.

21) RB Shaq Cooper, Edmonton Football Team (A)

The Fort Hays State product started four games last season and excelled, recording 65 carries for 352 yards and two touchdowns along with 15 receptions for 112 yards.

Most pending free agent running backs are nearing the end of their careers, having accrued a lot of wear and tear. Cooper remains just 27 and has the potential to become an every-down back in 2021.

22) LB Justin Tuggle, Edmonton Football Team (A)

A six-foot-three, 247-pound converted NFL defensive end, Tuggle has made an impact since switching to the middle of the defence.

The 31-year old has 174 tackles and seven sacks in three seasons split between Toronto and Hamilton.

23) REC/KR Lucky Whitehead, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)

The former Dallas Cowboy took the CFL by storm in 2019, making seven receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns in his second career game.

The Florida Atlantic product was eventually replaced by Janarion Grant, but still managed to record 596 yards and one touchdown on 20 kickoff returns.

24) QB Michael O’Connor, Toronto Argonauts (N)

Canadian quarterbacks are usually irrelevant in the CFL’s annual free agent frenzy, but that’s not the case in 2021.

O’Connor was a third-round pick of the Argos in 2019 and saw action as a rookie, completing 15-of-25 pass attempts for 173 yards and one touchdown. The UBC product has the size, skill, and athleticism to become a legitimate CFL starting quarterback.

25) DL Stefan Charles, Edmonton Football Team (N)

The veteran NFLer is viewed as a starting calibre national in the CFL. The 32-year-old amassed 60 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery during stints with six NFL franchises.

Even though the University of Regina product made over $3 million south of the border, Charles wants to try and continue his football career in Canada.

Check the links below for our previous positional installments.

2021 CFL free agent rankings: quarterbacks
2021 CFL free agent rankings: running backs & fullbacks
2021 CFL free agent rankings: receivers
2021 CFL free agent rankings: offensive linemen
2021 CFL free agent rankings: defensive linemen
2021 CFL free agent rankings: linebackers
2021 CFL free agent rankings: defensive backs
2021 CFL free agent rankings: specialists