All good things must come to an end: One pending free agent each team should think twice before re-signing

The Canadian Football League unveiled its full list of potential free agents last week and more than 300 names are set to hit the open market on February 8, 2022.

Tough decisions are already being made across the CFL as teams are forced to re-evaluate, re-sign and re-shape almost their entire rosters. However, some choices will be harder than others.

In team-building, it is always better to move off a player too early than too late and its safe to say some big name veterans will be testing the waters of free agency not of their own volition.

While everyone has a price that makes them worthwhile, the following is a list of players that each team may want to think twice about before bringing back, whether due to dollars, age, or situation. Each are respected veterans, many of them marquee names, and some will be particularly controversial, but don’t be shocked if any are in a new jersey — or none at all — next season.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

B.C. Lions — Joel Figueroa, OT

The prevailing wisdom would be to put Sukh Chungh in this spot, but there is at least a chance that Chungh would take a major hometown discount. That’s still not a deal I would jump on, but there is little likelihood of getting Figueroa below market value.

Reliable veteran tackles are hard to come by and the soon-to-be 33 year old will want to continue being paid accordingly, but he’s never been an elite athlete and is getting slower with age. Ryker Matthews is a better tackle when healthy and if the Lions believe in the potential of Kent Perkins, it may be time to let Figueroa walk.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Calgary Stampeders — Cory Greenwood, LB*

If there was a list of the greatest CFL players that never were, Cory Greenwood would be on it. The Canadian linebacker should have gone down as a ratio-breaking starting linebacker after his five-year stint in the NFL, but he has yet to finish a healthy campaign in seven CFL seasons.

The Stamps have been rumoured to be moving on from Greenwood for several years, but there should be no more waiting if he doesn’t retire. The 36-year old wasn’t part of the defensive plans in 2021 once Calgary went all Americans at linebacker and youngsters like Fraser Sopik, Charlie Moore and Elliot Graham offer a clear National future at the position.

Photo: Nik Kowalski/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Edmonton Elks — Derel Walker, REC

At 31-years old next season, there is little doubt that Derel Walker has several productive years left in him. Unfortunately, they shouldn’t be in Edmonton.

The Elks were a dumpster fire in 2021 in just about every aspect, but Walker’s struggles were perhaps the most surprising. He caught just 50% of the balls thrown his way for a career low 531 yards and looked utterly checked out while doing so, despite being the highest paid receiver in the league. Maybe that changes under the next regime, but it’s best to cut out all the fungus before planting new seeds.

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Saskatchewan Roughriders — Shaq Evans, REC

Another top receiver with plenty of juice left in the tank, the Riders should be extremely concerned about Evans’ lack of production this season on a good team. Some of that can be attributed to time missed to injury, but he still only managed 224 yards in seven games and appeared visibly frustrated by his role in the playoffs, making just one catch for -4 yards.

The Riders have made clear they want Duke Williams back in the fold and Kyran Moore, Kian Schaffer-Baker and Brayden Lenius should be the future in the receiving corps, if the NFL doesn’t come calling for them first. Evans has proven he doesn’t like being a complimentary piece and a change of scenery may be best for everyone.

Photo courtesy: CFL

Winnipeg Blue Bombers — Andrew Harris, RB*

It’s the move that nobody in Winnipeg wants to talk about, but at some point the club will have to move on from their heart-and-soul hometown boy. Ideally, you want that to be through a touching retirement ceremony after two Grey Cup wins, but sometimes management needs to make hard calls.

Harris will be 35 next season, the most expensive player at his position, and he’s coming off his worst year in terms of injuries. Sure, he didn’t lose a step when healthy, but the Bombers also got great rushing production when he was gone. That o-line ensures success for any back and Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine are both ready to take full-time reps. Add Kyle Borsa in the pipeline and it simply makes sense from a roster construction stand point to bid adieu to Harris, even if sentiment tells you differently.

Photo courtesy: Ticats.ca

Hamilton Tiger-Cats — Brandon Banks, REC

It was a long, hard fall from Most Outstanding Player to the fourth best receiver on his own team for Brandon Banks. The CFL’s most explosive player for the better part of the last decade seemed to have lost just a half a step, but for a player of his size and skillset, that can be the difference between dominance and mediocrity.

At 34, Banks still flashes explosiveness but won’t be turning back the clock. When healthy, Bralon Addison should be the Ticats’ offensive focal point and young up-and-comers like Tim White, Jaelon Acklin and Steven Dunbar should continue to grow if the NFL doesn’t come calling. That leaves Banks the odd man out, even if he doesn’t want to play anywhere else.

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym

Toronto Argonauts — John White, RB

Though his numbers weren’t eye-popping, the Toronto Argonauts should have absolutely no reason to complain about John White’s 2021 season. The 30-year old delivered in every way he was asked to and then some, but paying a running back is a fool’s errand.

White likely knows this and won’t be looking to break the bank, but there isn’t tremendous incentive to bring him back either way. The Argos need to stop finding excuses to not have D.J. Foster on the field and A.J. Ouellette has proved plenty capable of grinding out hard yards. Both are already under contract, so why waste effort negotiating with White?

Photo courtesy: CFL

Ottawa Redblacks — Matt Nichols, QB

This isn’t a particularly spicy choice, mainly because there aren’t a lot of players on Ottawa’s free agent list that people are demanding stick around. All I’ll say here is that if Shawn Burke and Paul LaPolice gets the desperate urge to re-sign their veteran quarterback for extra insurance ahead of free agency, they should go for a head-clearing walk.

Photo courtesy: Dominick Gravel/Alouettes de Montreal

Montreal Alouettes — David Menard, DE*

Perhaps my most controversial choice, I put David Menard’s name here with several caveats. Namely that it would be great for him to stay put in Montreal, but only at the right price.

In my opinion, Menard has long been one of the most underrated Canadians in the league. After an eight sack season and being a finalist for Most Outstanding Canadian, he has the potential to become one of the most over-rated. Sacks alone are never a great measure of production and Menard was only a rotational piece in the Als defence. If the 31-year old asks for starter money and the Als aren’t willing to give him that role, the hometown financials stop making sense.

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