Three pending free agents each West Division team must re-sign

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

The CFL recently unveiled its official list of pending free agents with well over 300 names set to potentially hit the open market on February 8, 2022 at noon ET.

Below I’ve broken down the top three pending free agents that each team in the West Division should be looking to re-sign, along with a few honourable mentions.

Wondering about the East Division? Check back soon for my breakdown of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Toronto Argonauts, Ottawa Redblacks, and Montreal Alouettes.

All players are listed alphabetically by last name. Please note that “N” denotes nationals (ie. Canadians), while “A” denotes Americans.

Photo courtesy: B.C. Lions/Darryl Dyck

B.C. Lions

REC Jevon Cottoy (N)

The six-foot-five, 230-pound target has emerged as one of the league’s best young Canadian receivers, making 39 catches for 519 yards and three touchdowns. He’s physical, blocks well, consistently picks up yardage after the catch, and played for the nearby Langley Rams of the CJFL. The Lions need to get this man under contract.

DB T.J. Lee (A)

He’ll be 32 by the time next season rolls around, but the former CFL all-star remains one of the league’s best halfbacks. Lee recorded 71 defensive tackles, 12 special teams tackles, four interceptions, and one forced fumble in fourteen starts in this past season playing on the boundary side.

REC Lucky Whitehead (A)

The 29-year-old became one of the league brightest stars after putting up 676 yards from scrimmage at five touchdowns by the midway point of the 2021 season. A hand injury may have derailed Whitehead’s season in Week 9, but he remains a marketable star the Lions can build around for years to come.

Honourable mentions: REC Bryan Burnham (A), DB Garry Peters (A), OL Hunter Steward (N)

Photo courtesy: Candice Ward/Calgary Stampeders

Calgary Stampeders

REC Reggie Begelton (A)

The 28-year-old reinvigorated Calgary’s offence after rejoining the team following a two-year stint with the Green Bay Packers, making 14 catches for 238 yards and a touchdown in just three outings. With Bo Levi Mitchell still looking to recapture his M.O.P. form from 2018, retaining his best target is essential for the Stamps.

OL Sean McEwen (N)

The former CFL all-star helped open holes in the run game all season long and remains one of the best centres in the league. McEwen remains easily in his prime at 28 years old and the fact that he’s local — he graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Calgary — is a nice added bonus.

DL Mike Rose (A)

Though he’s developed a bad reputation for taking stupid penalties, Rose is undoubtedly one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the CFL. He recorded a career-high seven sacks in 2021 despite playing only 13 games and could still have room to grow heading into his fifth season north of the border.

Honourable mentions: RB Ka’Deem Carey (A), K Rene Paredes (N), LB Jameer Thurman (A)

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

Edmonton Elks

SAM Derrick Moncrief (A)

The 28-year-old reestablished himself as an elite strong-side linebacker after joining the Elks in September following a two-year stint with the Los Angeles Rams. He made 24 total tackles and four sacks in just nine games, including a three-sack performance against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Week 14.

DB Trumaine Washington (A)

The former Argonaut had a great first season in Edmonton, starting fourteen games at boundary halfback and recording 56 total tackles, five interceptions, one forced fumble, and one touchdown. The Elks only had ten interceptions as a team, so keeping the player who accounted for half of them seems pretty important.

K Sean Whyte (N)

This past season illustrated how tough it is to find consistent kicking, so retaining this 36-year-old out of White Rock, B.C. is critical for the Elks. He connected on 28-of-32 field goal attempts (87.5 percent) and all of his converts, making him the CFL’s second-most accurate kicker in 2021 with a minimum of ten attempts.

Honourable mentions: DL Kwaku Boateng (N), REC Greg Ellingson (A), OL Matt O’Donnell (N)

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders/Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards

Saskatchewan Roughriders

DL A.C. Leonard (A)

Leonard was arguably Saskatchewan’s best player in 2021, recording 41 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, and a league-leading eleven sacks in only eleven games. He has consistently improved each year since being converted to defensive end in 2016 and one gets the sense he may yet have another gear to his game.

LB Micah Teitz (N)

The Calgary native did a brilliant job of replacing Cameron Judge at weak-side linebacker, recording 64 defensive tackles, seven special teams tackles, and three sacks in 13 starts. The Riders have spent three seasons developing the 25-year-old into a consistent starter and it would be a shame not to retain him this off-season.

REC Duke Williams (A)

Though he was accused of spitting and eye-gouging during the postseason, Williams made a huge impact with Saskatchewan following his return from the NFL. He made 26 catches for 448 yards and two touchdowns (playoffs included) and clearly became the favourite target of franchise quarterback Cody Fajardo.

Honourable mentions: OL Evan Johnson (N), DL Micah Johnson (A), DB Loucheiz Purifoy (A)

Photo courtesy: Darryl Dyck/CFL

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

LB Adam Bighill (A)

The 33-year-old was as brilliant as ever following the cancelled 2020 season, making 70 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and one touchdown en route to earning his third CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player award. He’s an elite player and a strong leader, making him a player the Blue Bombers must re-sign for 2022.

QB Zach Collaros (A)

Does this one need any further explanation? The 33-year-old is the CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Player, Grey Cup MVP, and Grey Cup champion. You can’t beat the resume. Collaros has long-since silenced his critics — I used to be one — and should be the club’s No. 1 priority ahead of free agency.

DL Jackson Jeffcoat (A) or DL Willie Jefferson (A)

One could argue I’m cheating by listing two players in the same slot, but this is my list and I make the rules. Winnipeg has arguably the two best pass rushers in the CFL bookending their defensive line and it’ll be perfectly understandable if they are unable to retain both. With that said, they also can’t afford to lose both.

Honourable mentions: DB Brandon Alexander (A), REC Kenny Lawler (A), OL Stanley Bryant (A)

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