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 East Division should be looking to re-sign, along with a few honourable mentions.
Wondering about the West Division? I’ve already identified which three players I think the B.C. Lions, Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Elks, Saskatchewan Roughriders, and Winnipeg Blue Bombers should re-sign.
All players are listed alphabetically by last name. Please note that “N” denotes nationals (ie. Canadians), while “A” denotes Americans.
DB Tunde Adeleke (N)
The 26-year-old is one of the best Canadian players in the CFL, capable of starting at safety, halfback, cornerback or strong-side linebacker. He made 44 tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions in 2021 and has game-changing abilities in the return game, though Hamilton has rarely allowed him to return punts or kickoffs.
LB Simoni Lawrence (A)
The 32-year-old has become as synonymous with Hamilton football as Angelo Mosca, Garney Henley, and Tommy Joe Coffey. He had arguably the best year of his decade-long career in 2021, making 73 tackles, four sacks, three interceptions, and two touchdowns, en route to being named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
QB Dane Evans (A) or QB Jeremiah Masoli (A)
I’m cheating here by listing two players, but Evans and Masoli have posted virtually identical numbers since the 2019 season got underway. Evans is younger, but Masoli is more mobile. Regardless, both have what it takes to be franchise quarterbacks and it seems like a foregone conclusion that Hamilton will lose one — they just can’t lose both.
Honourable mentions: DL Ja’Gared Davis (A), OL Brandon Revenberg (N), DL Dylan Wynn (A)
QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson (A)
The 33-year-old regressed as the 2021 season went on — he threw three touchdowns and nine interceptions after Week 11 — but it’s tough to move on from a starting-calibre quarterback. Even if the Argos go quarterback shopping this winter, they should still work hard to bring back Bethel-Thompson on an incentive-laden contract.
LB Dexter McCoil (A)
The 30-year-old showed no signs of rust coming off a cancelled 2020 season and a long stint in the NFL, making 60 defensive tackles, nine special teams tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and one touchdown in 2021. He’s got a long frame, top-tier athleticism, and is capable of making plays all over the field in a variety of roles.
LB Henoc Muamba (N)
The 32-year-old is still one of the CFL’s top ratio-breakers, recording 51 total tackles, two sacks, and one interception in 10 games in 2021. Muamba came to Toronto on an extremely cap-friendly contract and I’m sure the Argos would love to get him back for 2022 at the same price point.
Honourable mentions: K/P Boris Bede (A), REC Juwan Brescacin (N), REC Ricky Collins Jr. (A)
REC Nate Behar (N)
The 27-year-old finally had a breakthrough season in 2021, making 38 receptions for 439 yards starting primarily at field-side wide receiver. The Carleton product could likely produce more if he were given the opportunity to start at slotback where Ottawa’s new quarterback will be able to find him more easily over the middle.
DL Davon Coleman (A)
The six-foot-one, 282-pound defensive tackle has bounced around considerably through his five-year CFL career but hashed out a nice role in the nation’s capital. He made 32 tackles and four sacks in 2021, helping secure a defensive line that was tested early and often over the course of the season.
OL Mark Korte (N)
Not many offensive linemen are capable of starting at left tackle and centre, but most offensive linemen aren’t Mark Korte. The Alberta product has quickly established himself as one of the best young interior blockers in the league and deserves to be paid accordingly if the Redblacks intend on keeping him in Ottawa.
Honourable mentions: DB Randall Evans (A), OL Nolan MacMillan (N), DB Antoine Pruneau (N)
DB Ty Cranston (N)
The Winnipeg native excelled in his first year as a full-time starter, making 29 defensive tackles, eight special teams tackles, and one interception from his safety spot. He’s got good length, decent range, and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty when opposing receivers test him coming over the middle.
SAM Patrick Levels (A)
The four-year veteran has established himself as one of the CFL’s brightest characters, even guaranteeing a win in the East Semi-Final. He’s also an excellent strong-side linebacker, making 42 tackles, three sacks, one interception, and one touchdown in twelve starts this past season.
REC Jake Wieneke (A)
The six-foot-four, 215-pound slotback avoided the sophomore slump in 2021, making 56 receptions for 898 yards, and a league-leading eleven touchdowns. Wieneke has established himself as arguably the best possession receiver in the league, showing great hands with the ability to make plays after the catch.
Honourable mentions: KR Mario Alford (A), DL Woody Baron (A), David Menard (N)