3DownNation’s top 30 pending CFL free agents

Photo courtesy: Ticats.ca/Nik Kowalski

Let the bidding wars commence!

The CFL’s free agent negotiating window — more commonly known as the legal tampering period — opens today at noon eastern time. All nine CFL teams will have until the same time on February 6 to contact and offer pending free agents ahead of the official opening of free agency on February 8.

With hundreds of players still potentially available, expect it to be the busiest week of the year for clubs trying to attract new talent, as well as those trying to keep their own in house. While deals can’t be signed until the eighth, decisions will be made every hour until then.

In anticipation of the feeding frenzy, 3DownNation has ranked it’s top 30 pending free agents as the window opens. Make sure to check back regularly this week for positional rankings and an updated top 30.

*indicates National

30. DT Ted Laurent — Hamilton Tiger-Cats*

Laurent walks into the Hall of Fame when all is said and done, but teams will be asking themselves if he has enough gas for one more year.

29. DE Avery Ellis — Ottawa Redblacks

Ellis isn’t an elite pass rusher, but he’s been a model of consistency throughout his CFL career. That may be the best thing left on the market when the free agency buzzer goes.

28. DB Jumal Rolle — Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Rolle has proven he can be a high-quality CFL starter at both boundary and field corner, but the market for defensive backs over 30 is hit or miss.

27. REC Brandon Banks — Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Most Outstanding Player one year, gone the next. Life comes at you fast, ironic when the questions surrounding Speedy B are about just how quick he can still be.

26. SAM Don Unamba — Ottawa Redblacks

He’s getting up there in age, but there haven’t been many strongside linebackers as uniquely physical as Unamba in his prime.

25. OL Ryker Matthews — B.C. Lions

Missing an entire season with a concussion is going to scare away a lot of teams, but top calibre Americans who can start at either tackle spot aren’t a readily available resource.

24. DB Ciante Evan — Hamilton Tiger-Cats

A versatile member of the secondary who didn’t get much love in 2021, Evans can still be the player who was a divisional all-star in three of the last four seasons.

23. RB Brady Oliveira — Winnipeg Blue Bombers*

After losing his rookie year to a broken leg, Oliveira ground out a hard-earned 429 yards for his hometown team in the follow up. Winnipeg wants him back, but the market for a 25-year-old starting Canadian back is lucrative.

22. K Sean Whyte — Edmonton Elks*

Consistency has been Whyte’s trademark throughout his CFL career and teams will pay for it, but there is a sense the 36-year-old wishes to return home to B.C.

21. DB DaShaun Amos — Calgary Stampeders

Amos was one of the league’s best halfbacks in 2019, but he never quite reached the same heights following his return from the NFL in 2021. That won’t stop teams from lining up to bet on his all-star upside.

20. DE David Menard — Montreal Alouettes*

Eight sacks and the East Division nomination for Most Outstanding Canadian amounted to a career year for Menard, but how much is a soon-to-be 32-year-old who wasn’t even a starter last season really worth?

19. SAM/DB Alden Darby — Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Darby was acquired in a training camp trade and took over the strong-side linebacker role for the Bombers. He made 34 tackles in 11 games while providing consistent if unspectacular efforts during the regular season. The 29-year-old recorded six tackles and one interception in the 108th Grey Cup.

18. REC Ricky Collins Jr. — Toronto Argonauts

This time last year, Collins Jr. had just been cut by Edmonton and retired from the CFL. Guess it’s a good thing Toronto lured him back…

17. RB Andrew Harris — Winnipeg Blue Bombers*

Harris has proven he can still have dominant games at 35-years old. The question now is how many games he can stay healthy for during an entire season?

16. K Sergio Castillo — Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Bombers’ kicking woes were supposed to derail their Grey Cup hopes, then Castillo happened and the rest is history.

15. LB Darnell Sankey — Calgary Stampeders

If it weren’t for a handful of NFL games back in 2017, Darnell Sankey might have been the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie. He’ll have to settle for being the best pure middle linebacker in this free agent class.

14. OL Darius Ciraco — Hamilton Tiger-Cats*

Chris Van Zeyl and Brandon Revenberg get all the love up front for the Ticats, but Ciraco has been sensational since being drafted sixth overall in 2018. He plays like a seasoned vet and will be just 26 next season.

13. REC Greg Ellingson — Edmonton Elks

Blame the Edmonton dumpster fire for breaking Ellingson’s streak at five straight thousand-yard campaigns, because the 33-year-old can still make a major impact in the slot.

12. LB Deon Lacey — Saskatchewan Roughriders

Lacey’s much-anticipated return from the NFL lived up to the billing and there will be plenty of suitors for a guy who can play anywhere in your linebacking corps.

11. DE Shawn Lemon — Calgary Stampeders

Lemon will keep giving random teams productive sack seasons until the day he dies.

10. DT Steven Richardson — Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Short, squatty and highly effective, the man they call “Stove” freed up an awful lot of space for the CFL’s best pass rush duo.

9. QB Chris Streveler — Free Agent

There are valid questions about how good Chris Streveler can be as a quarterback, but he instantly becomes the league’s best athlete if he returns from the NFL.

8. DB Brandon Alexander — Winnipeg Blue Bombers

180-pound safeties aren’t supposed to make you afraid to cross the middle, but Alexander’s on-the-edge play style could set the tone for any defence.

7. SAM Patrick Levels — Montreal Alouettes

While he may offer the occasional erroneous playoff win guarantee, Levels is one of the league’s best strong-side linebackers and can play multiple spots in the secondary.

6. DB Delvin Breaux — Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Breaux is one of the greatest lockdown corners in CFL history, but after not playing in two years the 32-year-old is suddenly a bit of a gamble.

5. QB Trevor Harris — Free Agent

The Elks were so bad last year that the CFL fan base has collectively forgotten that Harris has a career 134 touchdowns to 59 interceptions and is just three seasons removed from a 5,000-yard campaign.

At 35, he’s no spring chicken, but Harris could still be an upper tier starter in the right system. If not, he’ll be the best backup in a league where you need two quarterbacks to excel.

4. OL Mark Korte — Ottawa Redblacks*

The list of legitimate CFL commodities in Ottawa last season was painfully short, but Korte is as good as they come anywhere in the league.

The Redblack’s Most Outstanding Lineman is a ratio dream thanks to his ability to start at tackle, but you can easily slot him in at centre or guard as well. Just 25, his best years are ahead of him and what we’ve seen so far is already pretty damn good.

3. REC Kenny Lawler — Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Behind every MOP quarterback is a dynamic receiver getting open and Lawler did an awful lot of that in 2021.

The University of California product broke out as the only thousand-yard pass catcher during the shortened CFL season, despite missing a game due to a DUI suspension. From promising prospect to dynamic star, there is a good chance that Lawler has not yet peaked after two CFL seasons.

2. SAM Derrick Moncrief — Edmonton Elks

We all make mistakes and it is probably safe to say that Derrick Moncrief probably regrets his decision to jump on board with the sinking Elks when he hit the open market in September.

The 2019 CFL all-star had offers from the Argos and Riders back then and should have plenty more this time around. While Edmonton struggled, Moncrief did nothing to change his reputation as arguably the league’s best SAM linebacker.

1. DE Ja’Gared Davis — Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Pass rush will always be at a premium in the CFL and no player available this year could alter the outlook of your defence quite like Ja’Gared Davis.

A relatively quiet six-sack regular season lulled offences into submission, but Davis exploded with five sacks in three dominant playoff outings. He still gets dinged for his lack of length, but the 31-year-old is all power, motor and explosion.

Note: Former top 30 members Jeremiah Masoli, Kwaku Boateng, Micah Johnson, Jaelon Acklin, Loucheiz Purifoy, William Powell, Ucambre Williams and Ed Gainey remain free agents until February 8, but have all indicated they will be signing with specific teams.