The CFL negotiating window has officially opened, allowing pending free agents to talk with teams across the league. Players are unable to officially sign with a new team until Tuesday, Feb. 8, but that hasn’t prevented the rumour mill from spinning.
3DownNation recently unveiled its list of the top 30 pending free agents, the vast majority of whom are still set to hit the market. We remain in the process of releasing top free agent lists for each position having already ranked the quarterbacks, the running backs, and the receivers.
Winnipeg has managed to re-sign all-star offensive tackles Stanley Bryant and Jermarcus Hardrick, while Calgary was able to retain local product Sean McEwen. Even so, there is plenty of talent currently set to hit the market at one of the game’s most important positions.
Editor’s Note: These rankings have been edited since publication to reflect which players remain uncommitted.
1) Mark Korte, Ottawa Redblacks*
The former first-round pick was expected to be Ottawa’s heir apparent to centre Alex Mateas, but injuries and personnel issues forced Korte to start a number of games at left tackle. The University of Alberta product is at his best when he plays along the interior of the offensive line, bringing impressive athleticism to the role.
It seems unlikely that the six-foot-two, 293-pound blocker will be back with the Redblacks as a number of teams in the West Division have shown interest in him, including his hometown Edmonton Elks.
2) Darius Ciraco, Hamilton Tiger-Cats*
The former first-round pick out of the University of Calgary has been starter since his rookie season with the Ticats, appearing in 46 of a possible 50 games. He became the top centre in Steeltown this past year following the retirement of Mike Filer, starting 12 regular season games and all three postseason contests.
The 25-year-old is still reaching his true potential as an interior blocker who is capable of starting at centre and guard. If he reaches free agency, Ciraco will be in high demand.
3) Ryker Mathews, B.C. Lions
The 29-year-old missed all but one game in 2021 due to a concussion, which could scare some teams off. With that said, there are plenty of teams that need help in the trenches and this six-foot-six, 320-pound blocker has experience at left and right tackle.
Mathews was an East Division all-star with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2019 and should have some good football left in him provided he’s returned to full health.
4) Hunter Steward, B.C. Lions*
The seven-year veteran is a consistent interior blocker with a solid six-foot-six, 315-pound frame. He’s not flashy, but he’s a plug-and-play veteran who could upgrade a handful of offensive lines across the league.
5) Brett Boyko, Saskatchewan Roughriders*
The Saskatoon native started three games at left tackle and five games at right tackle during the 2021 regular season. He may be better-suited to an interior role, but the 29-year-old still has plenty of football left in him.
6) Nolan MacMillan, Ottawa Redblacks*
The 31-year-old missed seven games in 2021 due to injury and has yet to play more than 14 games in a season since 2015. The six-foot-five, 294-pound blocker was named an East Division all-star in 2019 and he may yet be capable of reaching that level again.
7) Tui Eli, Winnipeg Blue Bombers*
The 26-year-old started four games at guard in 2021 and Winnipeg’s dominant offensive line didn’t skip a beat. He missed the Grey Cup due to being unvaccinated against COVID-19 and, unless he elects to take the jab, won’t be eligible to travel come the start of the 2022 season.
8) Alex Fontana, Ottawa Redblacks*
A promising former first-round pick who dressed for all 18 games in 2019, Fontana opted not to play the 2021 season despite being in-line for the starting centre job. The 26-year-old reportedly wants to make a return and could be a high value target
9) Chris Schleuger, Montreal Alouettes
The 26-year-old made two starts at left tackle for Montreal in 2021 after making 13 starts with the club in 2019. There aren’t many American offensive tackles on this list, which should help Schleuger capitalize on his next contract.
10) Peter Godber, B.C. Lions*
The former first-round pick started all 14 regular season games at centre for B.C. in 2021, though he struggled at times. The 27-year-old saw his first two CFL seasons derailed by a foot injury though it appears as though he’s now fully healthy.
Best of the rest: Cameron Jefferson, Saskatchewan Roughriders; Nila Kasitati, Calgary Stampeders; Justin Renfrow, Edmonton Elks; Josiah St. John, Saskatchewan Roughriders*.