2022 CFL free agent rankings: defensive backs

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym

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 quarterbacksthe running backsthe receivers, the offensive line, the defensive line, and the linebackers.

The defensive back group got a massive shake-up late Saturday, when top ranked player Loucheiz Purifoy announced he would be headed to the B.C. Lions. While the Riders’ DB can’t put pen to paper until Tuesday, he won’t be featured on this list. You’ll just have to make do with 20 other impact performers.

Editor’s note: Both Ed Gainey and Jonathan Moxey appeared on this list at the time of publication. Gainey has since committed to signing with the Edmonton Elks, while Moxey has re-signed with the Calgary Stampeders.

*indicates National

1) Delvin Breaux, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Make no mistake about it, Breaux will go down as arguably the best lockdown corner in modern CFL history. But coming out of retirement after two years off, teams will rightfully have some concerns about how the 32-year-old will readjust to pro football. That he still ranks at the top of this list is a testament to his immense talent.

2) Brandon Alexander, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

It’s been awhile since the CFL had a real difference making American safety, but Alexander has been the straw that stirs the drink of a dominant Bombers’ defence. He made 44 total tackles last season while picking off two passes and forcing a fumble, terrifying offences with his range and physicality.

3) DaShaun Amos, Calgary Stampeders

A West All-Star at halfback in 2019, Amos’ much-anticipated return from the NFL saw him shift to boundary corner for much of the year. He made 27 defensive tackles, added five on special teams and forced a fumble on an incredible early season chase-down, but fell out of the starting lineup late in the year. That may push him out of Calgary, where another team will happily pounce on the high end upside.

Photo courtesy: Ticats.ca

4) Ciante Evans, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

A divisional All-Star in three of the last four seasons, Evans didn’t get on the league’s honour roll in 2021 but that won’t hurt his stock. A starter at both field corner and field half all season for the Ticats, he notched 43 tackles and a pick while helping to lead his team to a Grey Cup appearance.

5) Jumal Rolle, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Rolle put forth a full season of quality starts at boundary corner this season, making 40 tackles and two picks. Normally that would boost a player’s stock significantly, but Rolle will be 32 when the season starts.

6) Jeff Richards, Toronto Argonauts

Richards’ return to the CFL after a four-year absence was impressive, with 42 tackles and an interception in 13 games. The question now is how much more high quality juice can be squeezed out of the 31-year-old.

Photo courtesy: Montreal Alouettes

7) Monshadrik Hunter, Montreal Alouettes

Three years into his CFL career, few consider “Money” Hunter among the league’s elite. That didn’t stop the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots from working out the Als halfback after a season in which he recorded 44 tackles, two interceptions and a sack.

8) Trumaine Washington, Edmonton Elks

Interceptions alone are rarely a good metric by which to measure defensive back play, but Washington was tied for the CFL lead with five in 2021. He added 55 tackles in a break-out season at corner for the Elks.

9) Frankie Williams, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The 2019 CFL Most Outstanding Special Teams Player struggled with injuries in his follow up campaign, eventually losing out on his role in the secondary and the return game. There will always be a space for dynamic athletes in the CFL though and Williams is one of the best.

10) Raheem Wilson, Calgary Stampeders

A chess piece who fit at either corner or halfback, Wilson built on his outstanding rookie campaign with 52 tackles and a pick in 2021. The former German Football League standout could be ready for a bigger role.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

11) Antoine Pruneau, Ottawa Redblacks*

The first great Ottawa Redblack may be approaching the end of his career, but he can still help a team — both on and off the year. The main concern is simply how healthy and mobile he can be on it.

12) Richard Leonard, Calgary Stampeders

Transitioning from corner to field half, Leonard recorded his worst year statistically with 25 tackles and a pick. The tape tells a slightly different story, but turning 31 in September won’t help Leonard much.

13) Ty Cranston, Montreal Alouettes*

A seventh round draft pick in 2017, Cranston has turned into a functional Canadian starter at safety with 29 defensive tackles, eight more on special teams and a pick last season. He won’t make headlines, but every team needs a player like Cranston.

14) Josh Johnson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Some would tell you that Johnson was the CFL’s most underrated cover man in 2019, but turning 32 after a year lost almost entirely to injury, the market may not reflect it.

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

15) Mike Jones, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Jones posted 46 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles while playing strong-side linebacker and boundary corner. Far from a star, he’s serviceable and still young enough to develop.

16) Kerfalla Exume, Montreal Alouettes*

He will do little to help in the secondary, but Exume is the best special teams cover man available this off-season. With 40 tackles in 32 career games, he’s the definition of a demon on the teams.

17) Jonathan Rose, Free Agent

Unceremoniously released by Edmonton to begin the Chris Jones era, Rose has five seasons of experience as a starting cornerback and will only be 29 in July.

18) Tyquwan Glass, Montreal Alouettes

At 27, Glass is among the youngest available when it comes to experienced American DBs. That might be enough to earn him another opportunity after struggling in seven games last season.

Best of the rest: Nick Taylor, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; Elie Bouka, Saskatchewan Roughriders*; Brad Muhammad, Ottawa Redblacks; Anthony Thompson, B.C. Lions*; Christian Campbell, Saskatchewan Roughriders; Mike Daly, Hamilton Tiger-Cats*; Nick Statz, Calgary Stampeders*; Dominique Termansen, Montreal Alouettes*