What the Edmonton Elks still need to do in CFL free agency

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

As expected, Chris Jones and the rest of the Elks front office have been busy. Now with free agency fast approaching, the ‘legal tampering’ rumours are flying around regarding potential player movement. Let’s get right into things with a depth chart of everyone under contract:

It’s much fuller than when we looked at it last in mid-January, but there are still a few major holes. You can see all of Edmonton’s pending free agents here.

The rumour mill

Between our own 3Down reports, TSN’s Farhan Lalji and Dave Naylor, and 630 CHED radio’s Dave Campbell, there are a lot of rumours circulating about players who are likely to sign with and leave Edmonton. Those include:

OUT

Sean Whyte, K (to B.C.)

Mathieu Betts, DL (B.C.)

Kwaku Boateng, DL (OTT)

IN

Mark Korte, OL (OTT) – very likely

Makana Henry, DL (SSK) – interested

Ed Gainey, DB (SSK) – checking in

The Elks’ level of interest varies from player to player, so please remember these are not guarantees.

Positions to watch

Receiver

We were all blindsided by the signing of 36-year-old Adarius Bowman and 34-year-old Manny Arceneaux. Given that we’re talking about Chris Jones, it’s not crazy to speculate that they’re here to sit on the practice squad and act as extra coaches without counting against the football operations’ cap — credit to Ben Kramer for that idea — though they still take up roster spots, so we’ll see.

Regardless of those additions, the Elks need an infusion of pass-catching talent. The good news is they’ve already re-signed Mike Jones and Tevaun Smith, so the National contingent is staying strong.

All of Duke Williams, Jake Wieneke, and Jaelon Acklin were reported as agreeing to terms with different teams on Saturday, wiping out the top class of options for Edmonton. They’ll be pivoting back to Derel Walker, who can hopefully recapture some of his early-career magic. Retaining Greg Ellingson was always a good option too, and at this point keeping him and Walker and running it back with a new coaching staff is the best they can do.

Linebacker

The Elks will have good depth with Nyles Morgan, Keishawn Bierria, and more, but they need at least a strong side linebacker and possibly someone who can push and/or mentor the young pair.

Defensive back

I was very disappointed to see Jonathon Mincy cut. He’s an excellent cover man, but apparently Coach Jones likes taller defensive backs. Aaron Grymes is suddenly the only established name remaining, and his new crewmates will hopefully not include anyone whose name sounds like DurNon Starter.

Defensive line

Mike Moore, Kwaku Boateng, Mathieu Betts. If you had told me a year or two ago that none of them would be Elks in 2022, I would have been beyond stunned. Jake Ceresna is still here, and Antonio Simmons and Thomas Costigan are good pieces, but more is needed.

Kicker/Punter

With the impending heartbreaking departure of Sean Whyte, who was nothing short of brilliant in Edmonton, and the release of Hugh O’Neill, the Elks need at least one new strong leg. 24-year-old Gregory Hutchins is the only kicker on the roster, and whether he’s the placekicker or the punter — or cut — he needs a partner.

Stand (mostly) pat

Quarterback

I’ve heard the Jeremiah Masoli reports: Edmonton was very interested, but he has agreed to terms with Ottawa. I was never one who thought it would be wise spending.

Nick Arbuckle isn’t quite an established starter, but adding Masoli seemed like the wrong way to go about attempting to improve the position. I have time for adding a less expensive veteran; otherwise, spend your dollars more efficiently elsewhere.

Offensive line

The Elks have already invested a lot of resources in their offensive line this offseason, starting with David Foucault and Tony Washington. Adding the Spruce Grove, Alberta native Korte should be the last major move, likely bumping Tomas Jack-Kurdyla out of a starting guard spot. Korte might even end up at tackle if the team needs one more National to meet the ratio requirements.

Running back

James Wilder Jr. is re-signed and vaccinated, and with Walter Fletcher also under contract the Elks don’t need anything else here. With that said, a fullback or two would not be amiss.

Top 5 Targets

Derrick Moncrief, linebacker (EDM)

It’s discouraging that we haven’t seen a re-signing announcement yet. Moncrief fits a need perfectly, even if he won’t come cheap.

Deon Lacey, linebacker (SSK)

Cameron Judge got picked off by Calgary, so we need to pivot to a new idea. Lacey is just as much of a Jones guy as Judge. The only difference is he wouldn’t help with the ratio.

Darnell Sankey (CGY) works too, though he’ll be at the top of the price bracket.

Jumal Rolle, defensive back (HAM)

Cariel Brooks was also a good target before he extended with the TiCats. Rolle may get squeezed out of Hamilton regardless of whether or not Delvin Breaux returns. He would fit in great at either cornerback spot in Edmonton.

DaShaun Amos, defensive back (CGY)

The Stampeders have a handful of free agents who would fill major Edmonton needs. Amos is one of the best of them. One big question is whether six-foot is big enough for Coach Jones.

Josh Johnson, defensive back (WPG)

Like I’ve said before, he’s a versatile and effective defender. That’s especially useful when you need to fill a lot of positions in the secondary, so bringing Johnson back to Edmonton where he rocked in 2019 makes a ton of sense.

Honourable mention

Sergio Castillo, kicker (WPG)

This is unfortunately not a practical wish. The defending Grey Cup champion kicker will be exploring NFL options again, though you couldn’t dream of a better replacement for Whyte. Edmonton may have real kicker issues for the first time since they were champions in 2015.

Mike Ludwig enjoys math, chess, and football, all of which are kind of related. He lives in Edmonton and does not endorse Rod Black's metaphors. Follow him on twitter at @CityOfChamps14.