3DownNation’s top 40 CFL free agents

Photo courtesy: Ticats.ca

Ready. Set. Go!

CFL free agency officially gets underway on Tuesday at noon eastern time, which will allow dozens of players around the league to officially join new teams.

3DownNation has ranked the top 40 free agents available as of Tuesday morning. Make sure to check out our live blog throughout the day as we’ll update rumours, signings, insights, analysis and more as things progress.

Please note that this list does not include players who have reportedly agreed to terms with new teams. These players include defensive end Kwaku Boateng (Ottawa), defensive tackle Micah Johnson (Hamilton), receiver Jaelon Acklin (Ottawa), defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy (B.C.), running back William Powell (Ottawa), offensive lineman Ucambre Williams (Ottawa), defensive back Ed Gainey (Edmonton), and strong-side linebacker Patrick Levels.

*indicates National

40. OL Nolan MacMillan — Ottawa Redblacks*

The seven-year veteran has struggled with injuries at times but has plenty of experience at guard and tackle.

39. DB Jeff Richards — Toronto Argonauts

The 31-year-old had a solid season at field-side halfback with the Double Blue, making 46 total tackles and an interception.

38. REC Hergy Mayala — Calgary Stampeders*

The former first-round pick had a disappointing year following a strong rookie campaign in 2019 during which he caught 38 passes for 562 yards and five touchdowns.

37. REC Darvin Adams — Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The eight-year veteran came alive during Winnipeg’s postseason run following a quiet regular season, proving there’s still some gas in the tank.

Photo courtesy: Candice Ward/Calgary Stampeders.com

36. QB Michael O’Connor — Calgary Stampeders*

The former third-round pick was stuck behind Bo Levi Mitchell and Jake Maier on the depth chart last year, but the Orleans, Ont. native could still develop into a solid CFL quarterback.

35. DE Thiadric Hansen — Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Hansen is by far the best player to come of the CFL’s global initiative, making eight defensive tackles, 12 special teams tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble in 2021.

34. DB Jamar Wall — Calgary Stampeders

The two-time all-star is versatile, though market for 34-year-old defensive backs is generally pretty slow.

33. OL Brett Boyko — Saskatchewan Roughriders*

The Saskatoon native signed with his hometown club and ended up starting ten games at tackle (playoffs included). With the market for Canadian offensive linemen running thin, Boyko is well-worth a look.

32. DT Makana Henry — Saskatchewan Roughriders*

He may take a lot of penalties, but Burlington native is impactful as an interior lineman and special teamer. There are rumours swirling that the five-year veteran may be joining his old head coach Chris Jones in Edmonton.

31. OL Hunter Steward — B.C. Lions*

The 30-year-old has been arguably the best member of B.C.’s offensive line over the past few years and has experience at centre, guard, and tackle.

30. DT Woody Baron — Montreal Alouettes

The six-foot-one, 270-pounder was consistent along Montreal’s interior last year, recording 16 tackles, six sacks, and one forced fumble.

29. DE Mathieu Betts — Edmonton Elks*

The former first-round pick had a disappointing season in 2021 but the former Laval star has the quickness to still develop into a ratio-breaking pass-rusher.

Photo courtesy: Ticats.ca

28. DT Ted Laurent — Hamilton Tiger-Cats*

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

27. 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.

26. 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.

25. REC Brandon Banks — Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Life comes at you fast, which is ironic when the questions surrounding Speedy B are about just how quick he can still be.

24. SAM Don Unamba — Ottawa Redblacks

He’s getting up there in age, but there aren’t many strong-side linebacker as big and physical as Unamba was in his prime.

23. OL Ryker Matthews — B.C. Lions

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

22. DB Ciante Evans — 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.

21. 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.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

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.

19. DE David Menard — Montreal Alouettes*

Menard made eight sacks last year and earned the East Division’s nomination for Most Outstanding Canadian but there are questions about how much a rotational player is worth.

18. SAM Alden Darby — Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Darby was acquired in a training camp trade and took over the strong-side linebacker role for the Blue Bombers, making 34 tackles in 11 games before being named a divisional all-star.

17. REC Ricky Collins Jr. — Toronto Argonauts

This time last year, Collins Jr. had just been cut by Edmonton and retired from the CFL. Then he made a return with Toronto and led the team in receiving yards.

16. RB Andrew Harris — Winnipeg Blue Bombers*

Harris has proven he can still have dominant games at the age of 35. The question now is how many games can he play over the course of a full season?

15. 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.

14. 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 last year. He’ll have to settle for being the best pure middle linebacker in this free agent class.

13. 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 very consistent since being drafted sixth overall in 2018. He plays like a seasoned vet and will be just 26 next season.

12. 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.

11. 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 start at weak-side linebacker, middle linebacker or defensive end.

10. DE Shawn Lemon — Calgary Stampeders

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

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

9. 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 in 2021.

8. QB Chris Streveler — Free Agent

There are valid questions about how good Chris Streveler can be as a pure passer, but he will be arguably the league’s best athlete if he returns from the NFL.

7. DB Brandon Alexander — Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The CFL all-star has established himself as the league’s best safety, though he’s not expected to be ready for the start of the 2022 season after undergoing ACL surgery.

6. DB Delvin Breaux — Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Breaux is one of the greatest lockdown corners in CFL history, but signing the 32-year-old who recently decided to come out of retirement seems like a little bit of a gamble.

Photo courtesy: Dominick Gravel/Alouettes de Montreal

5. QB Trevor Harris — Free Agent

The Elks were so bad last year that the CFL fan base has collectively forgotten that Harris has thrown for 134 touchdowns and 59 interceptions in his career 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 Redblacks’ Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman from 2021 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, the University of Alberta’s 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 M.O.P. 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 CFL’s only 1,000-yard receiver during the shortened 2021 season despite missing one 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’s safe to say that Moncrief probably regrets his decision to sign with the sinking Elks when he hit the open market in September 2021 following a stint in the NFL.

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

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

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

A relatively quiet six-sack regular season lulled offences into submission, but Davis exploded for 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.