The six best CFL free agent signings

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

The first day of CFL free agency came and went at lightning speed with 46 players signing contracts with new teams.

Though we won’t know for sure until the 2022 season is well underway, I’ve taken the liberty of choosing the signings I like the most from across the league.

Below are the six best signings from the league’s latest free agent frenzy. Players are listed alphabetically by last name.

Photo courtesy: CFL

DL Ja’Gared Davis — Toronto Argonauts

Toronto underwent a massive roster overhaul before the 2021 season and though the team improved as a whole, the defence still struggled to generate pressure off the edge.

An aging Charleston Hughes had clearly lost a step, Cordarro Law missed nine games due to injury, and former first-round NFL draft pick Shane Ray failed to generate a sack. It’s a position they clearly had to address heading into 2022.

Davis has 42 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in 75 career CFL games and was dominant during the postseason with Hamilton, recording seven tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble in three games. He’s an elite pass-rusher who has immediately given Toronto a big boost off the edge.

Photo courtesy: Dominick Gravel/Alouettes de Montreal

QB Trevor Harris — Montreal Alouettes

For a league that has a couple of teams without any proven quarterbacks, it’s pretty remarkable that the Alouettes managed to keep two.

Harris showed late last season that he’s still more than capable of being a starter in the CFL. He picked up Montreal’s offence quickly, completing 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,067 yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions over five games (playoffs included).

The knock on incumbent starter Vernon Adams Jr. has always been his lack of consistency. Having a veteran backup to help support him — and potentially give opposing defences a different look — is a huge advantage for the Alouettes.

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

SAM Derrick Moncrief — Saskatchewan Roughriders

The 28-year-old has returned to Riderville where he was a monster in 2019, recording 69 defensive tackles, four sacks, three interceptions, and one forced fumble, which earned him a shot in the NFL.

The six-foot-two, 220-pound defender will secure the strong-side linebacker position, which was a turnstile in 2021 with A.J. Hendy, Godfrey Onyeka, Jacob Dearborn, Rolan Milligan, and Elie Bouka all taking turns in the starting role.

As an added bonus, Moncrief’s new deal will keep him with the Riders through 2023, providing them with a cornerstone upon which to build their defence.

Photo courtesy: B.C. Lions/Paul Yates

DL Steven Richardson — B.C. Lions

B.C. fielded arguably the worst defensive line in the CFL last season and lacked an interior defender who could help collapse the pocket.

Richardson missed seven games in 2021 due to injury but was still a force for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, making 20 tackles, six sacks, and one forced fumble in nine games (postseason included).

The five-foot-eleven, 304-pound defender uses leverage well and has enough athleticism to make opposing guards look foolish. The Lions have made other additions along the defensive line — David Menard, Mathieu Betts, and Woody Baron — and Richardson should help draw double teams to create space for other pass-rushers.

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

K Sean Whyte — B.C. Lions

The 2021 CFL season proved that kickers are at a premium as three teams — B.C., Hamilton, and Winnipeg — finished the year well below 75 percent on field goals.

The Lions had three different kickers over the course of the season, beginning with Takeru Yamasaki who missed four field goals over two games. Jimmy Camacho took over the role and went 14-of-20 before being replaced by Nick Vogel, who missed three converts in as many games.

Whyte connected on 28-of-32 field goal attempts (87.5 percent) with Edmonton last year with a long of 52 yards. The native of White Rock, B.C. has been extremely consistent over his 12-year CFL career and immediately addresses one of the Lions’ biggest needs.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

OL Ucambre Williams — Ottawa Redblacks

Ottawa started nine different players at offensive tackle last season, none of whom enjoyed a tremendous amount of success.

Jeremiah Masoli will need his blind side to be secure if he is going to breathe life into Ottawa’s anemic passing offence and Ucambre Williams is the perfect player to fill that role after protecting Bo Levi Mitchell last season.

The former West Division all-star was the only proven left tackle available in free agency outside of Ryker Mathews, who missed almost all of last season with a concussion. The Redblacks were smart to sign Williams, who will help kickstart Ottawa’s rebuild.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.