2023 CFL free agent rankings: offensive linemen

Photo: David Mahussier/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Football games are won and lost in the trenches and there’s no position group that sets the physical tone more than the offensive line. Without quality protection up front, even the best quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers won’t be able to produce at a high level.

The CFL’s negotiating window is currently open. Pending free agents can speak with teams around the league during this period, though the window closes on Sunday, Feb. 12 ahead of the official start of free agency on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

3DownNation has taken the liberty of ranking each pending free agent by position in order to illustrate who the most sought-after players will be when the market officially opens.

Please note that “N” denotes National players (ie. Canadians) and “A” denotes American players.

1. Michael Couture, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (N)

The 28-year-old missed 14 games this past season due to an arm injury but has historically managed to remain healthy, dressing for every game over the first five seasons of his career. The former second-round pick out of Simon Fraser was named a CFL Players’ Association all-star at centre in 2021.

2. Darius Ciraco, Ottawa Redblacks (N)

The four-year veteran has been a full-time starter at centre and guard since he was selected in the first round of the 2018 CFL Draft by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. At 26, the native of Burlington, Ont. should be a great fit for any team looking to upgrade the interior of their offensive line.

3. Joel Figueroa, B.C. Lions (A)

The 33-year-old anchored the left tackle position for B.C. over 18 starts this past season, helping lead an offensive line that allowed 39 sacks to rank fifth league-wide. With few veteran offensive tackles set to hit the open market, Figueroa should be an attractive option to any team looking to upgrade their pass protection.

4. Philip Blake, Toronto Argonauts (N)

The seven-year veteran moved from left guard to left tackle relatively early this past season after injuries started piling up along the offensive line. Despite being an interior blocker for most of his career, the Toronto native held his own as the club allowed 43 sacks on the year, ranking sixth league-wide. Though he’s played only 96 career games, Blake’s age is working against him as he recently turned 37.

5. Justin Lawrence, Toronto Argonauts (N)

The Edmonton native was named an East Division all-star at centre this past season and captured his second Grey Cup after previously winning one as a backup for the Calgary Stampeders. The six-foot-one, 300-pound blocker is a plug-and-play starter at centre who can also fill in at guard if called upon.

Photo courtesy: Paul Yates/B.C. Lions

6. Sukh Chungh, B.C. Lions (N)

The seven-year veteran has been among the CFL’s highest-paid offensive linemen for the past three seasons, though that could change in 2023. Chungh has started 38 games at guard for his hometown Lions since joining them as a free agent in 2019 but has never been named a divisional all-star.

7. Dan Clark, Saskatchewan Roughriders (N)

The soon-to-be 35-year-old has been with his hometown team since 2009 when he joined them as a territorial exemption. The one-time CFL all-star played only six games last season after suffering a broken leg and is clearly near the end of his career having suited up for 131 games. Though the club hasn’t ruled bringing Clark back, it appears as though the Riders could move on from the veteran blocker.

8. Terran Vaughn, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)

The 28-year-old has played at a high level at times over his four-year CFL career but hasn’t been able to stay healthy as of late, playing only 10 games over the past two seasons. Vaughn should still be an attractive option for a team looking to add experience at left tackle, though he’ll have to prove he can play a full 18-game season before he can maximize his earnings.

9. Hunter Steward, Ottawa Redblacks (N)

The six-foot-six, 315-pound blocker has played 107 games as a member of the B.C. Lions and Ottawa Redblacks since being selected in the first round of the 2013 CFL Draft out of Liberty University. The Calgary native recently turned 31 and should be a solid short-term option for any team looking to add depth along the offensive line.

10. Colin Kelly, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)

The 33-year-old started 16 games at offensive tackle for Edmonton and Hamilton this past season as he was traded from the Elks to the Ticats in June. The six-foot-five, 298-pound blocker will have to sit out the start of the season in 2023 no matter where he signs as he was recently slapped with a two-game suspension after testing positive for two banned substances.

11. Peter Godber, B.C. Lions (N)

The former first-round pick out of Rice University had trouble staying healthy at the start of his career but has started all 32 games at centre for the Lions since 2021. The 28-year-old native of Toronto should be a solid option of any team that needs to add depth along the interior of their offensive line.

12. Jamal Campbell, Saskatchewan Roughriders (N)

The six-foot-six, 292-pound blocker was once one of the highest-paid offensive linemen in the CFL but was released by his hometown Argonauts last winter. He failed to win the starting job at right tackle in Saskatchewan after joining them as a free agent and, at 29, will be looking to reinvigorate his career with a new team in 2023.

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

13. Kay Okafor, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)

The 30-year-old was converted from the defensive line to the offensive line after being selected in the third round of the 2017 CFL Draft out of St. FX. He started eight games at offensive tackle in 2021 but did not maintain a first-string role this past season, starting only one game at guard while perennial all-star Brandon Revenberg was out due to injury.

14. Josiah St. John, Saskatchewan Roughriders (N)

The former first overall pick was primarily a depth player this past season, though he made three starts at left guard and one start at right tackle. The 30-year-old has dressed for 47 career games as a member of the Riders, though he has also been a member of the Argos, Lions, and Elks.

Best of the rest: Randy Richards, Ottawa Redblacks (A); Chris Schleuger, Montreal Alouettes (A); Tony Washington, free agent (A)

Editor’s note: an earlier version of this article listed Michael Couture as a member of the B.C. Lions. Though he is expected to sign with the Lions next week, he currently remains a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.