CFL Pass

2019 CFL free agency: Winners, losers, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Down here in the ’States, few things in sports are as abhorred as a game ending in a tie. We love our winners and losers in the US of A, and naturally upon the conclusion of any competitive event or fraction of the calendar year, Americans love to divvy up the players in those clear two sides.

So now that the ultimate heights of Canada’s game, the National Hockey League, has thrown away the concept of ties, we shouldn’t we subject CFL fans to the same? (Besides, it’s an easy way to put together a column.)

Here you have it, then: CFLpass’s assessment of 2019 CFL free agency’s winners, losers … and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The winners

Edmonton Eskimos and BC Lions – In the wake of the departing Mike Reilly and Wally Buono, respectively, the Eskimos and BC Lions didn’t so much rebuild through free agency as regenerate altogether. The Esks lost Reilly but replaced him with Trevor Harris (arguably the league’s third-best QB) and a brand spankin’ new receiving corps of Greg Ellingson, DeVaris Daniels, Ricky Collins and Kenny Shaw. We’ll see if this works out, but the ceiling is quite high and could be unpredictable for defenses in the early going.

Meanwhile in Vancouver, GM Ed Hervey announced his “plan for a big offseason” for BC Lions and, damn, did he make good on this promise quickly. In the first 48 hours of free agency, Hervey had bagged Reilly, plus OL Sukh Chung; RB John White; WRs Lemar Durant and Duron Carter; LB Terrell Davis; CB Chris Edwards; and DBs Arron Grymes and Josh Woodman. Like the Esks, the 2019 BC Lions now resemble a CFL fantasy football side, but CFLpass likes this assemblage a bit better than Edmonton’s. Because Reilly.

Toronto Argonauts – The Argos may not necessarily know their starting QB for the season, but their impressive moves in signings have got to make them the early favourite in the East. The headline-grabber was of course Derel Walker, even though, again, gods know who’ll be throwing to him. Also newly aboard the Argo are RBs Chris Rainey and Tyrell Sutton; WR Mercer Timmis; LB Ian Wild, DB Kevin Fogg, and that lemonade that turns the straw, Shawn Lemon.

We did not lose, it was a tie!

Winnipeg Blue Bombers – We all knew the Bombers were mostly going to stand pat and, for a while, that appeared to be a winning strategy, with both Calgary and Saskatchewan expected to take a downturn (the latter in CFLpass’s estimation, at least). Even those who somehow foresaw the monster roster rebuild undertaken by BC Lions had to like Winnipeg’s chances to climb in the West standings in 2019. Despite the seriously dangerous-looking Lions, however, we still love the Bombers’ chances for a high seed in the playoffs.

There’s also this:

CFLpass doesn’t care how cashed Elimimian is. Getting him back together with Adam Bighill cannot be a bad thing. Even if Sol’s only good for four games this season, CFLpass’d still bump the Bombers in these non-ranked rankings with him wearing blue.

The losers

Calgary Stampeders – Say what you will about the New England Patriots-ness of this team (and yours truly has stated publicly that the re-signing of Bo Levi Mitchell was probably the most important move of the 2019 free agency period), CFLpass just doesn’t believe that even the mighty Stamps can stand to lose 10 of the 23 defensive players – and most of the starting lineup – from a championship team. On top of this, the very masculinely named Brent Monson, who’s never been an OC.

Remember the Edmonton Eskimos teams of 2016 and ’17, the years following their last Grey Cup win? We’re thinking this Stamps team is gonna look a lot like that one.

Saskatchewan Roughriders – Really? This team is happy with Zach Collaros at quarterback, despite losing at least four WRs (though Namaan Roosevelt was re-signed)? On the positive (?) side, the Riders have assembled quite a nice backfield of William Powell, Tre Mason, Kienan LaFrance and Marcus Thigpen. On the defense, Zach Evnas is back but Willie Jefferson is gone.

So let’s call the moves made in those areas as altogether producing a neutral effect on the team’s somewhat disappointing results of last season. What will likely kill the 2019 Saskatchewan Roughriders is the same old bugaboo that’s plagued the team since Corey Chamblin sold out the long-term for a Grey Cup title in ’13, namely the player ratio. Simply put, the Canadian portion of this roster isn’t exactly star studded. Of the 30 players listed (including two PKs and one punter), LaFrance is really the only standout and in doomed fashion, is top heavy with OLs and LBs. This looks like a fourth- or fifth-place team…

All the other teams in the East – Okay, so the defending division champion Ottawa Redblacks,  Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes may have made an impressive move here and there, but these teams which didn’t need to take a net loss in free agency, likesay, took a net loss in free agency. Ottawa was particularly picked apart, was ultimately forced to essentially trade down from Trevor Harris to Jon Jennings; the once-awesome WR corps has been reduced to Brad Sinopoli and 18 (!) other guys, most of which you’ve never heard of.

As for Hamilton and Montreal, the less said the better because the less done the worse. You gotta love either of these teams’ chances – for the first two picks in the 2020 CFL Draft, that is.