With the CFL’s Free Agency madness calming down, I decided to take a look at some of the remaining players on the market who could still have value to the league’s 9 teams.
*Please note these players are not ranked in any particular order
Jonathan Hefney (’15 Stats – 46 Tackles 4 Interceptions)
I remember when Hefney was released at the end of 2012 from Winnipeg and had a disappointing 2013 in Calgary. I thought at the time that was it for the enigmatic DB when he did not emerge in 2014. He proved me and many others wrong with a strong comeback 2015 season with the REDBLACKS. Hefney snagged 4 picks and made 40+ tackles, a promising stat line that shows he still has some game left. While his age (31) may still be a concern, Hefney should have value to teams needing a veteran secondary player.
Chad Simpson (’15 Stats – 290 Rushing Yards 1 Touchdown)
Chad Simpson burst onto the scene with over a 1000 yards in only 14 games back in 2013. The following years saw inconsistency and injury bump Simpson around they league for a little bit but he still showed power when he filled in for the Eskimos last year. I don’t see him getting a starting position but he can hold down the running back position if a starter goes down. Simpson would be a solid depth signing that can keep an incumbent starter from resting on his laurels.
Brandyn Thompson (’15 Stats – 42 Tackles 3 Interceptions)
The biggest shock on this list: Thompson is 26 and had a productive 2015 season. With the REDBLACKS loaded secondary I see why Thompson was allowed to test the market but it strikes me at he should have had a suitor by now. My initial thought is that Thompson is looking south for a contract, but if nothing emerges he should be someone teams lineup for.
Jason Vega (’15 Stats – 11 Tackles 2 Sacks)
At only age 28, Vega has averaged 4.75 sacks a season over his career and had enough talent to get an NFL shot back in 2013. Last year was down year with only 2 QB take downs but its surprising he has yet to sign. With all the money most teams have spent, Vega may have to wait to get an offer. I can see him signing once injuries start to pile up on a team’s D-Line.
Tyron Brackenridge (’15 Stats – 58 Tackles 2 Interceptions 1 Sack)
The following three players are all Saskatchewan Roughriders and were all on my Best Free Agents by team post in January. The fact that all are still unsigned is unsettling as I still feel they all have a lot to give, though signing players from a 3-15 team could be seen as counterproductive. Brackenridge was touted around the league as one of the hardest hitters and a was fan favorite in SSK. With his skill set as a capable linebacker and safety, I can see T-Brack getting a shot with a team closer to training camp.
Xavier Fulton (15′ Stats – 18 Regular Season Games Played)
*Because CFL.ca does not have games played as a stat on Fulton’s page this info comes from cflstats.ca
Throughout this offseason all I have heard is that Fulton is an incredibly tough player, frequently playing through very painful injuries rather than abandon his team. Unfortunately this likely lowered his playing ability and may be why he has not been signed yet. However, I still remember his breakout 2013 season where he was one of the best tackles in the CFL. If he can be had on a one year “prove it” deal, he may be a low risk-high reward candidate.
Alex Hall (’15 Stats – 43 Tackles 7 Sacks)
Hall is a curious case: his last three CFL years have had him post 9-16-7 sacks (he missed 2014 in the NFL). While he has hit the dreaded football age of 30, I think Hall has showed he has plenty left in the tank. Posting 7 sacks in a year when teams were making a mockery of the Riders is still a feat. He may still be pushing for an NFL shot or have too high a price tag for teams looking for younger, cheaper options but I can’t imagine that if Hall wants to play no one will give him a shot.
Rennie Curran (’15 Stats – 5 tackles 5 Special Teams Tackles)
Go back to Curran’s 2013 season where he looked capable of replacing JC Sherritt in the middle of Edmonton’s defense (70 Tackles 2 Interceptions) and you can see how disruptive a player he can be. Curran got his shot down south a while later but made little impact when he returned and signed with BC. It may be that being held behind Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill prevented Curran from reemerging but it should be worth a team’s while to find out.
Karl McCartney (’15 Stats – 11 Special Teams Tackles)
I want to preference this section by stating how frustrating the CFL’s new stats page is, especially the lack of any box score being available for previous games. This makes researching special teams tackles much harder than it should be. That being said, it was not hard to find information on McCartney’s special teams prowess from other sources. Registering 23 Special Teams Tackles in 2014, McCartney only had 11 last year but is still just age 28 and an experienced veteran. I’m not sure if it was health or price that sent McCartney packing but he should have value to a number of teams whose return coverage suffered last year.
Joel Figueroa (’15 Stats – 6 Regular Season Starts 2 Playoff Stats)
*Because CFL.ca does not have games played as a stat on Figueroa’s page this info comes from cflstats.ca
As I have mentioned in this space previously I am not an O-Line expert though I try and learn more every year. I do, however, listen to experts and they say Figueroa has NFL level talent at the tackle position. The catch is that he can’t stay healthy with only 6 games started last year (as well as 2 in the post season). I’m unsure of whether he is holding out for an NFL shot or teams are spooked by his price tag when an injury could knock him out for an extended period of time. Either way, if he can get a shot on a team, he stands a good chance to taking a starting role.