The 2016 “Free Agent” Dream Team

Following my Top Remaining Free Agents post I decided to go one step further and make a complete team from the remaining Free Agents from CFL.ca’s Free Agent Tracker. Because of a shortage at certain positions I had to move some players into a role they don’t traditionally play (ie Offensive Guard playing Center or Defensive Back playing Safety). Since I have always wanted a team in the maritime provinces (and to get the league to an even number of teams) meet the Moncton Marauders!

Quarterback
Thomas DeMarco (Starter)
Mitchell Gale

DeMarco impressed the REDBLACKS with his final few games as the backup to Travis Lulay in 2103, and was once considered the future of the franchise. I originally had Dan LeFevor listed as DeMarco’s backup until I discovered he had left the CFL to join the “MLFB” down south. Once upon a time I thought Gale was a better backup option than Trevor Harris based on his performance in the 2013 and ’14 preseasons.

Running Back
Chad Simpson (Starter)
Mossis Madu
Chevon Walker

Simpson was a feature back in Winnipeg (2012) where he showed off his power running and receiving skills on his way to over 1300 yards from scrimmage. Simpson also performed well for the Eskimos last year in relief duty and would be my between the tackles runner. Madu is a utility back who can do a little bit of everything and provides Special Teams help. Walker may be the fastest running back in the league but has struggled to stay healthy, I like him in a change-of-pace role with plenty of screen passes going his way.

Fullback
Carl Volny (Starter)
Scott McHenry

Volny would act as the lead blocker for Simpson and Co. while McHenry doubles as a receiving option out of the backfield. Having both as Nationals helps the ratio no matter who is on the field.

Wide Receiver and Slot Back
Marcus Henry (Starter)
Fred Stamps (Starter)
Matt Carter (Starter)
Courtney Taylor
Jabari Arthur

Henry is a physical specimen who enticed both the Eskimos and REDBLACKS with his potential as a lead receiver, he should still be able to win jump balls and help in the Redzone. Stamps had a down season year but his production hampered by inconsistent quarterback play. I can still see Stamps helping stretch the field for some deep strikes. Cater surprised me with how often he was targeted deep in 2014 even though he didn’t always pull in the passes. As a National with speed Carter could work the slot backed up by fellow National Jabari Arthur. Taylor had some great moments in BC and could step in for any of the receivers on this list making him the perfect depth player.

Offensive Tackle
Figueroa, Joel (Starter)
Fulton, Xavier (Starter)

One if the strongest areas of the Marauders, the tackles’ biggest weakness is health concerns. Fulton was once seems as a top option at Tackle with Saskatchewan while Figueroa possesses elite talent and physical characteristics for his position. If both can stay healthy then DeMarco should stay upright.

Offensive Guard
Mitchell, Scott (Starter)
Dile, Mark (Starter)
Olson, Jake
Capers, Selvish

I’ll be honest, I had to reach to fill the guard positions, mostly because I am still learning about O-Line play and there were not many option out there for me to choose from. Mitchell is a young National player who was drafted highly and should still have upside. Dile has both NFL and CFL experience as a starter. Olson and Capers have both started at Guard and Tackle making them ideal depth signings.

Center
Wojt, Greg (Starter)
Norman, Matthew

As far as I could tell there were no true Centers left on the market so I moved Wojt there as the most decorated of the interior O-Linemen. Norman is younger and a National to boot so he could see time in the middle as well.

Defensive End
Alex Hall (Starter)
Jason Vega (Starter)
Marlon Smith

Hall was productive as a pass rusher on the worst team in football, and that’s saying something. I expect Hall to still play at an elite level for one more year while Vega has intrigued me since he left Winnipeg with his own pass rush prowess. Smith is a younger pass rusher that could benefit playing next to some more established veterans.

Defensive Tackle
Derek Walker (Starter)
Khreem Smith (Starter)
Thaddeus Gibson

Walker and Smith would form an intriguing pass rush option on the interior of the D-Line if Smith can keep producing at an advanced age. Gibson doesn’t have the star power of Smith or recorded a 5 sack season like Walker but I think he can be a good rotational player on a line that is older than most.

Linebackers
Weldon Brown (Starter)
Rennie Curran (Starter)
Karl McCartney (Starter)
Dan Molls
David Caldwell

Curran gets the chance to shine as a middle linebacker and will hopefully be the defensive force he was back in Edmonton. Brown was a starter at linebacker for several years in Saskatchewan and is skilled as a defensive back as well. McCartney is a Special Teams maven but will now also play at linebacker and fills a National stater role as well. Molls and Caldwell have interesting credentials but will serve as Special Team players and spell the starters for now.

Defensive Backs
Jonathan Hefney (Starter)
Brandyn Thompson (Starter)
Terrell Maze (Starter)
Cord Parks
Jalil Carter

Hefeny proved he can still play at a high level last year and would provide veteran leadership in the secondary. Thompson may be the best free agent not signed in the CFL, and as a young and productive defensive player he could be the top corner on the team. Maze doesn’t have the stats of Hefney or Thompson but was, when healthy, the best cover corner on the Riders before they nosedived lat year. Parks is on this list for his 6 pick season some years ago, hopefully he can rediscover that production as he is still a younger corner. Carter is a depth signing who could develop into a starter as the season plays out.

Safety
Tyron Brackenridge (Starter)
Lin-J Shell

Our team gets one of the hardest hitters in the league in Brackenridge and an effective blitzer as well. Shell is placed at safety due to his age but could be a boon in coverage if Brackenridge is staying near the box to make tackles.

Kicker/Punter
Hugh O’Neil (Starter)
Anthony Alix

O’Neil has bounced around the league yet still manages to find work. Ideally handle O’Neil would field punts as well but Alix is an interesting fallback option.

Long Snapper
Randy Chevrier

As the only option on the market Chevrier gets the job by default, though he was highly thought of in Calgary wile he was there.

Kick Returner
Mardy Gilyard

Gilyard impressed in limited action for the Als last year, but injury concerns hampered him. If he can stay healthy I would like to see what he can do over a full season with his speed and quickness.

So can the Moncton Mauraders win any games at all this year? I think they can manage a solid 4 Win year, maybe 5 even. What do you think? Leave a comment if you have alternative options for signees, alternate names, and I have no idea about a coaching staff.

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Top 10 Remaining Free Agents

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.

 

 

Top CFL Free Agents – East Division

*Happy New Year! Welcome to my first post of 2016. As an editors note I started this post in early December but life typically got in the way. As such several of my original picks have been signed. I’ll make a note of which of my picks have now been taken off the Free Agent Market.*

Welcome to the East Division overview of the CFL Free Agent class of 2016. Below are the top 3 Free Agents for each team in the CFL East Division as well as 2 potential bargain pickups that could provide great value to a team who picks them up.

Toronto Argonauts

Trevor Harris: (4354 Yds-33 Tds-19 INT)

Harris was a revelation at QB for the Argonauts who looked certain to fall to the East Division basement when All-Star Ricky Ray was lost to a shoulder injury. Harris started the season red hot and forced people to take notice of his playmaking skills. Able to make all the throws a CFL QB needs to Harris was also able utilize his underrated athleticism to pick up first downs when things broke down. I felt that Harris showed he could be the prototypical CFL quarterback that all teams are looking for. I believe the Argos made a big mistake not playing Harris in the East semis and I think they are making a mistake resigning Ray and not establishing Harris as the future. Time will tell if I’m crazy but Harris is starter material and the Argos may lose him to a QB needy team.

Tristan Okpalaugo: (27 Tkl-11 Sck-3 FF) 

Okpalaugo took the league by storm last year with a staggering 12 sacks as a rookie. While he started this year at a slower paced (much to the chagrin of my fantasy team) he caught fire down the stretch and finished with 11 sacks in year 2. Okpalaugo can play multiple positions along the line and will cause havoc when he gets going. As a bonus he is a hard hitter and tends to force  fumbles when he gets home. Still a very young player with nowhere to go but up Okpalaugo will draw likely interest down south and from nearly all 9 CFL teams should he not resign with the Argos.

Chad Owens: (55 Cth- 570 Yds-2 TD)

Owens was the heart of the Argos offense for several years and it was unfortunate to see him struggle with injury throughout the season. Even when healthy his numbers dipped as he never seemed to fit what the Argos were doing with their overhauled receiving corps. That said, Owens is a leader and can provide a veteran presence on a team in need of receiver help. He showed he can still ball out when he is healthy and will still be a danger in the return game.  I would think he would like to stay in TO but it may depend on the Argos willingness to pay him like a top tier receiver or whether he will still be a feature player after three very raw players (Gurley, Hazelton, Elliot) posted better numbers in 2015.

BargainsThomas Miles and Gregory Jones. This pair of linebackers held up well in the absence of Cory Greenwood (who missed time with injury). Jones was a tackling machine and played the run well while Miles is a National that a team could develop into a solid starter at Middle Linebacker in  year or two. Both will find homes quickly if they hit the market. (*MILES HAS NOW BEEN SIGNED TO AN EXTENSION WITH TOR*)

Montreal Alouettes

John Bowman: (46 Tkl-19 Sck-2 FF)

The reigning CFL sack champion put the league (and his own team) on notice that he can still play, and play better than anyone. To have that kind if impact at  age 34  and with the mileage he has is truly remarkable. Bowman wears down O-Linemen with relentless effort and seems to wait for the perfect moment to put a clownsuit on his blocker and make a game changing play. The logical part of my brain doubta he can repeat this feat in 2016 (please don’t hurt me John) but the Als would be foolish to think Bowman couldn’t be a top tier defender for at least another year. If he hits the market Bowman might not get top dollar due to his age, but he will be terrorising QBs in 2016, count on it.

Winston Venable: (104 Tkl-5 Sck-3 FF)

A versatile piece on defense for the Als, Venable racked up tackles and made an impact in the blitz game as well. I didn’t get to watch Venable as much as I would have liked but the few times I did he seemed to always be around the ball or rallying to a tackle, teams appreciate that kind of hustle and effort. Venable could fit on any team as a starter or high level depth and should have no shortage of suitors on the open market.

Josh Bourke: (stats for an O-Line?)

I will preface this by saying that while I feel myself to be above average in terms of analyzing football players I have very little experience with properly watching Offensive Line play. That said Bourke does see to get plenty of praise from teammates and other analysts for his effort and protection. A National to boot, Bourke is a solid piece on the O-Line and will likely be retained by the Als. If he reaches the open market expect a bidding war for the behemoth protector.

Bargains- Fred Stamps and Nik Lewis. Once considered the two best receivers in the CFL both players landed in Montreal after being dumped by their previous teams. Lewis remains a clutch player on 2nd down and can pick up yards with savy moves and brute force. Stamps showed some speed and playmaking ability on deep strikes and may shine again with a strong armed QB who takes shoots downfield. Teams may shy away from both due to age and injury concerns but I see a lot of value in these two former greats.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Emmanuel Davis: (61 Tkl-5 INT-1 Sck)

Davis had flown under my radar (apparently not hard to do) until one morning when I performed my weekly review of the CFL Stats page and saw his name with 3 INTs next to it. I started watching Davis more closely and saw a cover corner that makes tackles rather than shying away from them and makes plays on the ball (12 passes defended). He has already garnered NFL interest and, should he stay, will be a coveted asset in a pass heavy league. I can only imagine that Austin wants him to stay in the Hammer.

Ted Laurent: (26 Tkl-3 Sck-1 FF)

Laurent didn’t have the explosive stats from a year ago (9 Scks in 2014) but the stats don’t tell the whole story of how disruptive he can be on the field. A beast of a man who can swallow running backs whole or out-muscle his way to the quarterback Laurent can be a centerpiece on any defensive line. A National designation makes him even more valuable and his ability to turn it up when its all on the line (4 Scks in 2 playoff games this year) is something you cant teach. Laurent stands to make good money this offseason no matter where he goes.

Justin Medlock: (42 of 47 FGs-89.4%)

Readers of my blog will know I have a special place in my heart for kickers and Medlock is high on my list. With the extra point no longer being automatic and points coming at a premium with defenses now adjusting to the new “no-contact” rules on receivers (and seemingly every QB getting injured), kicker value has risen. In my humble opinion Medlock has replaced McCallum as the best best kicker in the league and yet I don’t see him getting a big deal on the open market. Teams are all looking for a young, cheap kickers and the fact that Medlock is not a National will further complicate negotiations. That said I believe Medlock would provide a clutch kicker and a decent punter to any team that picks him up.

Bargains – Justin Hickman and Andy Fantuz. Hickman regained his form the season after he returned from the NFL with 8 Scks. Although he may be a little old for some teams Hickman can provide a solid veteran presence and is still a defensive threat that may come more cheaply than Laurent. Fantuz struggled with injuries and isn’t likely the ideal #1 receiver anymore but his playoff action showed he can still make clutch catches and act as an excellent safety valve for his QB, add that to his National status and he can be a great pickup.

Ottawa REDBLACKS

Chris Williams: (88 Cth-1214 Yds-5 Tds)

I remember when Chris Williams made his debut in the CFL back in 2011, I jokingly told my friend Mark that this guy will be big and he should pick him for his fantasy team rather than Dave Stala (whom I secretly coveted for my team). While Stala had a solid season Williams blew up the league as the hottest star in town, and 5 years later he still is. A threat to score anytime he touches the ball Williams will command one of the largest paychecks for a receiver should he hit the market. (*WILLIAMS HAS SIGNED AN EXTENSION WITH OTT*)

Justin Capicciotti: (47 Tkl-12 Sck-1 FF)

GM Marcel Desjardins deserves huge kudos for seeing the star that Capicciotti would become when he took him on from the Eskimos. With 23 Sacks  in the last 2 seasons (with only 2 in the previous 2 years) the National pass rusher is only 26 and has many more productive seasons ahead. With his value at an all time high Capicciotti may wish to test Free Agency to gauge how much he can get. If he stays with Ottawa they will have secured a big building block to get back to the Grey Cup in 2016.

Zak Evans: (17 Tkl-7 Sck-1 INT)

Evans came on strong in his 4th season as the young National blew past his previous career high in sacks with 7. Stepping out of Keith Shologan’s shadow as the most promising Canadian DL acquired in the Expansion draft (though Shologan is no slouch either) Evans is just entering his prime and will have his share of suitors on the open market. It will be interesting to see what Evans can do if he is signed and made a feature player rather than a rotational one. (*EVANS SIGNED AN EXTENSION WITH OTT*)

Bargains – Damaso Munoz and Keith Shologan. Munoz was a highly productive linebacker for the REDBLACKS and added a pass rush element in addition to run defense, only the recent glut of solid linebackers appearing across the league kept him from being listed higher on my list. As mentioned above Shologan was also an impact player with the REDBLACKS and only his age kept him beneath Evans, he will find work even if he is not resigned.

 

 

Top CFL Free Agents – West Division

*Editors note: for some reason I forgot the year and did not include the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in my preview. They are now added below.

Now that the Grey Cup has slowly faded from our minds and the long dark of the CFL offseason has begun I figured it was time for me to work on some more material. The CFL Free Agent list was released a little while ago (you can find it here http://www.cfl.ca/2015/12/07/fa16/) and it got me thinking who the top Free Agents for each team were. So for this week I am going to pick the top 3 Free Agents for each team in the West as well as 2 Bonus players who could be real bargains for prospective teams.

BC LIONS

  • Emmanuel Arceneaux (76 Rec-1151 Yds -9 Tds): The Lions top receiver had the best season of his career and showed some explosive chemistry with Jonathan Jennings down the stretch. Arceneaux is a tall and speedy receiver who wins contested catches and excels at making big plays when his team needs them the most. I don’t see him leaving the Lions but if he did he would have at least 6 teams calling for his services.
  • Andrew Harris (1039 Yds-4.7 Avg-7 Tds): Despite seeing a dip in carries and having several games of very low production Harris finished 2015 in style and fell just short of the rushing title. A true dual threat (Harris has averaged 53 catches a season over his career) Harris is one of the most dangerous play makers in the CFL and can be simply unstoppable when he gets rolling. With Jon Cornish retiring and Jerome Messam turning 30 Harris should be seen as the top National running back and should command top dollar this offseason.
  • Travis Lulay (1953 Yds-12 Tds-10 Int): Its been quite a fall from grace for Lulay, going from Most Outstanding player in 2011 to likely being replaced by a younger and more promising QB going into next year. Lulay showed flashes through his few healthy starts this year and I believe he can still be a quality starter if he lands int he right spot. That said, I can see Lulay taking the path of Kevin Glenn over the next few years as a journeyman backup (ie good enough to start and win, never seen as the long term answer).

Bargains -Rennie Curran and Cord Parks: Curran looked like the successor to JC Sherritt in Edmonton before he left for the NFL. He is a solid tackler but can be had in coverage, best part is that he is just 27. Parks finished second in INTs with 6 in 2013 but has had his production plummet since then. I still think he can be a possible starter on a lot of rosters.

Edmonton Eskimos

  • Adarius Bowman (93 Rec-1304 Yds-7 Tds): The best receiver in the CFL over the past two years Bowman is the complete package. Tall, powerful, and able to make any (difficult) catch Bowman’s only flaw is his inexcusable tendency to drop the easiest catches. That said when Bowman gets rolling he is uncoverable and being pared with Derel Walker made the Eskimos passing attack deadly. Bowman wont last long on the open market, that is if the Eskimos even let him get close to testing it.
  • JC Sherritt (71 Tkl-3 Sck-2 Int): A tackling terror, Sherritt is the backbone of a Grey Cup winning defense and has shown himself to be one of the best Linebackers in the CFL. Sherritt excels at stopping the run and making plays behind the line of scrimmage but has also become very good in coverage as well. Any team that picks him up, if he leaves, is instantly upgraded on defense.
  • Aaron Grymes (43 Tkl-4 Int-1 Sck): Grymes has always struck me as a Linebacker trapped in a Defensive Backs body with the physical way he tackles and how willing he is to help in run support. Grymes has steadily improved in coverage since his entry to the CFL three years ago and can run with just about any receiver out there. A versatile threat and just 24 Grymes is a rising star about to get paid.

Bargains – Don Oramasionwu and Otha Foster: Donny O is a rock in the middle and a National to boot. Capable of swallowing up running backs and putting heat up the middle on QBs Ormasionwu needs to stay healthy for whatever team picks him up. Foster makes my list of “solid” players. He doesn’t blow you away on the stat sheet but he gives you solid production at Linebacker and Defensive Back and every team wants more of those guys.

Calgary Stampeders

  • Eric Rogers (87 Rec-1448 Yds-10 Tds): I was intrigued when I saw Rogers at the tail end of 2014 when he lit up the last two games season, but I had no idea just how good he was going to be. Leading the CFL in receiving and receiving touchdowns (tied with Todd Gurley for that honor) and making catch after catch no matter who covered him Rogers WAS the Stamps Offense. Given that this is only his second year Rogers has a legit shot to smash all kinds of records, but his talent also means we will likely lose him to the NFL. However, If Rogers doesn’t latch on with a team down south he will start an all out bidding war when he return.
  • Junior Turner (32 Tkl-3 Sck -4 PD): A valuable run stuffer Turner also made his mark as a pass defender with 4 swatted passes this year. Capable of beating blocks and providing pressure up the middle Turner is also a National and will be a high priority for Calgary to resign, especially with Corey Mace likely going into coaching.
  • Freddie Bishop III (44 Tkl-11 Sck-1 FF): Another candidate to lose to the NFL Bishop was a force off the edge for Calgary. There were several games this year where Bishop was seemingly in the backfield before the snap to take down the QB or Running Back, that kind of disruption is priceless. At 25 Bishop has a legit shot to make a mark down south but will have a place on any team should he return.

Bargains – Anthony Parker and Jerome Messam: Parker came on strong down the stretch for the Stamps with his best statistical season. A high Canadian draft pick who just seems to be hitting his stride Parker could easily take off in the right system. Messam might seem like a strange pick for the bargain category (he came in third in rushing with 1006 Yds) but the bruising National is turning 30 and has taken a lot of hits over his career. I don’t see teams rushing to sign him to big money deals when so many young backs are popping up around the league.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

  • Ryan Smith (59 rec-991 Yds-7 Tds): Small in stature but not in spirit Smith was one of the few bright spots for the Riders this year. Coming in just 9 yards shy of a thousand despite missing multiple games in his second season Smith was a dangerous deep threat and showed he was never afraid of taking hits over the middle. While his fearless style of play lends itself to injury Smith will be south after as a top tier receiving option on several teams
  • Tyron Brackenridge (58 Tkl-2 Sck-1 Int): A down year for T-Brack as he seemed frustrated in Brian Quicks defensive scheme. Still the DB/LB hybrid is an earth shattering hitter who can time up his blitzes better than any DB I have seen. In the right system and with the right surrounding pieces Brackenridge will make plays (and noise) for whoever pick him up.
  • Alex Hall (43 Tkl-7 Sck-2 FF): Hall came in with much fanfare as the replacement to Rickey Foley across from Jon Chick in what should have been a dominant Rider Defensive line. While that didn’t work out like the Riders wanted Hall held up his end and would have had much higher numbers if Saskatchewan could have kept games closer. Hall may leave Riderville and if he does will get several offers for his services.

Bargains –Rob Bagg and Xavier Fulton: One of the easiest people to cheer for in the league Bagg (in my opinion) shines best in a complementary role and can  seem to struggle against top corners. Still, as a National receiver who can turn in some very good performances Bagg will find a home if the Riders let him walk. I cant figure out Fulton who was arguably the Riders best O-Lineman three years ago and has seemed to lose steam ever since . At the very least he is still quality depth material and you need that in the CFL.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

  • Matt Nicholas (3245 Yds-18 Tds-17 Int): This was certainly the year that Matt Nicholas got a shot to prove himself (With two teams!) and for the most part he did well. I cant fault his stats for declining too much in Winnipeg because of how fast he went over and started but Drew Willy is still the superior option there. I’m not sure Nicholas gets another starting gig but he can certainly make a number of training camps interesting and provide a quality backup.
  • Nick Moore (76 rec-899 Yds-4 Tds): Injuries have hampered Moore throughout his time in the Peg but when healthy he has shown elite talent. This year saw him put on a nice string of games despite inconsistent QB play for much of the year. Going forward it will be interesting to see if he stays on or tries his hand at FA, he will certainly have options.
  • Demond Washington (67 Tkl-3 Int-1 Sck): Washington has developed into another of what I call “solid” football players (explained above). He makes several wow plays every year and is important to his defense for his good tackling and return ability. Going forward I can see a team taking him for an increased role in returns and depth in the Secondary.

Bargains– Lirim Hajrullahu and Cameron Marshall: Last year I was drawing comparisons to Paul McCallum when it came to Hajrullahu and his kicking ability, this year he looked like completely different. I’m not sure what messed with his game but if he can fix it then he will be a great kicker for whoever takes a flier on him. I liked Marshall when he played this year, he showed good hands catching the ball and had some good cuts. I’m not sure if he takes a lead role somewhere but he certainly could find a home as a role player or backup.