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Each CFL Team’s Biggest Needs Post-Free Agency

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The dust has settled after a wild free agency period that saw the CFL landscape significantly change. However, many teams still have to round out their depth and add Canadian talent to their rosters. Enter, the CFL Draft. John Hodge over at 3DownNation released his Mock 1.0 and as expected, the trenches make up a majority of the selections.

Calgary Stampeders – Linebacker

This could be dead wrong as Calgary has a great process in which a player we’ve never heard of before emerges as a star. Their future star linebacker could very well be on their roster already. However, the losses of Jameer Thurman and Alex Singleton have left a hole in the middle of Calgary’s defence.

Whether or not this can be addressed in the draft remains to be seen. However, BC Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian is rumoured to be on the trade block. Elimimian could be an option for Calgary should Singleton and Thurman not return.

BC Lions – Linebacker

The Lions made the biggest splash in free agency. Signing Mike Reilly, Duron Carter, Sukh Chungh, Lemar Durant and Aaron Grymes. The only “downside” is, these moves cost the Lions plenty of cap space. BC’s void at linebacker is in sharp contrast from the core of Adam Bighill and Solomon Elimimian a few years ago.

Now, aside from Elimimian, the linebackers on the Lions have played a combined 201 career games. For reference, Elimimian has played 118 on his own and that was with three shortened seasons in 2012, 2015 and 2018. Not to discredit any of the young linebackers on the Lions vying for a starting spot but it appears to be a position of need for a team that put the CFL on notice this offseason.

Edmonton Eskimos – Defensive Back

Many left the Eskimos for dead after Mike Reilly’s departure. Edmonton quickly went to work and brought aboard Trevor Harris, Greg Ellingson and SirVincent Rogers. Edmonton wasted no time fortifying their offensive unit for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, the Lions wouldn’t stop with just Reilly, they managed to lure defensive backs, Aaron Grymes, Chris Edwards and Josh Woodman.

Edmonton was able to grab Anthony Orange from the Lions. As per Edmonton’s official roster, they currently have just one cornerback. The remainder is listed as defensive halfbacks. Currently, the Eskimos have 17 players listed as members of their secondary, perhaps the answer to this “need” can be filled internally. Whether the Eskimos choose to address this in the draft remains to be seen.

Saskatchewan Roughriders – Offensive Line

Wait, what? How can a group that allowed the least amount of sacks in 2018 be the biggest need heading into the draft? Well, as Jaimie Nye notes, the Riders starting-five were hindered by injuries down the stretch last season. Last season’s top pick, Dakoda Shepley is likely to try NFL camps again and 2016’s first overall pick, Josiah St. John remains unsigned. Adding Canadian depth to any position let alone the offensive line is never a bad idea and a route many expect the Riders to take in this year’s draft.

While many will be clamouring for an upgrade at quarterback, that simply isn’t probable at this point. The Riders have hitched themselves to Zach Collaros (one-year deal) and for better or worse he will be the starting quarterback Week 1. Ensuring that his supporting cast is up to par is the best the Riders can do.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers – Wide Receiver

Don’t be fooled, the Bombers have talent at the receiver position. Darvin Adams has been a consistent threat since 2015 and Nik Demski has been the swiss army knife of the offence with his talents being utilized all over the Bombers offence in 2018. Yet, Winnipeg still lacks size at the receiver position and did little to shore up the position during free agency.

After whiffing on Derel Walker and Greg Ellingson the Bombers must turn to the international receivers that remain on their roster. There’s potential with former-Seahawks 7th round draft pick Kenny Lawler who sizes up at 6’2. The 6’4 Corey Washington showed flashes of potential as well last season.

Toronto Argonauts – Defensive Back

There’s a lot to like about what the Argos did in free agency this past month. They have an embarrassment of riches at the running back position with James Wilder Jr., Chris Rainey, Tyrell Sutton, Brandon Burks and Mercer Timmis. They added Derel Walker at receiver to add to the talented S.J. Green and Armanti Edwards. Finally, added linebackers Ian Wild and Micah Awe to fortify the middle of their defence. Tobi Antigha could be the underrated signing of the offseason for Toronto as well.

However, there is still work to be done on the back-end of this defence. Quarterback competition notwithstanding, defensive back is the key need left with this group. Standout Kevin Fogg was the lone signing in the secondary for the Argos, a team that ranked at the bottom of many passing categories on defence in 2018. It remains to be seen if there is a “pro-ready” prospect in this year’s draft.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats – Middle Linebacker

This was the most difficult team to find a legitimate weakness for. Running back could’ve been selected but the addition of Cameron Marshall masks that. Middle linebacker was selected only because of how good Larry Dean was for this defence. This isn’t necessarily an indictment on Lucas Wacha, however, he has big shoes to fill.

An NFL cut or someone else could emerge and battle for that position but for a team that’s well rounded at nearly every spot, this is the one worth keeping an eye on throughout training camp and pre-season.

Montreal Alouettes – Pass Rushing Defensive End

A few weeks ago, CFL.ca released an article outlining key needs for each team. Differing on a number of them, where we came to an agreement was a defensive end for the Montreal Alouettes. In 2018, the Alouettes added Jamaal Westerman before flipping him to the Ticats in the infamous Johnny Manziel trade.

National Bo Banner and John Bowman offer a decent start for the Als but it won’t be enough. As CFL.ca’s article mentions, Tristan Okpalaugo is still a free agent and could offer significant value for this team. The CFL draft is an option as well, though Montreal doesn’t have a selection until the second-round.

Ottawa Redblacks – Running Back

Perhaps the Redblacks know something we don’t. After not offering the 31-year-old William Powell a contract, he took off for Saskatchewan leaving Ottawa thin at the running back position. They extended Mossis Madu Jr. who has plenty of potential but has yet to play in more than seven games since 2016.

The Redblacks may be going with the old adage that running backs are a “dime a dozen”. Keep your eye out for an international to compete for the starting job with Madu Jr.

Lull Period

It’s currently a lull period in the CFL right now. Free agency has come and gone and the CFL Draft is not until May 2nd. However, there are still some very important events taking place over the next few weeks and months. CBA negotiations are underway and will remain a major talking point until an agreement is met. But on a brighter note, the CFL Regional Combines are well underway with the National Combine beginning March 22nd.

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