Monday, 9 February 2015

Where Will the Top 20 Sign?

The time has come, football fans!

No, it's definitely not yet June. But rather, the second most exciting time of the offseason: free agency! There is a little more than 24 hours to go before players can put pen to paper with new clubs and, thankfully, a decent crop of free agents remain.

Since a staff writer at completely bombed their ranking of the Top 20 free agents still available – backup running back Kendial Lawrence was atop the list, while Kevin Glenn, a BACKUP quarterback, was listed ahead of two-time All-Star tackle Stanley Bryant – so I decided to take matters into my own hands and come out with what I believe is a more accurate list of the top 20 remaining free agents and where I think they may be heading.

(1) Brett Jones, Centre, Calgary
Only the Calgary Stampeders could afford to lose a player like Brett Jones and hardly suffer the next year. Jones, the 2014 Most Outstanding Lineman, is reportedly still drawing interest down south and, fortunately for Calgary, they have 2014 first-overall pick Pierre Lavertu ready to replace the 23-year-old phenom. Should Jones stay up north, expect Saskatchewan to go all out in pursuit of the Regina native. After losing Ben Heenan to the NFL and releasing former centre Dominic Picard for salary cap reasons, the Riders could really alleviate the consternation in Rider Nation by picking up Jones. Despite the Riders' room for Jones' salary and the Stamps being prepared to lose him, my gut feeling tells me Jones won't be able to leave the Stampeders just two years into his career. It will be close, but the Stamps will retain Brett Jones.

Prediction: Re-signs with Calgary.

(2) Stanley Bryant, Left Tackle, Calgary
Bryant, a back-to-back All-Star in 2013 and 2014, will likely be in the middle of a bidding war between the Ottawa RedBlacks and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Bomber general manager Kyle Walters has stressed numerous times that upgrading Winnipeg's offensive line is his No. 1 priority this offseason. Ottawa general manager Marcel Desjardins would also like to beef up his offensive line, but there are other large holes to fill as well. Bryant will be in for some good money wherever he signs.

Prediction: Signs with Winnipeg.

(3) Geoff Tisdale, Cornerback, Montreal
I expect BC, Saskatchewan, Toronto and Ottawa to all be in on the auction to sign Tisdale, the only No. 1 corner still available. The Leos made it known they were looking for an upgrade over veteran Dante Marsh this offseason, which is why I believe Tisdale will return to the West Division and line up across from Ronnie Yell in BC in 2015.

Prediction: Signs with BC

(4) Brian Peters, Linebacker, Saskatchewan
Peters remains an absolute must re-sign for the Riders. If Saskatchewan lands Brett Jones or Geoff Tisdale, then Peters will follow Richie Hall, his defensive coordinator in Saskatchewan, to Winnipeg. Since I have my doubts regarding the Riders actually signing one of Jones or Tisdale, I think they hang on to their leading tackler.

Prediction: Re-signs with Saskatchewan.

(5) Ernest Jackson, Wide Receiver, BC
All signs point to Jackson reuniting with his college quarterback Drew Willy in Winnipeg. The Bombers are in need of another international receiver and Jackson is the best of those available; however, Winnipeg made a splash by signing Nick Moore in free agency last year and just inked Clarence Denmark to an extension last September, so I don't think Winnipeg will want all three of their international receivers to be making north of $180,000/year. Ottawa would be Jackson's next best option as they are still starving for playmakers and can give Jackson the money he desires.

Prediction: Signs with Ottawa.

(6) SirVincent Rogers, Left Tackle, Toronto
Ottawa will have to "settle" for SirVincent Rogers at left tackle after missing out on Bryant. Rogers will still be a major upgrade over the revolving door of players the RedBlacks plugged in to protect Henry Burris' blindside last season.

Prediction: Signs with Ottawa.

(7) Tristan Jackson, Cornerback, Saskatchewan
Jackson's skills in coverage have come a long way since his early days in Saskatchewan, when he was primarily used a returner. Hamilton and Montreal are both in the market for upgrades at cornerback, but I think Montreal will win out on this as they may be looking for Geoff Tisdale's replacement.

Prediction: Signs with Montreal.

(8) Nic Grigsby, Running Back, Hamilton
No teams are currently in the market for a No. 1 running back this off-season, so the market for Grigsby’s services might not be that hot. Perhaps the Argonauts will give the 2014East Division All-Star a look, but even I don't think Grigsby would change allegiances for a third time in less than a year… would he? Grigsby will re-sign in Hamilton and form a pretty dynamic duo with C.J. Gable in 2015.

Prediction: Re-signs with Hamilton.

(9) Kendial Lawrence, Running Back, Edmonton
Lawrence, named the No. 1 free agent by, had an impressive first year with the Eskimos, playing both slotback and running back. John White, Edmonton's starting tailback, had a good year but isn't exactly cemented as the team's starter like Jon Cornish is in Calgary or Andrew Harris is in BC. For that reason, and because no other team is in desperate need of a starting running back or return specialist, I think Lawrence stays in Edmonton and has another good year as a feature player in Edmonton's offence.

Prediction: Re-signs with Edmonton.

(10) Sam Giguère, Wide Receiver, Hamilton
National players often move back home in free agency and I fully expect the Sherbrooke, Quebec native to continue that trend this offseason. The Als are in need of another Canadian pass-catcher and Giguère is the best one available. Giggy would be the icing on the cake to an already successful offseason in Montreal.

Prediction: Signs with Montreal.

(11) Rennie Curran, Linebacker, Edmonton
Curran played very well while filling in for the oft-injured JC Sherritt in the middle of Edmonton's linebacker corps. Curran is the exact type of player Bomber head coach Mike O'Shea wants in the middle of his defence: big, physical, vocal and a locker-room favourite. Winnipeg needs a MIKE linebacker and Curran meets the requirements.

Prediction: Signs with Winnipeg.

(12) Brad Sinopoli, Wide Receiver, Calgary
Just like Giguère heading home to Montreal, Sinopoli will head home to Ottawa and immediately receive a large role in the RedBlacks’ offence. The former CIS quarterback has been steadily developing as a receiver since arriving in Calgary and will look for his first big role in the nation's capital.

Prediction: Signs with Ottawa.

(13) Glenn January, Left Tackle, Winnipeg
Calgary and Toronto are both likely losing their starting left tackles, Stanley Bryant and SirVincent Rogers, to Winnipeg and Ottawa, respectively, and may be looking for new starters in free agency. Hamilton may also be in the market for an upgrade at tackle, but I expect them and Calgary to address that need in the draft. The eight-year CFL veteran will have options this year as a cheaper alternative to Bryant and Rogers.

Prediction: Signs with Toronto.

(14) Kevin Glenn, Quarterback, BC
Riders general manager Brendan Taman will get run out of Riderville if he doesn't bring in another quarterback and Darian Durant gets injured once again. Taman will turn to the league's best insurance policy to add veteran the depth behind Durant.

Prediction: Signs with Saskatchewan.

(15) Johnny Sears, Defensive Back, Winnipeg
Sears can line up all over the field and would be a useful player for many teams. The Bombers are reportedly close to re-signing the four-year pro, who would likely start at SAM linebacker for Winnipeg in 2015.

Prediction: Re-signs with Winnipeg.

(16) Dan LeFevour, Quarterback, Hamilton
LeFevour looked impressive last year before tearing his ACL in his fourth game as Hamilton’s starter. The Lions will look to the scrambling Central Michigan product to provide some certainty at quarterback as Travis Lulay's shoulder injuries continue to hang over the franchise.

Prediction: Signs with BC.

(17) Justin Hickman, Defensive End, Hamilton
Hickman hasn't played in very many football games over the last few years, serving mostly as a reserve player with the NFL's Indianapolis Colts before signing back with Hamilton midway through the 2014 season. The Ti-Cats need another pass rusher opposite Eric Norwood and will turn to the 2011 CFL All-Star in the hopes that he can return to form in 2015.

Prediction: Re-signs with Hamilton.

(18) Jason Barnes, Wide Receiver, Toronto
Despite an injury-riddled campaign in 2014, Barnes is still one of the league’s best red zone targets. The BC Lions may look to add another international receiver if Ernest Jackson leaves and, coincidentally, Barnes and Jackson are similar receivers. The Ray-Barnes connection is six-years strong, so I see Barnes returning to T.O. after testing the market.

Prediction: Re-signs with Toronto.

(19) Dan Clark, Guard, Saskatchewan
If Clark's blocking skills are anywhere near as good as his hands, he will start somewhere in 2015. Edmonton and Hamilton are both in the market for offensive guards and would certainly like to bring in a national like Clark to compete for a starting spot in 2015.

Prediction: Signs with Hamilton.

(20) Bakari Grant, Wide Receiver, Hamilton
Grant hauled in 69 passes for 947 yards in 2013 and would fit in nicely as a third receiver in Winnipeg or BC and would do so at a much more reasonable price than many other receivers both teams could target. Hamilton is deep at the receiver position and will let Grant look for a larger role elsewhere.

Prediction: Signs with Winnipeg.

Other notable offseason signings:

Greg Ellingson, WR, Hamilton: Re-signs with Hamilton.
Nik Lewis, WR, Calgary: Signs with Ottawa.
Dante Marsh, CB, BC: Signs with Saskatchewan
Aaron Kelly, WR, Winnipeg: Signs with BC.
Curtis Steele, RB, Toronto: Re-signs with Toronto.
Spencer Watt, WR, Toronto: Signs with Calgary.
Edwin Harrison, RT, Calgary: Re-signs with Calgary

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