CFL free agency winners and losers: Breaking down Day 1

Ottawa Redblacks Trevor Harris (7) throws the ball as Hamilton Tiger-Cats Don Unamba (1) defends, during first half CFL East Division final football. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

CFL free agency started with a bang Tuesday as all three major quarterbacks on the market signed big deals.

Here’s a breakdown of the winners and losers from Day 1:



Anytime you can add last season’s top passer to your roster, it’s a good day. The Lions locked up quarterback Mike Reilly to a four-year, $2.9-million deal off the bat and significantly upgraded their offence in the process.

Reilly led the CFL with 5,562 passing yards in 2018 while playing with the Edmonton Eskimos and added 30 touchdown passes (second in league). B.C. needed some stability under centre after the team threw for the third-fewest yards (4,282) last year.

The Lions also assured Reilly some protection by inking Canadian offensive lineman Sukh Chungh, who spent the previous four seasons with Winnipeg, and wide receiver Lemar Durant.

Losing your No. 1 quarterback to another team in your division was worrisome, but GM Brock Sunderland turned his day around by signing quarterback Trevor Harris.

Harris, who threw for 5,116 yards and 22 touchdowns last season for Ottawa, is a great replacement for Reilly and also two years younger. Harris managed to convince receiver Greg Ellingson and offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers, both Redblacks teammates, to join him in the City of Champions.

Sunderland was also able to sign receivers DaVaris Daniels and Ricky Collins Jr., making the Eskimos one of the most dangerous offences this coming season.

If you thought Winnipeg’s defence was intimidating before, adding defensive lineman Willie Jefferson to the mix made the Blue Bombers even more scarier.

The 28-year-old defensive lineman joins a Winnipeg team already employing linebacker Adam Bighill, the 2018 CFL most outstanding defensive player, and defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.

Jefferson had 34 defensive tackles, 10 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles for the Saskatchewan Roughriders last season. Couple that with an offence led by Matt Nichols and Andrew Harris and the Blue Bombers will be dangerous.

Calgary saw several players leave its roster, but still ended up keeping a familiar face at quarterback.

Bo Levi Mitchell signed a four-year deal with the defending Grey Cup champions after several reported offers from other teams such as Saskatchewan and Toronto.

He led the league with 35 touchdown passes and his presence will help the Stampeders compete in the ultra-tight West.

Montreal didn’t make any ground-breaking moves, but made strides to improve on last year’s 5-13 record.

The Alouettes got a pair of players from Calgary — defensive back Patrick Levels and offensive lineman Spencer Wilson — signed their career sack leader John Bowman, receiver DeVier Posey, fullback Christophe Normand and linebacker Bo Lokombo.

How Johnny Manziel fares in his second CFL season will shape much of how Montreal does in 2019.



GM Jeremy O’Day wasn’t able to keep pace with the other West Division teams and had to settle with re-signing oft-injured quarterback Zach Collaros and losing Jefferson.

The Riders were hoping to get one of the big three quarterbacks but failed to capitalize in one of the more lucrative free agent days in recent memory. Collaros missed several games last year with a variety of injuries, including a concussion, as he threw for 2,999 yards and nine touchdowns.

Saskatchewan did land all-star defensive tackle Micah Johnson, linebacker DyShawn Davis and running back William Powell, but there will be questions on offence.

Losing your No. 1 quarterback, receiver, running back and offensive lineman is going to hurt.

The Redblacks said Tuesday they were comfortable rolling with 29-year-old Dominique Davis at QB to start 2019, but signed free agent Jonathon Jennings on Wednesday.

Jennings, however, needs to prove he can be consistent under centre throughout an entire CFL season.

Davis has played parts of three seasons in the CFL and saw the most game action last season with Ottawa, playing in eight games and going 24-for-39 passing for 373 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

The Tiger-Cats lost the East Division’s top defensive player last season in linebacker Larry Dean along with fellow linebacker Don Unamba.

However, there was a bit of silver lining in getting Tunde Adeleke from Calgary and receiver Brian Jones.

Much of the focus will be on how Jeremiah Masoli fares with receiver Brandon Banks and new head coach Orlondo Steinauer.

With uncertainty surrounding Ricky Ray’s health status, Toronto wasn’t able to pull the trigger on landing a quarterback to guide its offence should Ray retire.

Ray suffered a season-ending neck injury early last year against Calgary and the Argonauts weren’t able to get much production out of either James Franklin or Mcleod Bethel-Thompson.

QB options still on the table include Travis Lulay, who played last year for B.C., along with veteran Kevin Glenn and 26-year-old Brandon Bridge.

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