Things move at a break-neck pace in the Canadian Football League both on and off the field and that becomes especially true in the offseason. It’s both a blessing and a curse, but any player could be on the move at any time. This offseason is already shaping up to be one of the more bizarre and wacky ones in recent memory, so I have come up with some equally bold (but not completely unreasonable) predictions. Let’s jump into it.
Bo Levi Mitchell Moves On From Stampeders
Kicking off our list, we have possibly the most controversial prediction of them all. Bo Levi Mitchell has been a fixture on the Calgary Stampeders since he came into the league in 2012. He has been known as one of the best, if not the best quarterback in the league for quite some time, but he may have already played his final downs in the red and white of the Stampeders. Reportedly, the Stampeders have asked Mitchell to restructure his contract ahead of free agency so there’s evidently interest from the Stampeders to keep him around, but that may not happen.
His 2021 season was subpar by anyone’s standard, but for Mitchell’s massive expectations, it was especially upsetting. He threw for nearly 2,600 yards, but his touchdown to interception ratio was just 10 to 13. He simply was not what the Stampeders needed him to be last season, and it might be time for them to cut their losses and move onto the future.
While Mitchell is still one of the better quarterbacks in the league right now, he couldn’t cope with the limited weapons he had. Jake Maier who replaced him for a couple of games has been re-signed by the Stampeders and looks to be their future. Maier could have taken his chances in free agency, but his return signifies that he believes there could be a starting opportunity for him there sooner rather than later.
As for where Mitchell could be heading, candidate number one should be the Toronto Argonauts. For all of the good that McLeod Bethel-Thompson has done with the Argos in the past couple of seasons, he hasn’t been able to get them over the hump and to the Grey Cup. In the 2019 offseason, the Argos offered Mitchell a monster contract reportedly worth “in the $750,000 range.” Knowing just how interested the Argonauts were in Mitchell in 2019, it’s not unreasonable to think that they would circle back now. My prediction, Mitchell will be wearing double blue in 2022.
Jeremiah Masoli Goes Unsigned
People have had Jeremiah Masoli‘s name as one to watch heading into the offseason, but there’s more than meets the eye for him right now. With this thing called COVID-19 going around (you may or may not have heard about it), player’s vaccination status has been pushed to the forefront of the conversation. Regardless of what you think about the global situation, there are rules in place that teams have to be thinking of and signing a quarterback who may not be available for a good portion of your games would be a huge oversight.
According to multiple reports including one from the Winnipeg Sun, Masoli remains unvaccinated against COVID-19 (from BOMBSHELLS: Bombers down a player as unvaccinated O-lineman suspended, but unvaccinated Ticats can play, Winnipeg Sun, December 8th, 2021). At the end of November, the Canadian government instituted a policy that bars unvaccinated people from boarding planes and passenger trains, two methods of travel that are highly used in the CFL.
No one wants to keep talking about vaccines or the pandemic, but it’s a reality that isn’t soon going away. General managers around the league can’t take the risk of having players on the roster who would be part-time players, and unless Masoli’s vaccination status changes, that’s what he would be.
“I’m not going to sign a player that can only play home games,” said John Hufnagel, the Calgary Stampeders’ general manager.
For the calibre of player that Masoli is at the position he plays, the amount of money he would command to be nothing more than a part-time backup wouldn’t be worth it. Unless he rolls up his sleeve and takes the jab, it’s unlikely that he will be wearing a helmet or even holding a clipboard in 2022.
Simoni Lawrence Moves West
This one might make us some enemies in Hamilton, but with their extensive list of free agents, they are bound to lose someone big. The guy that will draw massive interest from around the CFL is Simoni Lawrence, the man who has been a staple on the Tiger-Cats defence since 2013. The native of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania hasn’t slowed down in his early 30s, but with Hamilton’s window for contention potentially closing, Lawrence may have to look elsewhere to get his ring.
For yet another season, Lawrence was a massive contributor to the East Division-winning Tiger-Cats. Through 14 games, he had 73 tackles, four sacks, three interceptions, and two touchdowns. For his efforts, he was named a CFL East Division All-Star, a CFL All-Star, and won the James P. McCaffrey Trophy for the East Division’s most outstanding defensive player.
As to where Lawrence may move onto, well, that might make us some more enemies. My prediction, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have holes in their linebacking core (especially if they don’t soon get to work on re-signing some of their own) so it would make sense that they would have interest in bringing the superstar in. The Riders are currently scheduled to lose Justin Herdman-Reed, Jordan Herdman-Reed, and Deon Lacey to free agency, and while they have already re-signed Micah Teitz, Lawrence would look really good alongside him. The Roughriders and their fans have to be thinking about how nice Lawrence would look in the green and white.
Blue Bombers Lose Multiple Big Names
It takes a team filled with good players to win a championship, but when the offseason comes, those good players often get opportunities elsewhere worth dollars their old team just can’t afford to payout. The Blue Bombers were largely intact after their 2019 Grey Cup win, but after repeating in 2021, it’s almost certain that some of their key players will be pried away unless they decide to take massive pay cuts or leave plenty of money on the table in free agency, something they shouldn’t be expected to do.
The Bombers have star players left to lock up all over the field. Zach Collaros, Andrew Harris, Darvin Adams, Kenny Lawler, Stanley Bryant, and Willie Jefferson are just some of the big names. It’s almost certain that at least a handful of their better players will go elsewhere, especially when some of them have earned the right to have serious paydays.
It’s going to be a case of picking your own poison for general manager Kyle Walters. There are two obvious ones that should be priority number one, and those guys are Collaros and Bryant. After that, the decision should begin. Can you bring back Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat? If you do, what does that mean from Adam Bighill? Is it time to move on from Harris? How can you pay Lawler and keep names like Adams, Drew Wolitarsky, and Rasheed Bailey?
Those are just some of the possibly thousands of questions going through Walters’ mind this winter, but unless he has a magic wand, it’s beyond unlikely that the Bombers can retain all of their stars. Walters has built something special in Winnipeg, but navigating this offseason might be the most difficult task of his career.
Redblacks Add Former Bombers
It wasn’t a good season for the Ottawa Redblacks in 2021, particularly with the offence on the field. It seems like they have found their quarterback with Caleb Evans, but with the offensive line folding around him constantly, virtually no running game to speak of, and no big-play receiver, Evans was hung out to dry. There will of course be a connection to Hamilton with Shawn Burke taking over as general manager, but head coach Paul LaPolice will still have a say in who the team brings in, and his Winnipeg connections could earn him some new players in key positions for his football team.
There are going to be a couple of predictions rolled into one here, but they will all be former Blue Bombers heading to the nation’s capital for the 2022 season. The Redblacks will sign a receiver, an offensive lineman, and a running back who were Blue Bombers in 2021. The receiver position is the only one I have brought down to one player, but I believe that Adams will be a Redblack in 2022. He’s getting older, but he still brings explosiveness to the table and is the exact kind of player LaPolice needs in his offence right now.
Next, Ottawa will sign one of Michael Couture, Drew Desjarlais, or Patrick Neufeld on the offensive line. The entire starting offensive line that took the Bombers to the Grey Cup in 2021 is up for a new contract, and with how dominant they were, getting them all back would be a miracle. The three mentioned above are all Canadian and were instrumental on the interior of the line for Winnipeg all season, but one of them will call Ottawa home in 2022.
Finally, the running back. This one is down to two names, but neither of them is Harris. Both Johnny Augustine and Brady Oliveira have shown themselves to be capable of being starting running backs in the CFL, but behind Harris, neither of them will be able to earn that spot. If Harris does move on, they still can’t both be starters on the team. At least one of the two will be moving on in all likelihood, and with both carrying a Canadian passport, it would be a great chance for the Redblacks to add a potentially ratio-busting running back.
Much To Come
There’s so much time before the ball is kicked off the tee for the first time this summer. Your favourite team could look entirely different in the next couple of months, but that’s half the fun of the CFL. If you want to keep up with your favourite team, see the links below!
|BC Lions||Free Agency 2022|
|Calgary Stampeders||Free Agency 2022|
|Edmonton Elks||Free Agency 2022|
|Hamilton Tiger-Cats||Free Agency 2022|
|Montreal Alouettes||Free Agency 2022|
|Ottawa Redblacks||Free Agency 2022|
|Saskatchewan Roughriders||Free Agency 2022|
|Toronto Argonauts||Free Agency 2022|
|Winnipeg Blue Bombers||Free Agency 2022|