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CFL Free Agency Preview: Grey Cup champion Argos need to nail down QB situation

Free agents are eligible to officially start signing with CFL teams on Tuesday at 12:01 p.m. ET / 9:07 a.m. PT. 

But it’s not going to be the dramatic moment the league likely had hoped for when it introduced a ‘legal tampering period’ to free agent negotiations in 2020. 

Many of the top free agents have had their signings leak out in the past week – with only an official tweet or press release to come. 

Of the top 10 free agents on the league’s own website, only two seem not to have certain homes for 2023. 

Nevertheless, not all is finalized. When the dust settles over the next few days, we should have a better idea of where each team stands. 

Here’s a look at some of the top storylines. 

The quarterbacks

It appears the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders are going to swap quarterbacks with Trevor Harris going to the Green Riders in free agency (according to a Canadian Press report) and Cody Fajardo off to La Belle Province (according to 3 Down Nation). 

With Harris having ties to new Als head coach Jason Maas, many felt he was bound to stay in Montreal. But ongoing ownership problems in Montreal seemed to open the door to a change of scenery for a veteran quarterback who has re-established himself as a top option for teams. 

Fajardo, coming off a year in which he lost his top job with Saskatchewan in the midst of an awful campaign for the Roughriders, reunites with Mass, who was the offensive co-ordinator in Regina before being fired. 

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats made the biggest splash at quarterback, acquiring the negotiating rights to Bo Levi Mitchell from the Calgary Stampeders before he hit free agency and then inking the 32-year-old to a three-year contract. While Mitchell has a great resume, he too is coming off a down year in which he lost his job. He’ll be out to prove he remains a top force in a year the Ticats host the Grey Cup. 

The reigning Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts appear to be the lone team without a surefire starter. McLeod Bethel-Thompson hasn’t confirmed if he is coming back to the league this season, which could clear the way for the promising Chad Kelly to become Toronto’s starter. 

But Kelly, despite a great final drive filling in for an injured Bethel-Thompson in the Grey Cup, still has plenty to prove. One option for Toronto could be Dane Evans of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, whose time with the Argos’ main rivals likely is done now that Mitchell is on board. 

The strong get stronger 

The Argos and Grey Cup runner-up Winnipeg Blue Bombers both made moves in the past week to bolster their rosters. 

Toronto acquired Canadian linebacker Jordan Williams, the 2020 first-overall pick and the 2021 rookie of the year, from the B.C. Lions for a first-round pick and also came to terms with highly regarded defensive end Folarin Orimolade, formerly of the Calgary Stampeders, according to CP. 

The Bombers, meanwhile, have an agreement with top receiver Kenny Lawler (who played for the Edmonton Elks last season) to return to Winnipeg, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. 

He joins a receiving corps featuring reigning rookie of the year Dalton Schoen. 

Big names still up for grabs 

Calgary defensive lineman Shawn Lemon, Montreal receiver Eugene Lewis, Saskatchewan linebacker Darnell Sankey and Montreal defensive back/linebacker Adarius Pickett are among the big names without reported new deals. 

2021 CFL all-star defensive back Cariel Brooks also became available last week after the Ticats released him. 

Keep an eye on 

The ownership situation in Montreal, which has been a mess. 

This needs to get solved in a hurry – as it looks likely the Als are going to lose several key players. 

The estate of Sid Spiegel is now the majority owner of the club.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie hasn’t said much on the matter in the past few weeks. He needs to address it soon. 


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