2023 has officially arrived and we are just six weeks away from the start of CFL free agency. Currently, more than 200 players are set to hit the market, including several standout players who could reshape the landscape of the league.
Below is a list of the CFL’s top 25 pending free agents, created through a survey of 3DownNation taxpayers. An updated version of this list will be posted in February as the offseason unfolds and players decide whether or not to return to their current teams.
Note that “N” denotes domestic (ie Canadian) players and “A” denotes US players.
25) QB Cody Fajardo, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)
Once the most popular man in Riderville, the veteran center was benched at the end of 2022 with Saskatchewan’s season still in the balance. Despite his regression last season, Fajardo’s passer rating was still better than Bo Levi Mitchell, Jeremiah Masoli, Vernon Adams Jr., McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Dane Evans.
24) DB Kameron Kelly, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)
The 26-year-old has started 32 straight games for the Ticats at strongside linebacker since his rookie season in 2021, recording 87 tackles, six interceptions and three sacks. He is young, athletic and seems to have the ability to make big plays at key moments.
23) OL Derek Dennis, Calgary Stampeders (A)
The 34-year-old played well in his first CFL season after a two-year hiatus, securing the left tackle job at Cowtown before sustaining a broken fibula. Despite his age and injury, the four-time Western Division All-Star should still generate interest if he hits the open market.
22) DL Jackson Jeffcoat, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)
The 32-year-old is coming off a relatively quiet season, but he remains one of the most feared pass-rushers in the league. He has recorded 30 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in 64 career games in Winnipeg and was named a 2021 CFL All-Star.
21) LB Darnell Sankey, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)
The 6-foot-1, 245-pound defenseman was a bright spot in Riderville last season, making 122 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception. Sankey is a big-engine defender who is arguably the best inside tackler in the league.
20) OL Stanley Bryant, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)
The future first-ballot Hall of Famer won the fourth most outstanding offensive lineman award last year, but it’s hard to miss the fact that he’ll be 37 when next season rolls around. Franchise left tackles always have value, though it’s clear Bryant is fast approaching the end of his playing career.
19) DB Garry Peters, BC Lions (A)
The six-year veteran was named a CFL All-Star for the first time last season after making 47 total tackles and five interceptions in 18 starts at cornerback. Peters has been one of the most durable players in the league since he joined the Lions in 2018 and hasn’t missed a game due to injury.
18) REC Steven Dunbar Jr., Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)
The 6-foot-3, 203-pound target is coming off a breakout year in which he caught 72 passes for 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. Dunbar was a paragon of consistency in 17 starts last season, finishing every game with at least 30 passing yards.
17) DB Adarius Pickett, Montreal Alouettes (A)
The 26-year-old is arguably the best young strongside linebacker in the CFL, coming off a year in which he made 80 total tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception. Pickett brings physicality and athleticism to a defensive role that requires both.
16) REC Nic Demski, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (N)
The Winnipeg native was one of the most dangerous red zone threats in the league last season, hauling in at least one touchdown pass in six straight midyear games. Demski is also one of the most versatile players in the league, as he blocks well and has proven to be an effective ball carrier out of the backfield.
15) QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Toronto Argonauts (A)
The 34-year-old has led the CFL in passing touchdowns and passing yards, but he still doesn’t seem to have the respect of a true No. 1 quarterback. There are rumors that Bethel-Thompson could retire this offseason, but if he plays in 2023, there are several teams that could use the services of a veteran quarterback.
14) RL Shawn Lemon, Calgary Stampeders (A)
The veteran pass-rusher was named the West Division’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player after making 29 tackles, 14 sacks and five forced fumbles last season. Lemon simply refuses to slow down at the age of 34, making him an attractive option for teams looking to generate more rim pressure in 2023.
13) OL Zack Williams, Calgary Stampeders (North)
Talented young offensive linemen typically don’t make it to free agency, which is exactly what makes Williams so attractive. The 25-year-old started every game at left guard last year as part of an offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks in the entire league and helped Calgary lead the CFL in rushing yards and rushing yards per attempt.
12) REC Kurleigh Gittens Jr., Toronto Argonauts (North)
The Ottawa native led the CFL in receiving among Canadian players last season, having 81 receptions for 1,101 yards and five touchdowns in 18 games as a slotback and wide receiver. The former third-round pick has been named a star of the East Division in back-to-back seasons, but he’s still young with untapped potential.
11) LB Jameer Thurman, Calgary Stampeders (A)
The 27-year-old has seemingly flown under the radar his entire career, but he remains one of the most consistent defenders in the league. He made 74 tackles in 2022 along with three interceptions and two forced fumbles, helping lead a defense that finished third in offensive points allowed and fourth in net offense allowed.
10) DL Anthony Lanier II, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)
This may seem too high for a player who has only played in 21 career CFL games, but the 29-year-old was a force to be reckoned with last season. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound defenseman made 19 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles at defensive tackle before suffering a season-ending concussion, after which Saskatchewan’s pressure all but disappeared.
9) DL Lorenzo Mauldin IV, Ottawa Redblacks (A)
The 30-year-old exploded with 43 tackles, 17 sacks and two forced fumbles last year, setting new career highs and winning the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award. Mauldin appears to be ready to hit the open market, as he told the media during Gray Cup week that he plans to test free agency.
8) LB Cameron Judge, Calgary Stampeders (N)
The former Canadian West Division standout had a comeback season in Cowtown, making 80 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions in 17 games. Judge is one of the most athletic and versatile linebackers in the league and he’s only 28 years old.
7) REC Kenny Lawler, Edmonton Elks (A)
The former CFL star signed a mega-contract with the Edmonton Elks last offseason and lived up to it for the most part, racking up 58 receptions for 894 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games despite a ton of turnovers at quarterback. countryside. Although it’s unlikely he’ll match the $300,000 he earned a season ago, Lawler is arguably still the best target in the league.
6) LB Wynton McManis, Toronto Argonauts (A)
The 28-year-old was dominant last season and could have won Most Outstanding Defensive Player if he hadn’t suffered a torn bicep late in the year. He made 95 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble at weakside linebacker last season, earning a CFL All-Star selection despite the injury.
5) QB Trevor Harris, Montreal Alouettes (A)
The veteran quarterback entered last season as a backup but quickly earned a starting role, passing for 4,157 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and going 8-7 as a starter. Harris will turn 37 in May, but he has relatively low mileage for his age and believes he still has a lot of good football ahead of him.
4) DL Folarin Orimolade, Calgary Stampeders (A)
The fourth-year defenseman posted a respectable stat line last season — he made 37 tackles, six sacks, one interception and one forced fumble — but that’s not why he’s on this list. Orimolade finally avoided the injury bug long enough to showcase his potential as an elite running back who helps make those around him better, making him an ultra-intriguing potential free agent.
3) DL Jake Ceresna, Edmonton Elks (A)
The 28-year-old was a one-man wrecking crew last season, making 31 tackles, 10 sacks and four forced fumbles in just 12 games. Ceresna was named a CFL All-Star for the first time in 2022, and at 28, he should have many more elite seasons ahead of him.
2) REC Eugene Lewis, Montreal Alouettes (A)
The Oklahoma product had a career year in 2022, notching 91 receptions for 1,303 yards and 10 touchdowns in 17 games. Lewis makes as many standout catches as any receiver in the CFL and should set the market for receivers across the league when he signs his next contract, be it with Montreal or otherwise.
1) QB Bo Levi Mitchell, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)
The 32-year-old was traded to Hamilton in mid-November, though he plans to hit free agency before committing to a new team. The future Hall of Fame quarterback hasn’t posted elite numbers since he was named the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 2018, but he appears to have fully recovered from a shoulder injury that plagued him during his final years at Calgary.
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