The CFL Free Agency is always an exciting event, and 2020 has been no exception. Many teams have been signing some big names in the hopes of reversing their fortunes; on the other hand, those that had a successful 2019 have been mainly consolidating their rosters so they can continue to dominate in the upcoming season.
However, with names such as Willie Jefferson and Matt Nichols on the negotiation list, it’s easy to lose sight on some of the hidden gems of the league – players who might not make the headlines but will have a big impact on their new teams. Here, I look at the top five under-the-radar free agency signings of this year’s offseason.
Boris Bede (K) – Montreal to Toronto
Kickers don’t usually make headlines in the CFL, so the Toronto Argonauts acquiring Boris Bede from Montreal went largely unnoticed. Toronto signed Bede through a trade with the Alouettes in return for Tyler Crapigna, Toronto’s starting kicker. It’s a great signing for the Argos, who have had a highly productive offseason – Bede will help ramp up the struggling Toronto offence, who were at the bottom of the league for field goals last season with a 73% completion rate.
Additionally, Bede’s abilities as a punter will serve him well, especially on a team lacking a dual-threat kicker. In 2019, he was third in the league for punting yards and led the CFL in kickoff yardage, the kind of numbers Toronto sorely needs. The Argos’ offence should be able to get a lot more points off the boot of Bede in 2020.
DeVier Posey (WR) – Montreal to Hamilton
After a quiet season in BC and a year riddled with injuries in Montreal, wide receiver DeVier Posey looks to get back into the limelight after being signed to Hamilton in an early pick-up. With the Tiger-Cats losing Bralon Addison to the NFL, and with no new contract for veteran Luke Tasker in sight, Posey looks to be a strong addition to the Hamilton receiving corps, which includes star players such as reigning MOP Brandon Banks and rising rookie Jaelon Acklin.
In the vacuum following Addison’s departure, Hamilton needed experience as well as skill, and they have it in Posey. Whether Dane Evans or Jeremiah Masoli starts this year, expect Posey to become a big target for the Tabbies.
Ryker Mathews (OL) – Hamilton to BC
With quarterbacks, receivers and running back trades making the news, it’s easy for offensive linemen to fly under the radar in the CFL Free Agency. However, one of the most impactful signings of the offseason might be Ryker Mathews heading to BC. It’s no secret that the Lions’ offence struggled last year mainly because quarterback Mike Reilly lacked adequate protection. In 2019, a BC quarterback was sacked 58 times – that has to change if the Lions want their star quarterback to be able to perform.
Enter Mathews. The 27-year-old American, who 3DownNation considers “one of the CFL’s best shutdown left tackles”, has been hard at work keeping quarterbacks Zach Collaros, Jeremiah Masoli and Dane Evans safe in the Hammer. Now, he’ll bring this expertise to Vancouver to keep the pocket open and let Reilly make the plays he’s famous for.
Craig Roh (DE) – Winnipeg to Toronto
Behind a poor offence usually lies a lacklustre defence, and Toronto was no exception last year. The Argos had 562 points scored against them in 2019, despite being second in the league for total tackles. Whether other teams were too good, or the Toronto defence was bad, the fact of the matter is that the Argos simply weren’t able to put on the pressure. The addition of Craig Roh from Winnipeg will no doubt help with this.
Roh leaves the Blue Bombers having recorded six sacks, sixteen tackles and three forced fumbles in 2019. He’s got experience on two CFL teams and has won a Grey Cup. Above all, he’s shown to be able to consistently put the pressure on quarterbacks, helping the Bombers shut down many an offence en route to the playoffs. Following a productive offseason, the Argos have all the pieces they need to form a strong defensive line, but Roh will help them tie everything together.
Dakota Prukop (QB) – Toronto to Calgary
Forget flying under the radar in the free agency – Argos quarterback Dakota Prukop has been overlooked for his entire career. However, his signing with the Calgary Stampeders will likely change that. The rookie American took to the field for the first time last year, throwing for 284 yards and three touchdowns. Not incredible numbers compared to other backups, but that’s not what makes Prukop a great pick for Calgary.
The biggest question marks for the Stampeders revolves around the loss of secondary pivot Nick Arbuckle to Ottawa. With the lack of an experienced backup in Cowtown, Prukop may prove key in the event of injury.
Displaying good talent in the air and on the ground, Prukop will be a valuable addition to Calgary’s offence, whether in the form of an emergency starter or as a short-yardage quarterback.
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