…how might the eastern and western division races look?
The free agency signings are slowing down in the Canadian Football League, though some intriguing players still remain available.
With that frenzy of signings behind us, let’s make our first pre-season predictions:
No way this team gets bit by the injury bug in 2017 as it did in 2016. And the defensive backfield looks a whole lot better with Abdul Kanneh there. No top line players from 2016 left via free agency, though waiving Peter Dyakowski still seems like a bad move.
I’m that guy who predicted that the REDBLACKS were going to take a step back in 2016. (Brilliant, I know.) The reason why I am convinced that will happen this year is that a lot of heart from that squad has either retired or moved on. Trading for Drew Tate is notable.
Stability and a steady hand at quarterback. Those two ingredients give the Als hope that they can make a legitimate run for a playoff spot in 2017. Montreal also held onto almost all of its best defensive players, though it failed to keep Marc-Olivier Brouillette.
The team’s top receivers are gone. One of its best backs is stepping away. A leading defensive back left. The Argos salvaged free agency by grabbing three Hamilton castoffs, Jeff Mathews, Johnny Sears Jr. and Dyakowski. And even if Jim Popp and Marc Trestman are reunited, success won’t happen immediately.
Think about this: The Stamps played one bad half of football over the final 17 weeks of the season. Unfortunately that was the first half of the Grey Cup. Allowing offensive lineman Derek Dennis to walk was the only setback for this team, but it could be huge.
A year older. A year wiser. But better? Could be. Consider the receiving threesome that is Emmanuel Arceneaux, Bryan Burnham and Chris Williams (once he’s recovered from his ACL injury) working with quarterback Jonathan Jennings. Just imagine if linebacker Adam Bighill had opted to stay.
The Esks will return to form in 2017, and that means there will be no need to worry about being a crossover playoff team. Edmonton suffered no major losses in free agency and made some improvements in the backfield. Losing receiver Derel Walker to his NFL dreams will hurt.
The Blue Bombers went from awful to respectable in 2016. Now what? I doubt they’ll come close to 30 interceptions or 25 forced fumbles. Two of their top seven tacklers are with another team, and the eighth remains unsigned. In this division all of that can’t be good.
The Roughriders have signed something like 1,834 different players this off-season, but they still don’t have an A-list quarterback. Until that happens, Saskatchewan will remain in the basement. Saying that, this will be a much better team in 2017.