It’s never too early to start thinking about next season, especially when you’re a CFL fan. It helps when the schedule was released, just in time for the holiday season. However, the levels of uncertainty for each club has never been higher in recent memory. The off-season has brought with it our elite quarterbacks, Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly receiving NFL workouts, coaching changes and a new CBA being negotiated. CFL Free Agent Frenzy doesn’t open up until February 12th, 2019. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a nice wishlist for each CFL team. Here’s what the following fans should be asking for this Christmas with the help from our team of writers:
For Nick Arbuckle to be the real deal.
While Stamps fans would love to have Mitchell back they certainly should not be rooting for him to fail in his NFL aspirations. Therefore, to allow Calgary to fill out the rest of their roster with talent and not have to pay a free agent quarterback top end cash, Calgary fans should hope for Arbuckle to emerge as a true number one pivot.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) July 13, 2018
For Mike Reilly to return.
This is the lazy, obvious choice but it’s the right one. Reilly hasn’t had as many NFL looks as his divisional foe, however, the threat of the B.C. Lions making a play for the 33-year-old quarterback looms. Reilly has shown no signs of slowing down playing in more than 17 games and throwing for more than 28 touchdowns each season since winning the Grey Cup in 2015. He’s the face of the franchise, a leader in the community and the Eskimos heartbeat.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
For Adam Bighill to return (Nik Kowalski).
Adam Bighill was a force to be reckoned with in blue and gold. There’s no other way around it, he was a big reason why the Bombers got as far as they did this season, especially when Nichols was going through his mid-season struggles. 105 tackles, two interceptions and tied a career-high in forced fumbles with four. At 30, Bighill won’t be slowing down for a few years yet and Bomber fans should want nothing more than to see him back in Winnipeg in 2019.
Bring back key pieces of the defence.
There are many directions to go on this one, personally, I’d like to see Mike Reilly in green & white. However, Santa only grants realistic wishes for his CFL teams. That said, Rider fans should be wishing for the vaunted 2018 defence to stay intact going into 2019. If the Riders can get just competent quarterback play next season and allow the defence to do what it does best, stifle opposing offences. It could be a recipe for success. Willie Jefferson, Sam Eguavoen and Charleston Hughes in Rider uniforms in June of 2019 would be a welcome sight.
I promise I’m not being lazy, these are just the facts. With the addition of DeVone Claybrooks as the Lions new Head Coach, the defence will be well looked after. On offence, the Lions will need a field general like Mike Reilly to take the reigns. Not since prime Travis Lulay have the Lions had a franchise quarterback, Jennings was quick to flame out after a hot start and Lulay’s best days are behind him. As mentioned by CFL.ca’s Marshall Ferguson, the Lions have weapons in DeVier Posey, Bryan Burnham, Tyrell Sutton and Jeremiah Johnson, the just need someone to deliver the ball and minimize mistakes.
For a number one quarterback to take the reigns and not look back (Stephen Paish)
Since the retirement of Anthony Calvillo, the Montreal quarterback position has been anything but settled. Many have come and gone but exactly none have held on to the number one position in football. The Alouettes aren’t taking any chances as they will enter camp with five quarterbacks under contract that all seemingly will have an opportunity to start. Johnny Manziel, Antonio Pipkin, Vernon Adams Jr., Jeff Matthews and Matthew Shiltz. Now the goal becomes finding out which of the bunch can cement themselves as the franchise pivot going forward. Montreal fans just need one of them to do so.
A healthy receiver group.
Jeremiah Masoli took major strides in 2018 that earned him Most Outstanding Player consideration. Throwing for 5,209 yards and 28 touchdowns to go with a 98.3 quarterback passer rating. That was with a decimated receiver group. The Ticats sustained season-ending injuries to Brandon Banks, Jalen Saunders, Shamawd Chambers, Terrence Toliver and Chris Williams. Aside from Calgary who had their share of receiver injuries themselves, the Ticats likely had the worst luck at this position group in the league. With a young quarterback in Masoli, that’s not an ideal situation to be in. The Ticats could be the leaders in the East in 2019, but they’ll need their pass-catchers to be near 100% to do so.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 23, 2018
For James Franklin or McLeod Bethel-Thompson to emerge as a franchise pivot.
The Argonauts have been spoiled over the years as they’ve had the privilege to watch future Hall of Famer Ricky Ray sling the ball since 2012. However, after a devastating and likely career-ending injury, the responsibility now falls on the shoulders of two largely inexperienced pivots. Each showed flashes but neither put confidence in the Argos as future franchise quarterbacks. Bethel-Thompson and Franklin both sported similar passer ratings at 82.8 and 82.4 respectively. That’s no reason to change course going into 2019, healthy competition in training camp and retaining playmakers like Duron Carter could go a long way in these two quarterback’s development.
Retain as many of their 30+ free agents as possible.
As mentioned countless times, there is a lot of uncertainty this off-season with a new CBA being negotiated. Many players may wait to resign deals until the new CBA is agreed upon. In that case, the Redblacks picked a bad time to have 30+ free agents on their team, including quarterback Trevor Harris. With Toronto and Montreal not quite close to contending and having the Ticats number in 2018, the Redblacks will want to keep their stranglehold on the East. There’ll need to be a lot of signatures over the next six months to ensure that continues.
Continue momentum of securing a team.
The Schooners have a lot going their way since chatter emerged over the last year and a half they would be looking at getting a team. The release of the 2019 schedule has the Toronto Argonauts going against the Montreal Alouettes August 25th in the return of CFL Atlantic. On top of that, 6,000 season-ticket applications have been sold in Halifax with drawings on a future stadium to be released soon. There are still many hurdles to clear before we see a team in the Atlantic region but the process is well underway.
The Last Word
In the CFL, teams can fall from the mountaintop just as fast as they got there (2018 Argos) or can ascend to the peak in the same amount of time (2016 Redblacks). While many teams have multiple holes across their roster, these “wishes” could go a long way in making or maintaining these teams as contenders. Not every team will get what they want (or need) but that’s the nature of the CFL.
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