Free Agency Preview: Calgary Stampeders

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Stampeders
REGINA, SK - SEPTEMBER 24: Micah Johnson #4 of the Calgary Stampeders on the sideline during the game between the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on September 24, 2017 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images)

Having finally captured the Grey Cup after back-to-back heartbreaking defeats in the previous two years, Dave Dickenson and company have their work cut out for them this off-season. Grey Cup MVP Bo Levi Mitchell exploring NFL options has been the big story for the Stamps since the 2018 season concluded. However, for the Stampeders to remain atop the CFL, the rest of the roster will have to be rounded out. Marken Michel, Chris Matthews, Alex Singleton, Jameer Thurman and James Vaughters will all be trying their hand down south which will make for a busy free agency for Calgary.

2019 CFL Free Agency begins at 12 p.m EST. on February 12th, 2019

Calgary Stampeders Current Free Agents

Quarterback:
Bo Levi Mitchell.

Wide Receiver:
Juwan Brescacin, DaVaris Daniels, Lemar Durant, Bakari Grant, Eric Rogers.

Offensive Line:
Randy Richards, Quinn Smith, Ucambre Williams, Spencer Williams.

Defensive Line:
Ja’Gared Davis, Micah Johnson, Cordarro Law, Ese Mrabure, Junior Turner.

Linebacker:
Maleki Harris.

Defensive Back:
Tunde Adeleke, Emanuel Davis, Ciante Evans, Patrick Levels, Brandon Smith, Adam Thibault.

Must Sign Free Agents

Emanuel Davis, Ucambre Williams, Randy Richards, Micah Johnson, Juwan Brescacin.

Bo Levi Mitchell and those trying out for the NFL aside, these are the five free agents the Stampeders absolutely need to resign for the 2019 season. Williams and Richards both started in the Grey Cup for Calgary. Keeping that offensive line intact will be crucial in keeping the offence moving at a consistent pace. With the departure of Michel and Matthews, Brescacin suddenly becomes a key piece. At 26-years-old and being Canadain born, he should be a priority over Rogers and Grant. Davis led the secondary with four interceptions in 2018 and Calgary would likely want to bring him back. Micah Johnson, 14 sacks. Enough said.

What the Stampeders have:

  • Running Back Depth
  • Experienced Offensive Line
  • Elite Special Teams
  • Pass Rushers
  • Quality Coaching Staff

Running back Depth

Don Jackson, Terry Williams and Romar Morris all shared the rock in 2018 and it paid big dividends. Combined they tallied 1,542 yards, eight touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards-per-carry. With question marks at quarterback, Calgary will have to lean on this trio to help carry the offence. Unless Mitchell or Reilly are dawning red, black and white, the run game will be the focal point of this offence. Thanks to this three-headed-monster, that isn’t a bad thing.

Experienced Offensive Line

It seems as though every season the Stampeders face a myriad of injuries on the offensive line. Yet, every season they find a way to make it work. That is proof of quality coaching and talent evaluation that the Stampeders are known for. It’s a big reason why the Stampeders finished tied for first in sacks allowed with 27. If Calgary is able to resign Ucambre Williams and Randy Richards and keep this unit intact, any quarterback should have plenty of confidence behind this group.

Elite Special Teams

Yes, we are going to talk about special teams, it’s an important part of the game. Rob Maver was fourth in punting average in the CFL with an average of 45.9 yards per punt. Meanwhile, Rene Paredes was good on 41 of his 45 field goal attempts on the season. On the receiving end, Terry Williams brought back three kicks for touchdowns in 2018 while Romar Morris brought back one of his own. Special teams is a third of the game and Calgary has been keen on mastering this facet.

Pass Rushers

The aforementioned Micah Johnson tallied 14 sacks in 2018. Calgary was able to generate sacks beyond Johnson’s contributions with Ja’Gared Davis’ seven sacks and Vaughters’ five. Law and Turner were able to rack up four apiece as well. With Vaughters testing the NFL, the Stamps still have depth at play though they are free agents. Stampeder fans would like to assume they would keep a good portion of their pass rushers and if that’s the case this group will be just fine going into the 2019 campaign.

Quality Coaching Staff

Calgary’s coaching staff took a blow with the loss of DeVone Claybrooks this off-season. However, Brent Monson, an internal hire appears primed to take the reigns. The Stamps rounded out the defensive side of their coaching staff with the hire of former Eskimos linebacker, J.C. Sherritt. Special teams coordinator, Mark Kilam has also added the title of assistant head coach in 2019. While their leader Dave Dickenson remains at the helm fresh off his 2018 Grey Cup victory.

What the Stampeders need:

  • Linebackers
  • Quarterback
  • Secondary Depth
  • Re-sign Receivers

Linebackers

The departure of Singleton and Thurman have left the Stampeders void of two playmakers in the heart of their defence. The Stamps have done their best to provide continuity for this group with the resigning of Wynton McManis who primarily served as a backup last season. Also with the team are Canadian linebackers Corey Greenwood, Eric Mezzalira and Riley Jones. The Stampeders will need to look outside their organization for more experienced linebackers.

Possible candidates: Chip Cox, Kyries Hebert, Marcus Ball, Jovan Santos-Knox, Sam Hurl, Kevin Francis, Micah Awe.

Quarterbacks

In case you haven’t heard, Bo Levi Mitchell is making an attempt at the NFL. Now that that’s been established, where do the Stampeders go from here? Nick Arbuckle has certainly shown flashes and at 23-years-old Dickenson could attempt mould Arbuckle over time into a quality starting quarterback. However, after coming off a Grey Cup win, expectations are high for a franchise that has quite simply dominated the CFL since 2008. Perhaps now is not the time to try to develop a young quarterback on the fly. Similar to nearly every other CFL team, Calgary will look to bring in a quarterback to compete for the starting job.

Possible candidates: Mike Reilly, Trevor Harris, Jonathon Jennings, Travis Lulay, Kevin Glenn, Zach Collaros, Brandon Bridge.

Secondary Depth

The Stampeders have a plethora of free agents at defensive back. That being said if they are able to re-sign a majority of this position group then this becomes a non-issue. Calgary would be hard pressed to lose both Davis (four picks) and Smith (three picks) in free agency. However, if that is the case, look for Calgary to take a run at the following.

Possible candidates: Kevin Fogg, Jonathan Rose, Dominique Ellis, Ronnie Yell, Josh Johnson, Jovon Johnson, Anthony Orange, Winston Rose, Joe Burnett.

Resign Receivers

This is not to say Calgary couldn’t or shouldn’t look outside their squad for a marquee receiver, like a Duron Carter. However, if they are adamant at replacing their holes at linebacker and paying a quarterback starting money, then they may be better served at running it back with last years core. It’s no guarantee any of these receivers would take a “hometown discount”, but the Stampeders would be well served in attempting to keep the core intact.

Possible candidates: Juwan Brescacin, DaVaris Daniels, Lemar Durant, Bakari Grant, Eric Rogers.

The Last Word

The CFL is a funny league in where a team can go from worst to first or vice-versa in just one season. Calgary has been the true model for consistency over the last decade. Through the transition from Henry Burris – Drew Tate – Kevin Glenn – Bo Levi Mitchell and a leadership change from John Hufnagel to Dave Dickenson, Calgary is no stranger to adversity. But this off-season is different. All nine teams are being tested with the ongoing CBA negotiations, a mass of free agents and coaching changes. But make no mistake, if there’s any team that can weather the storm it’s the Calgary Stampeders led by President and General Manager John Hufnagel.

My prediction is the Stampeders bring aboard Zach Collaros as a stop-gap quarterback while Arbuckle continues to develop. They may bring back veteran Joe Burnett, land Marcus Ball and take a flyer on Sam Hurl for depth purposes as their main signings.

UPDATE:
Shortly after the publishing of this article, news broke that Bo Levi Mitchell may, in fact, stick around in the CFL if he doesn’t receive an offer he likes from an NFL team.

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