With 14 players set to test the open market, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have some sizable positional holes.
General manager Kyle Walters should look to upgrade positions such as receiver, cornerback, and safety.
With CFL free agency kicking off in less than 24 hours, here are five players Walters should go after to fill such needs.
1) Emmanuel Arceneaux/Duron Carter
One of these two veteran receivers would be a great pickup for the blue and gold. With Weston Dressler and Nic Demski possibly departing for another team, receiver will become an even bigger need for Winnipeg.
Emmanuel Arceneaux’s resume includes over 8,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. The eight-year CFL veteran has spent all eight seasons with the B.C. Lions. But after a career-low 553 yards in 2018, Arceneaux could be moving on from Vancouver. Arceneaux is listed at 6’2 210 lbs., providing great size. Manny may be on the decline, but signing the experienced 31-year-old to a one-year deal would be a smart decision by the Bombers.
Duron Carter has flown under the radar since his release in Saskatchewan. With limited action on social media and just 10 catches in eight games with Toronto, Carter’s stock has gone down too. When on his game, Carter is a number-one receiver. Attitude problems aside, signing the talented, tall athlete to a one-year deal should be something the Bombers consider. He’d add some fuel to the prairie rivalry too.
2) Chris Ackie
The absence of Chris Randle, Maurice Leggett, and possibly Taylor Loffler in the Bombers secondary means Winnipeg needs to find game-changing defensive backs. Right now the Bombers have Anthony Gaitor, Chandler Fenner, Marcus Sayles, and possibly Jeff Hecht to fill six secondary spots.
Chris Ackie had a breakout campaign in 2018. Ackie’s 88 tackles, two interceptions, and rare contract have led to an early chance at signing an NFL deal. If Ackie doesn’t find a home down south, he is someone the Bombers should jump at. Ackie can play strong-side linebacker or at any position in the secondary. To top it off, he’s Canadian too.
3) Winston Rose
With the Bombers possibly moving on from Kevin Fogg, Winston Rose is an excellent replacement at the field-side cornerback. Rose was part of what surprisingly became an elite B.C. Lions secondary last season. The 25-year-old made 32 tackles and grabbed five interceptions last season, along with eight tackles on special teams. Rose won’t demand that much money and can be a serviceable starter and a stout special-teamer.
4) Anthony Thompson/Tunde Adeleke
With Taylor Loffler likely leaving Winnipeg, the Bombers should look elsewhere than Jeff Hecht to replace the three-time all-star in Loffler. As far as National safeties go, Anthony Thompson and Tunde Adeleke are the next best available players.
Thompson’s spent three seasons with the B.C. Lions, starting the last two. Thompson has speed — he ran a 4.43 forty-yard-dash at his pro day — that allows him to quickly get from sideline to sideline. He’s not on Loffler’s talent level, but he’d be a much cheaper, starting-worthy National safety.
Adeleke is more of a work in progress. The former Carelton Raven started a bunch of games for Calgary in 2018 but was ultimately sat for Adam Berger in the playoffs. Adeleke, 23, is an athletic playmaker that can also provide returning duties. Although he had one kick return in 2018, in 2017 Adeleke took two punts back for touchdowns on just 26 returns. Adeleke would be a good fit in blue and gold; Winnipeg may be in the market for a returner, given the statuses of Kevin Fogg and Nic Demski.
5) Vidal Hazelton
Vidal Hazelton is someone Walters should take a flyer on. The 6’3 212 lbs. receiver has had issues staying healthy the last three seasons, playing 29 games in that timespan. But when in the lineup, Hazelton can be as good as a number-two receiver. In 2017 Hazelton recorded 709 yards in just 11 games. With just 346 yards in 10 games last season, Hazelton will come cheap, and his upside is worth bringing in for at least a year
Bonus: Sukh Chungh and Brandon Alexander
Sukh Chungh and Brandon Alexander are two players that Walters has to retain. Matthias Goossen’s sudden retirement has already hampered the Bombers offensive line and talent of National starters. Without Chungh, the Bombers offensive line is not so scary anymore. Chungh is a young, Canadian guard that is likely asking for around $200,000 per year, while the Bombers are likely offering around $150,000. If Winnipeg and Chungh can agree to a middling offer, it’ll be worth the money for Winnipeg.
Winnipeg is lacking starting depth in the secondary, as mentioned. Alexander is a physical, versatile defensive back with good coverage skills. He also wouldn’t be too expensive, likely asking for around $100-110,000 at most.
The Last Word
The above players are just a few options in what’s a massive pool of talented free agents. The Bombers need to shore up their receiver, cornerback, and safety positions. By targeting experienced, sized International receivers, Winnipeg can solidify what has been an ongoing issue for the club. On defence, finding starters at defensive back, mainly cornerback and safety, is a must.
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images