February 12, 2019 10:25 pm

Rick Zamperin: Eskimos win CFL free agency, Ticats lose key defenders

CFL teams were extremely busy on day one of free agency.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
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What an incredibly exciting opening day of CFL free agency.

From a fan perspective, can anyone recall a better start to the league’s free agent period? I can’t.

The number of free agent signings came fast and furious, and unlike past years, most of the biggest fish in the pond didn’t need any time at all to decide whether to sign with a new team or remain with their club.

Edmonton may have lost franchise quarterback Mike Reilly to the B.C. Lions in what was the biggest jolt on day one of the free agency period, but the Eskimos made up for that loss – and then some.

It’s official! Mike Reilly is a B.C. Lion

Esks general manager Brock Sunderland signed QB Trevor Harris and receiver Greg Ellingson from Ottawa, pried away linebackers Larry Dean and Don Unamba from Hamilton, and grabbed receiver DaVaris Daniels from provincial rival Calgary. Not a bad day’s work, eh?

Edmonton Eskimos GM talks about moves made on Day 1 of CFL Free Agency


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The Tiger-Cats not only lost two-thirds of their starting linebacking corps on day one, they also saw backup running backs Mercer Timmis head down the QEW to Toronto and John White bolt to B.C. It’s a good thing Hamilton re-signed linebacker Simoni Lawrence and cornerback Delvin Breaux Sr. on Monday, because it would have been devastating to lose them, too.

READ MORE: Tiger-Cats re-sign Simoni Lawrence and Delvin Breaux Sr.

The Redblacks lost a lot of talent after seeing Harris and Ellingson flee to the Alberta capital and tailback William Powell go to Saskatchewan, while Montreal (WR DeVier Posey and OL Spencer Wilson) and Toronto (RB Chris Rainey and DB Kevin Fogg) improved their rosters.

Among the other key moves, Winnipeg signed defensive lineman Willie Jefferson away from the Roughriders, Saskatchewan nabbed DL Micah Johnson from Calgary, and the defending champion Stampeders were able to keep star QB Bo Levi Mitchell in the fold following his much publicized NFL tryouts and amid word he was offered a big contract by the Argonauts.

READ MORE: Bo Levi Mitchell re-signs with Stampeders, joining Rogers, Turner, Brescacin

Aside from crowning the Eskimos the winners of free agency, at least thus far, the West Division became even stronger with the additions of Harris, Ellingson, Dean, Unamba and Powell.

With Ottawa losing some key players, and Toronto and Montreal still in rebuild mode, I think it is safe to say the Tiger-Cats have more than enough talent to cruise to an East Division title in 2019.

That is, if Hamilton can beat the crossover playoff team in the East final.

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