Four veteran free agents the Redblacks should invite to training camp

At this point in the off-season, nearly all the big name fish have been landed. The average CFL fan scanning a list of remaining names on the free agent market would be forgiven for not recognizing many of the players. That being said, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any talent left in free agency pool. In fact, the opposite it is true.

While most CFL GMs are largely done shaping their roster, a shrewd GM will recognize that there is still value to be had. Because at this point in the off-season, any player without a contract who aspires to be on a CFL roster come June will likely have to settle for a significantly smaller contract that they originally envisioned, a boon for GMs tight up against the cap. And while those GMs won’t be inking any starting caliber players this late in the off-season (aside from those NFL hopefuls who decide to return North), experienced depth players are always a hot commodity.

With all that in mind, here’s four players the Redblacks should take a flyer on and invite to training camp.

DE Justin Hickman

At 31 years old, Hickman is coming off a statistically down year with the Argos. Though he suited up for all 18 games in 2016, he only managed to take down the opposing QB four times. Still, given that Ottawa lacks depth at the DE position (with only three listed on their roster), I’d be interested to see if DL coach Leroy Blugh might be able to help him recapture a spark of his old form. You’d don’t pile up 40 career sacks, 15 forced fumbles and 196 tackles by accident.

RB Shakir Bell

Heading into his 3rd CFL season, the 25 year old Bell is still looking for a new city to call home. Despite being limited to just four games in 2016 due to injury, Bell averaged 6.3 yards per carry, turning his 68 touches into 425 yards and a touchdown. If healthy, Bell is a proven dual threat, as illustrated by his career average of 9.8 yards per reception.

Although he is coming off an injury, the Redblacks lack a defined #1 running back. Even with Mossis Madu and William Powell in the fold, Bell’s combination of speed, shiftiness and power present an intriguing option.

DB Cauchy Muamba

Muamba, a seven year veteran, would help bolster Ottawa’s Canadian depth and provide insurance against an injury to Antoine Pruneau. In addition to contributing on special teams, Muamba is incredibly versatile, capable of playing linebacker, halfback and safety.

CB Patrick Watkins

At 34 years old, Watkins best days are clearly behind him. Though he might not be the shutdown down corner he once was, he’s still no slouch. Over 16 games in 2016, Watkins set a career high in tackles with 73 and made two interceptions.

As things currently stand, the Redblacks secondary is set to be quite young, with Mitchell White, Forrest Hightower, Adbul Kanneh and Jeff Richards all having left in free agency. Given that turnover, Watkins’ experience and leadership skills could be an asset used to mentor a young secondary.

Santino Filoso

Santino Filoso

Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)
Santino Filoso
Santino Filoso
About Santino Filoso (225 Articles)
Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)

12 Comments on Four veteran free agents the Redblacks should invite to training camp

  1. mrnehnehincognito // April 27, 2017 at 12:08 pm //

    Seems to me these 4 will tend to be injury replacements or late season additions should a playoff team have a need

  2. I’m surprised these four free agents weren’t signed already.

  3. Have to agree on all 4. I think Watkins is an interesting case. He has the size to pay SAM, is a sure tackler, & losing a step wouldn’t hurt him there. He was playing hurt all year in 2016 as well from a pre-season game. Im really not sure why Bell’s around. Derek Taylor, the CFL stats guru, rated him among the best @ his position in a number of categories. I was sure the Riders would pick him up & I believe this is (another) oversight by Jones. No offence to Ottawa but LaFrance was #4 on the depth chart & Bell’s better in my opinion.

  4. CC Rider // April 27, 2017 at 2:52 pm //

    Just saw this topic among the ‘related articles”. Can we take a second to compare Santino’s precitions again Robin’s?

    • Not sure what Robin’s were but Sal’s were four of six.

      The new RB pair delivered 9 sacks versus the old RD pair that delivered 16 sacks.

      D block INTs of 16 was good for third in the league.

  5. Scottsask // April 27, 2017 at 4:24 pm //

    Ricky Foley is also out there and could still contribute.

  6. Jimmy Breslin // April 27, 2017 at 5:18 pm //

    Agree Santino, good call, and Bell might also prop up the return team, not sure who’s designated to run back punts & kicks now but would they be as dangerous ? All depends on the money of course. Will he sign for low dollars ?

    • If Jamill Smith is still with the RedBlacks plus was the 2016 returner (double Chris William’s return yards and in line with CW’s 2015 return yards) – why would there be a change?

      It is hard to assess Shakir Bell as a returner considering the CFL web site is reporting no stats for returns but the game by game stats say 8 KR for 143 yards with 1 missded FG return for 42 yards.

      • I don’t believe Smith is on the roster any longer, which is fine because he’s actually quite average. The majority of big plays in the return game were actually by Tristan Jackson.

      • Jimmy Breslin // April 29, 2017 at 6:47 am //

        Chris Williams is a BC Lion, Jamill Smith and Tristan Jackson remain free agents which likely means neither will be back in Ottawa unless late emergency call-ups. Those three were the primary return men last year therefore my questioning if Shakir Bell might fit that role. As for Jamill being “quite average”, maybe so but he never dropped the rock so at least there was comfort in knowing few if any disastrous turnovers by the special teams unit. One fumble makes everyone look bad. The guilty and the innocent. Jamill was steady.

  7. Pat Watkins did not look like the same player last season. Appeared that time finally caught up to him. I would argue that his increase in tackles is not a positive stat as offense seemed to throw and complete more passes in his direction though I do not have an official stat in that regard. Agree with EW- he could become a Sam or dime Linebacker in order to prolong his career.

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