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.
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