Ratio Breakers: Plenty of Canadian content in free agency

TORONTO — Last week, CFL.ca put out a list of the top 30 players set to hit the market on the first day of free agency.

Yet while Greg Ellingson and Ernest Jackson are the big names everyone’s talking about, the true winner in free agency could boil down to Canadian content.

Only four players (one of them has since been extended) in the top 30 have Canadian passports but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of talented nationals set to become available.

Who are the Canadians that will define free agency? We take a look at 10 names you should know about:

 

Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography

1.
NOLAN MacMILLAN
OL | OTT

It’s easy to see why Nolan MacMillan is the top-ranked Canadian and the seventh-ranked player overall among pending free agents. The 26-year-old was an integral part of Ottawa’s Grey Cup run last season despite starting only six games, while the former ninth overall pick — standing at 6-foot-6 — offers the ability to play both guard and tackle.

Dario Ayala/CFL.ca

2.
ANDY FANTUZ
REC | HAM

Despite his age and injury situation, Andy Fantuz should still have value on the open market. The 33-year-old made Ticats history last season, becoming the first pass-catcher ever to reach 100 catches — before suffering a season-ending knee injury late in the year. He may be a late-starter in 2017 but can still make an impact.

Matt Smith/CFL.ca

3.
CORY GREENWOOD
LB | TOR

The third and final national listed among CFL.ca’s top 30 free agents, Cory Greenwood has been an elite producer since arriving in the league in 2014. The problem: he’s missed 16 games over the last two seasons and now he’s on the wrong side of 30. Still, it’s not often that elite national linebackers hit the free agent wire.

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

4.
HUNTER STEWARD
OL | BC

Hunter Steward, a former sixth-overall pick, took major strides for the Lions in 2016, starting 14 games on one of the league’s top offensive lines. National O-linemen are like gold in the CFL and at age 25, Steward stands to hit free agency at exactly the right time.

Walter Tychnowicz/CFL.ca

5.
J’MICHAEL DEANE
OL | OTT

A key component on Ottawa’s championship-winning O-line, J’Michael Deane has played 14 or more games in five straight seasons for the REDBLACKS and Stampeders. He’ll be 31 in May but the 6-foot-5 guard would be a valuable commodity for teams looking for veteran O-line help.

Matt Smith/CFL.ca

6.
CHRIS VAN ZEYL
OL | TOR

Chris Van Zeyl is still getting the job done in the twilight of his career. The 33-year-old started 18 games for the Argos at right tackle in 2016 and has played at least 14 games in seven straight seasons. Any team could use an experienced veteran that can hold his own outside.

Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca

7.
DAN FEDERKEIL
OL | CGY

The general consensus is that Dan Federkeil won’t likely consider options outside of Calgary, the city he’s spent his entire CFL and amateur career. Still, the 33-year-old is more than a minor footnote in free agency: he’s anchored the league’s best O-line for the last four seasons.

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

8.
MARC OLIVIER BROUILLETTE
S | MTL

It’s hard to imagine the Alouettes’ backfield without Marc Olivier Brouillette in the middle of it all, as the long-time Als safety has played 17 or more games for four straight seasons now. The 30-year-old plays a position usually filled by a Canadian and should have multiple suitors come Valentine’s Day.

Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca

9.
JABAR WESTERMAN
DE | BC

The best may be yet to come from Jabar Westerman, who recorded a career-high five sacks in 2016. He was a second overall pick for a reason and has emerged as a viable starter at defensive end — can the 27-year-old take the next step in his career and join the ranks of his older brother Jamaal?

The Canadian Press

10.
KIENAN LAFRANCE
RB | OTT

Kienan Lafrance has a career 4.2 rushing yard average but that doesn’t factor in his playoff performance in the Eastern Final. The 25-year-old ran wild in place of the injured Mossis Madu in that game, playing a central role in his team reaching the Grey Cup. As a talented Canadian running back, LaFrance could be a ratio-breaker if given the opportunity.

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