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CFL free agency: Winners and losers

theScore logo theScore 2017-02-17

A handful of players felt the love this Valentine's Day, as CFL teams added to their rosters in the lead-up to the 2017 season.

Eight of theScore's top 10 free agents inked new deals on Day 1 of free agency, with four joining new teams, while top receiver Ernest Jackson signed on Day 3.

Winners

Ottawa RedBlacks

Keeping a championship roster intact was always going to be difficult, but Ottawa RedBlacks general manager Marcel Desjardins did his part in setting the team up for another Grey Cup run.

With 1,000-yard receivers Chris Williams and Jackson appearing to be on their way out, Desjardins added skilled but cheaper replacements in Toronto receivers Kenny Shaw and Diontae Spencer.

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Shaw, a second-year pro, led Toronto in receiving with 1,004 yards on 77 receptions and five touchdowns, while Spencer was second with 706 yards, adding three touchdowns.

The RedBlacks also upgraded their linebacking corps, signing former Winnipeg linebacker Khalil Bass, who had 181 tackles, nine sacks, three interceptions, and five forced fumbles over his last two seasons.

Desjardins was also able to re-sign offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan, the team's first-ever draft pick, along with wide receiver Greg Ellingson, to pair with Shaw, Spencer, and Brad Sinopoli.

On defence, Jerrell Givens inked a new deal, softening the blow of fellow All-Star defensive back Abdul Kanneh leaving for Hamilton.

Derek Dennis and Ernest Jackson

Offensive lineman Derek Dennis and Jackson reaped the rewards of strong 2016 campaigns. Dennis signed a three-year deal worth $170,000 per season, according to Justin Dunk of 3 Down Nation, making him one of the highest-paid linemen in the league, while Jackson inked a two-year deal in the neighbourhood of $160,000, according to Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette.

Dennis was named Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 2016, while Jackson was the 2016 East Division nominee for Most Outstanding Player.

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Jackson will finally be the No. 1 option in the Argos' passing game. In B.C., he played second fiddle to Emmanuel Arceneaux, while in Ottawa there were three other 1,000-yard receivers in both of his seasons there.

Losers

Toronto Argonauts

Not having a GM or head coach in place for the start of free agency speaks to the dysfunction within the Argos' organization. That shouldn't happen in professional sports.

At a time when it's trying to sell itself to prospective players, the team being without a vision for the future is disconcerting - something Dennis pointed out.

"Toronto was appealing to me because it's closer to home and easier for my family to get to me and it's a beautiful city and a beautiful market to be in as a professional athlete, but that was really the only selling point they were giving me, just the market," Dennis told Scott Mitchell of the Toronto Sun of his decision between Saskatchewan and Toronto. "There was nothing that was giving me the direction or who they're going to hire as a coach or GM."

"Talking to (advisor Tommy) Condell at first, I was feeling comfortable," he added. "It was after I spoke to (president and CEO Michael) Copeland that I was like, you could tell, I mean, I don't know, I just didn't feel it."

Missing out on one of the league's best offensive lineman because of organizational issues is a black eye for the Argos.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

It's one thing to sign the most prized free agents, it's another to be able to use them to their full potential.

The Roughriders were a mess last season, tying with the Argonauts for the worst record in the league at 5-13.

Saskatchewan made more headlines over being fined for using ineligible players than winning games in GM and head coach Chris Jones' first season in Regina.

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Signing a talented offensive lineman in Dennis could ease the pain from 2016, but since he's classified as an international player, he'll eat up a big chunk of the salary cap.

Also, 37-year-old Kevin Glenn headlines the quarterback group, teaming up with 34-year-old receiver Chad Owens.

There would have been a far greater chance of Saskatchewan achieving success without Dennis on their roster, considering the current team makeup.

(Photos courtesy: Reuters)

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© Mark Blinch / Reuters
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