The Ottawa Redblacks only came into existence in 2014, yet have appeared in the last two Grey Cup championship games. So, the question becomes: heading into the 2017, will Ottawa make it three appearances in a row, and repeat as champions after winning the 2016 Grey Cup?
After losing to Edmonton in the 2015 Grey Cup, Ottawa went "all in" during the subsequent offseason, resigning three key players in defensive lineman Zack Evans, wide-receiver Chris Williams and linebacker Damaso Munoz, and then signing quarterback Trevor Harris, formerly of the Toronto Argonauts. Harris was supposed to be the "insurance policy" for aging quarterback Henry Burris (though Ottawa secretly hoped Harris would win the job outright), as Burris turned 41 years old before the season began. Ironically, Burris ended up with the starting job as the regular season ended, and guided the Redblacks to the 2016 Grey Cup win, in which he was named MVP of the game.
Burris is slated to start for the RedBlacks in 2017, but given his age, and the fact that he had knee surgery in the offseason, the Redblacks will likely look to Harris once again to try and take the reins from Burris. Regardless of who wins the job, they're going to work with an offense that might lack some of the firepower it had in 2016. Ottawa will have to make some tough decisions regarding who to bring back among their talented corps of running backs and wide receivers, as many of them are currently free agents.
After losing their first game of the season last year, the Calgary Stampeders only lost one game before being upset by Ottawa in the Grey Cup. 2016 marked their 12th straight year of reaching the postseason, even after the transition at head coach from John Hufnagel (who moved upstairs into more of a front office capacity) to David Dickenson.
But even after a largely successful season in 2016, they'll have plenty of work to do in the coming months. 26 different Calgary players are eligible for free agency, if they're not re-signed by the team by mid-February of 2017. The list includes offensive lineman Derek Dennis, Dan Federkeil, and Pierre Lavertu, defensive linemen Charleston Hughes (who led the CFL with 18 sacks last year) and Micah Johnson, wide receiver Marquay McDaniel (who led the team with 83 catches for 1,074 yards last year), veteran fullback Rob Cote, kicker Rene Paredes, and punter Rob Maver.
Still, Calgary will head into 2017 knowing that they still have quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell (the CFL's Most Outstanding Player in 2016), running back Jerome Messam (the CFL's Most Outstanding Canadian in 2016), and receiver DaVaris Daniels (the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie in 2016).
The BC Lions, Edmonton Eskimos, and Winnipeg Blue Bombers all very much remain in the mix for 2017, but all have questions around their top skill position players. The Lions have to figure out how to put pieces around quarterback Jonathon Jennings. The Eskimos must figure out if they'll be able to retain the services of receiver Derel Walker, who is likely to draw some NFL interest, or if they can count on anyone internally to fill any void he might create. And the Blue Bombers? They're not even sure who'll be under center next year, as all three of their quarterbacks are currently free agents.