The NFL season may be over, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t professional football to wager on until September.
CFL free agency opened at noon on Feb. 14, and several marquee players will be switching jerseys ahead of the 2023 season. Futures odds for the 2023 season opened shortly after the Toronto Argonauts shocked the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 109th Grey Cup last November, but there are differing opinions on futures odds for some teams amongst online sportsbooks, especially following the free agent frenzy.
Here are two teams that the online sportsbooks are handicapping very differently.
Key additions: Bo Levi Mitchell (QB), James Butler (RB), Duke Williams (WR), Ja’Gared Davis (DE), Chris Edwards (DB), Joel Figueroa (LT)
In addition to re-signing some key players like franchise linebacker Simoni Lawrence and receiver Tim White, Hamilton’s front office added a total of 14 players within the first 72 hours of free agency opening.
The pressure is on in Hamilton this year as the team hasn’t won the Grey Cup since 1999, and the city will be hosting the 110th edition of the championship game in November at Tim Hortons Field, affectionately known as The Donut Box.
Veteran quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell signed a three-year deal with the Tiger-Cats after the team traded for his rights from the Calgary Stampeders, who won two Grey Cups with Mitchell under centre. He became Calgary’s all-time leading passer in 2022 and has thrown for 32,541 yards with 188 touchdowns and 89 interceptions over his 10-year career.
With the quarterback position solidified, Hamilton also went out and signed running back James Butler, who recorded 1,060 rushing yards on 210 carries with seven rushing touchdowns while adding 53 receptions for 384 yards and four receiving touchdowns for the BC Lions last year. The versatile back should help take the pressure off Mitchell and give Hamilton a well-balanced and competitive offence.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Ja’Gared Davis is returning to Hamilton after winning the Grey Cup with the Argonauts last season. In fact, Davis is a good luck charm for whichever team he plays for as he’s now appeared in six consecutive Grey Cups. The 32-year-old is still one of the most feared pass rushers in the league, recording 36 tackles and seven sacks in 14 games for Toronto last year.
Hamilton’s 2023 Grey Cup odds are as short as +475 at bet365, while PointsBet doesn’t appear to believe in the revamped Tiger-Cats as evidenced by the long +1000 odds it’s offering bettors. If you believe in the Tiger-Cats’ roster overhaul, there’s value in the squad to win it all at +1000. And remember, if Hamilton can advance to the Grey Cup, it’ll essentially be a home game for the Tiger-Cats.
On Wednesday, Argos QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson announced he’s leaving the team to play for the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL. This could open the door for Hamilton to claim the top spot in the East Division this year unless Chad Kelly, the nephew of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback and Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly, can burst onto the scene and lead Toronto’s offence.
Key additions: Eugene Lewis (WR), Steven Dunbar Jr. (WR), Kyran Moore (WR), Kevin Francis (LB), Josiah St. John (OL)
The Elks have been the joke of the whole league after failing to win a home game over the past two seasons (0-18). Edmonton’s last home victory came on Oct. 12, 2019, which is forcing the team to offer some incredible season tickets deals to get fans back to Commonwealth Stadium and supporting the team.
On paper, the team should be better this year, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The unit put up a paltry 19.7 points per game last season, prompting a complete overhaul of the team’s receiving corps this offseason.
Kenny Lawler, Edmonton’s top receiver last year, left this offseason to rejoin the Blue Bombers, but the front office replaced him with a trio of pass catchers including Eugene Lewis, who caught a career-high 91 passes for 1,303 yards and 10 touchdowns last year for the Montreal Alouettes. Steven Dunbar Jr. and Kyran Moore were also added to the mix via free agency, giving the Elks depth at the important position.
Edmonton still doesn’t look like a Grey Cup contender, though, and the squad might not be a savvy bet to win it all this year. However, there could be value in the team to surpass its posted season win total, or qualify for the playoffs, once those markets are posted at online sportsbooks later this spring.
The CFL regular season gets underway on June 8.