Solidifying D Huf's next job

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

It's hard to find a Calgary Stampeders defensive player with a contract for next CFL season.

As the Stamps cleaned up their gear Monday in preparation for another long offseason of pondering what could have been, it's clear GM/head coach John Hufnagel is going to be busy.

Nine key defensive players are about to hit free-agency, and almost all of them have a case for a raise, despite the 20-16 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West Final.

The Stamps fielded the best defence in the CFL this season and were rewarded when three were named all-Canadians -- Dwight Anderson, Brandon Browner and Juwan Simpson.

All three happen to be pending free agents, as are defensive tackles Tom Johnson and DeVone Claybrooks, linebackers Malik Jackson and Keon Raymond, safety Wes Lysack and defensive back Brandon Smith.

"I can't do them all at once," Hufnagel said Monday.

"You try one or two at a time and then keep pecking away.

"Hopefully, we can sign the majority of them."

Of course, there are other free agents on offence.

Receiver Romby Bryant made a good case for a raise with 15 receiving touch-downs this season.

Left tackle Ben Archibald is up for CFL lineman of the year, while fullback Rob Cote was a steady presence at his position.

Where to start with the priority list?

At least Hufnagel doesn't need to convince them Calgary is a great place to play.

The majority of the pending free agents said they would like to be back.

"I'm going to weigh out my options," Bryant said.

"I want to be back with (this receiving corps). I don't want to play anywhere else, to be honest with you. I want to come back next year and win (the Grey Cup)."

There's a possibility the Stamps could lose a player or two to the NFL.

Browner, Jackson and Johnson could choose to go that route.

Johnson certainly put together a decent resume. He was a force in the West Final with three knockdowns and four tackles in a dominating performance.

"From the year I have, there might be something that arises," said Johnson, who gets to see his daughter Thursday on her fourth birthday.

"If it does, I will take my chances on it. With the opportunity at hand, if I play in the CFL, I want to be a Calgary Stampeder.

"I have a good relationship with the coaches and players. We have something special. You see it on the field."

Simpson will be sticking around Alberta for another week, as he's due in Edmonton Wednesday and Thursday to take part in the CFL awards night for which he's up for most outstanding defensive player.

Raymond has moved his wife and four kids to Calgary for the winter.

Had the Stamps made the Grey Cup, Raymond would be sidelined for the title game, as he tore a triceps muscle.

The defensive group is a tight group, and it's disappointing to them they didn't get it done this year, as the window on this group is probably closing.

"It would be great to bring every single guy back," Anderson added.

"The reality of the game is it won't be possible. There will be new guys next year. There will be guys leaving."

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