Though such moves are rare, CFL teams are permitted to claim players off opposing practice rosters.
Three provisions must be met in order for such a transaction to take place.
Firstly, the team making the claim must have an active roster spot available for the player in question. A player can only be transferred from a practice roster to an active roster — not merely to another practice roster.
Secondly, the team that owns the player’s rights can retain them by moving the player to the active roster, one-game injured reserve or six-game injured reserve. This can prove problematic for teams, however, as roster space is limited.
Thirdly, the player in question must consent to the transfer. Going to a new team is always in the player’s best financial interest — active roster spots pay considerably more than practice roster spots — but may not be desirable for other reasons.
Practice roster claims could be more prevalent this season due to increasing interest in the AAF. CFL teams are finding it more difficult to recruit new players to the league. Limiting the pipeline of new talent as injuries pile up late in the season could make for some creative roster management.
With this in mind, here are five practice roster players who could be on the move before season’s end.
DL Cory ‘Poop’ Johnson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Johnson doesn’t have any sacks this season, but the big man has applied a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Having recently lost his starting spot to rookie Brandin Bryant, Johnson has fallen out of favour in Winnipeg due in part to his tendency to take penalties.
Aggressive, physical, and disruptive, Johnson would make the perfect plug-and-play addition for a pass rush-needy team down the stretch this season.
OL Justin Lawrence, Calgary Stampeders
Lawrence spent the first third of the season on Calgary’s active roster, a rare accomplishment for a late-round pick. Though his height (6’0) may limit him to playing centre, Lawrence is seen by many as a starter in the not-too-distant future.
I have a hard time seeing Lawrence leaving Calgary voluntarily — his hometown of Edmonton is close-by and there is a chance that he could start in Cowtown as early as next season. Even so, he’s a good prospect who is (technically) available. If they haven’t already, teams should take note.
QB Zach Kline, Edmonton Eskimos
Kline has spent the past two seasons learning from Jason Maas and Mike Reilly. If I’m a quarterback-needy team — hello, Montreal — I’m putting in a claim for the 24-year-old before the season is out.
Kline has looked solid in a handful of preseason outings and appears to have all the tools required to be an effective quarterback — athleticism, arm talent, smarts, and grit. Whether or not Kline proves to be a good CFL quarterback remains to be seen, but he’s worth a look — especially if you can get him for free.
OL/DL Kay Okafor, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Okafor was one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the country during his senior season at St. FX. Moved to the offensive side of the ball as a rookie, Okafor has spent the past two years building his frame and honing his skills to play offensive tackle.
There’s a lot of value in a Canadian tackle who’s poised to potentially earn a starting role in the near future. For a club that values athleticism and lacks depth along the offensive line — Saskatchewan comes to mind — Okafor would be a great fit.
REC Markeith Ambles, Calgary Stampeders
Ambles was once one of the most highly-recruited high school football players in the United States. Though his college career fell short of sky-high expectations — he recorded 49 catches for 791 yards over two seasons at Houston following a transfer from USC — Ambles could still one day meet his full potential.
Calgary is a great place to be for a young receiver looking to make a career in professional football. Eric Rogers, Marken Michel, Reggie Begelton, DaVaris Daniels, and Kamar Jorden have all been signed, developed, and dispatched by the Stampeders in recent years. If I’m a team looking for an impactful young receiver, I look to grab a guy from the Stamps.
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