Potential CFL landing spots for NFL cuts

NFL cut-down day has come and gone, leaving a (somewhat) clarified picture of which Canadians and/or former CFLers could be returning north in the coming weeks, months, and years. Here’s my breakdown.

Canadian kids

Mehdi Abdesmad (Ottawa), Elie Bouka (Saskatchewan), Stefan Charles (Edmonton), Andy Mulumba (Winnipeg), Justin Senior (Edmonton), Tevaun Smith (Edmonton), and Adam Zaruba (Saskatchewan) are all free agents whose CFL rights belong to specific clubs north of the border. This means that, without NFL deals, these players have little leverage in negotiating CFL contracts. If the players above are willing to go without a paycheck for awhile, waiting until next season to potentially get another NFL look may be worth it. Conversely, the NFL rigmarole can be exhausting — for players who simply want to get back on the field, coming north is the best immediate option.

American match-up

All of the American players released on Saturday are free agents north of the border, making for all kinds of interesting speculation as to where they may end up. Some players are likely to return to their former clubs, but others could chase a payday with a new team for the stretch run to the playoffs. I see Derel Walker (Edmonton) and Otha Foster (Saskatchewan) likely returning to their old clubs, though the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are an interesting wildcard. The Tabbies have a lot of money to spend and need at virtually every position — can they attract NFL castoffs without the incentive of a playoff paycheck? Other areas of need to keep an eye on are Ottawa and B.C. at defensive end (hello, Alex Bazzie), Winnipeg at linebacker (Jeff Knox Jr.), and Toronto at defensive back (Mitchell White). For my money, the top free agent currently available is former Eskimo Aaron Grymes, who has connections to Edmonton and Saskatchewan (via Chris Jones). Dominant halfbacks are worth their weight in gold — I expect Grymes’ agent to here from upwards of six CFL teams.

Dangerous duo

Two off-the-radar players to keep an eye on: receiver Eric Rogers and defensive back John Ojo. Both players were CFL all-stars in 2015, both suffered serious injuries a season ago (Rogers tore his ACL, while Ojo tore his Achilles), and both have been free agents since May. Rogers and Ojo could end up rejoining their former clubs in Calgary and Edmonton, respectively, but there’s always a chance a team offers them an exorbitant deal to join them for this season’s homestretch. Ottawa paid Cleyon Laing an astronomical figure to play just three games for them a season ago (East Final and Grey Cup included), so there’s precedent for such a move — provided, of course, teams have the necessary cap space.

Canadian swap

Eli Ankou struck gold on Sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars claimed him off waivers one day following his release from the Houston Texans. The move required the Jags to create a spot for Ankou on their 53-man roster, prompting them to release four-year NFL veteran Stefan Charles. The connection? Both defensive tackles were born in Ontario and have CFL connections — Ankou’s rights belong to Ottawa via the 2017 CFL draft, while Charles’ was drafted tenth overall by the Eskimos back in 2013. Should Charles finally come north following his release from Jacksonville, the Jaguars will have unwittingly helped Edmonton flesh out their roster at the possible expense of Ottawa’s.

The curious case of Orlando Franklin

Franklin, 29, is a former second round NFL draft pick with 89 starts under his belt at tackle and guard. Raised in Toronto, Franklin is one of a handful of national NFL veterans who were exempt from negotiation lists when the most recent league CBA was ratified. This makes Franklin free to sign with any of the CFL’s nine teams if he chooses to pursue a contract up north. That’s a big ‘if,’ however — with career earnings of $23.4 million USD, money wouldn’t be a factor in Franklin coming to the CFL.

Practice patience

Frank Beltre (New York Jets), Freddie Bishop III (Buffalo), Adam Bighill (New Orleans), Brett Boyko (L.A. Chargers), Geoff Gray (New York Jets), Michael Ola (Buffalo), Boseko Lokombo (Baltimore), and Terrell Sinkfield (New York Jets) have all added to NFL practice rosters since Saturday. There’s a good chance we’ll see many of these players come north in time, but CFL fans will have to wait on them for now.

Fresh foursome

Though there are 26 CFL-related players who have made NFL active rosters (see below), just four of them are new this season: defensive tackle Eli Ankou (Jacksonville Jaguars), tight end Antony Auclair (Tampa Bay), linebacker Deon Lacey (Buffalo Bills), and cornerback Jeff Richards (L.A. Rams). It’s a small class, but a good one.

Open for business

The following players are now free agents on both sides of the border:

DL Alex Bazzie
DB Otha Foster
DB Aaron Grymes
DB Josh Johnson
LB Jeff Knox Jr.
P Richie Leone
WR Derel Walker
DB Mitchell White

Staying south

The following players remain on NFL 53-man rosters:

DL Eli Ankou – Jacksonville Jaguars (N)
CFL rights holder: Ottawa Redblacks

TE Antony Auclair – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (N)
CFL rights holder: Saskatchewan Roughriders

DB Delvin Breaux – New Orleans Saints (I)
CFL rights holder: None

DL Christian Covington – Houston Texans (N)
CFL rights holder: B.C. Lions

DL Tyrone Crawford – Dallas Cowboys (N)
CFL rights holder: None

OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif – Kansas City Chiefs (N)
CFL rights holder: Calgary Stampeders

LB Jerrell Freeman – Chicago Bears (I)
CFL rights holder: None

DB Erik Harris – Oakland Raiders (I)
CFL rights holder: None

WR Dontrelle Inman – Los Angeles Chargers (I)
CFL rights holder: None

DL Tom Johnson – Minnesota Vikings (I)
CFL rights holder: None

OL Brett Jones – New York Giants (N)
CFL rights holder: None

WR T.J. Jones – Detroit Lions (N)
CFL rights holder: None

LB Deon Lacey – Buffalo Bills (I)
CFL rights holder: None

LS L.P. Ladoceur – Dallas Cowboys (N)
CFL rights holder: None

WR Chris Matthews – Baltimore Ravens (I)
CFL rights holder: None

DB Dexter McCoil – Los Angeles Chargers (I)
CFL rights holder: None

DL David Onyemata – New Orleans Saints (N)
CFL rights holder: Saskatchewan Roughriders

OL Austin Pasztor – Atlanta Falcons (N)
CFL rights holder: Edmonton Eskimos

LB Brian Peters – Houston Texans (I)
CFL rights holder: None

DB Jeff Richards – L.A. Chargers (I)
CFL rights holder: None

P Jon Ryan – Seattle Seahawks (N)
CFL rights holder: None

DB Neiko Thorpe – Seattle Seahawks (I)
CFL rights holder: None

DL Brent Urban – Baltimore Ravens (N)
CFL rights holder: Hamilton Tiger-Cats

OL Greg Van Roten – Carolina Panthers (I)
CFL rights holder: None

DL Cameron Wake – Miami Dolphins (I)
CFL rights holder: None

TE Luke Willson – Seattle Seahawks (N)
CFL rights holder: Toronto Argonauts

*‘N’ denotes national, ‘I’ denotes international

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