With teams re-signing as many of their own players as possible ahead of next month’s free agent deadline, it’s important to remember that there is already a wealth of talent available on the open market. Adding players from off the beaten track can yield excellent results, as proven by players like Cameron Marshall (Saskatchewan) and Tristan Okpalaugo (Winnipeg) this past season.
Here are six impact free agents who are currently free to sign north of the border following recent stints in the NFL.
DB John Ojo
It’s been two years since Ojo saw action on the field, but the big-bodied cover man is still just 27 years of age. CFL fans will remember Ojo from his all-star rookie season with the Eskimos in 2015, a campaign he was unable to recreate after tearing his Achilles prior to the 2016 regular season.
Ojo spent last year out of football outside of a very brief off-season stint with the New York Jets. If he’s willing to return north, Ojo would be a highly sought-after CFL cover man.
DL Mehdi Abdesmad
Abdesmad went unselected in the 2016 NFL draft, but ended up making the Tennessee Titans’ 53-man roster after joining the club as an undrafted free agent. Abdesmad got into two games as a rookie, recording one tackle.
The Boston College product was released by the Titans in August of last year and, following a brief stint with the Buccaneers, spent the remainder of the 2017 season out of football.
Abdesmad’s CFL rights belong to the Ottawa Redblacks by virtue of his selection in the third round of the 2016 CFL draft. At 6’6, 284 pounds, Abdesmad projects as a CFL defensive tackle.
DL Frank Beltre
Beltre appeared in just 26 games with Calgary from 2014 to 2016, but his off-the-charts athleticism was enough to get the pass rusher a practice roster spot with the Jets in 2017. Cut in September, Beltre has been out of work ever since.
Almost 28, Beltre would have an immediate impact for a CFL club on special teams and as a rotational pass rusher.
WR Chris Matthews
It’s been almost five years since Matthews suited up for a CFL game, but that’s no reason to rule out seeing him in Canada again.
The 6’5 pass catcher was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie following a stellar 81-reception, 1,192-yard season with Winnipeg in 2012. After missing almost the entire 2013 season due to injury, Matthews departed for the NFL where he’s since enjoyed stints with the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens. While never a regular starter south of the border, Matthews briefly drew the attention of the world when he recorded a 109-yard game in Super Bowl XLIX.
Matthews is still only 28 and, without work lined up for 2018, could choose to return to the CFL. A note worth remembering: Marc Trestman was the offensive coordinator in Baltimore when the Ravens signed Chris Matthews in November of 2015.
OL Justin Senior
Senior was drafted by the Seahawks in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL draft, but missed his entire rookie season due to injury. Placed on injured reserve in August, Senior was released outright in December after reaching an injury settlement with the ‘Hawks.
Now a free agent, Senior may elect to come north should another NFL team fail to pick him up. The Mississippi State product’s CFL rights belong to the Eskimos by virtue of his selection in the fifth round of last May’s CFL draft.
WR Eric Rogers
Rogers became the CFL’s highest sought-after free agent south of the border since Cameron Wake following an all-star 2015 season. Fielding offers from fourteen NFL teams, Rogers eventually signed a deal with the San Francisco 49ers in January of 2016 that reportedly included up to $225,000 in guaranteed money.
Rogers tore his ACL in his first training camp with San Francisco, immediately ending his season. After spending last year out of football, Rogers should be healthy and ready to get back into action for 2018.