Flurry of moves as CFL free agency gets rolling

The British Columbia Lions beefed up their offensive line with the signing of Americans Joel Figueroa and Jeremy Lewis as the free agent market opened Tuesday in the Canadian Football League.

Figueroa, who played 15 games for the Edmonton Eskimos last season, and Lewis, who spent last season with the Montreal Alouettes, both inked one-year contracts. B.C. allowed a CFL-high 49 sacks last season.

Among other early deals, The Edmonton Eskimos grabbed defensive lineman Alex Bazzie from B.C. on a two-year contract; the Winnipeg Blue Bombers inked Canadian receiver Nic Demski from Saskatchewan and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats picked up national kicker Lirim Hajrullahu from the Toronto Argonauts.

Some big names signed just in time to stay out of the free agent market, including Hamilton defensive tackle Ted Laurent, who agreed to a two-year extension, and Calgary Stampeders all-star kick returner Roy Finch. Veteran quarterback Travis Lulay had inked a new deal with B.C. on Monday.

The six-foot-six, 320-pound Figueroa appeared in 15 games last season with the Eskimos. Lewis has played 42 games over the last four years with Hamilton and Montreal.

“Jeremy is another experienced and physical offensive tackle who brings an edge to the position,” B.C. general manager Ed Hervey said in a release. “He’s going to give us some needed depth and will absolutely compete for a starting spot in camp.”

The Lions also snapped up two North Vancouver natives – defensive back Dominique Termansen from Montreal and linebacker Mitch Barnett from Hamilton. Both have played mostly on special teams.

After losing Bazzie, the Lions signed veteran defensive tackle Euclid Cummings from Edmonton.

The Bombers stocked up on Canadian talent. As well Winnipeg native Demski, a receiver who can also return punts, they also snared running back Kienan LaFrance from the Roughriders. The 26-year-old LaFrance, a University of Manitoba product, had 68 carries for 273 yards and two touchdowns last season.

The Bombers also acquired defensive back Chandler Fenner later Tuesday afternoon. Fenner, a former NFL player and American native, is joining the team on a two-year contract.

Hamilton’s new kicker Hajrullahu, 27, went 47-for-58 on field goal attempts and averaged 44.0 yards per punt with the Grey Cup champion Argonauts last season. He has an 82 per cent success rate on place kicks in four CFL seasons.

The Ticats also re-signed linebackers Larry Dean and Nick Shortill before the deadline.

The Eskimos did the same with American defensive backs Johnny Adams and Forrest Hightower. Adams’ deal is through the 2019 season while Hightower signed a one-year contract.

In Calgary, Finch set a team record with 1,200 punt return yards and three TDs last season. He also ran for 114 yards on 21 carries and had 18 catches for 133 yards along with a two-point convert.

“To everyone in the Stamps family, I’m so excited to be coming back for another two years and to get back to chasing that Grey Cup,” Finch said in a statement. “I love Stampeders pride and everything this organization stands for.”

The Stampeders also acquired defensive back and special-teamer Adam Berger. A former Grey Cup champion in 2014 with the Stampeders, Berger played with the Ottawa Redblacks in 2017.

Montreal re-signed kicker Boris Bede, defensive back Tevaughn Campbell, Canadian receiver Seydou Junior Haidara and offensive linemen Matt Vonk and Xavier Fulton, while Toronto gave new one-year deals to defensive backs Jermaine Gabriel and Johnny Sears Jr.

The Roughriders signed Canadian offensive lineman Dan Clark to a two-year contract extension, and got defensive tackle and Regina native Zack Evans from the Ottawa Redblacks, but raised eyebrows by releasing Derek Dennis, the 2016 CFL outstanding lineman with Calgary who was one of last year’s top free agent signings.

The Riders also lost defensive lineman A.C. Leonard on a one-year contract to the Redblacks. Leonard, 26, had 66 defensive tackles, 10 sacks and a forced fumble in 33 games over the last two seasons.

Redblacks coach Rick Campbell called Leonard a “dynamic pass rusher.”