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A comprehensive guide to Canadians and former CFLers in NFL training camps

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With NFL training camps opening across the United States, it’s time to remind ourselves about the Canadians and former CFLers looking to make their mark down south.

DL Eli Ankou – Jacksonville Jaguars (N)

CFL rights holder: Ottawa Redblacks

Ankou was added to Jacksonville’s active roster following his deletion from Houston’s training camp roster last season. Appearing in nine games, Ankou recorded fifteen combined tackles and 1.5 sacks — not bad production from an undrafted rookie.

TE Antony Auclair – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (N)

CFL rights holder: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Auclair made the Bucs’ active roster after going unselected in the 2017 NFL draft. Appearing in eight games — and starting three — Auclair recorded two receptions for 25 yards in his rookie season.

LB Micah Awe – Free Agent (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Awe was released by the B.C. Lions following a productive rookie season to sign with the New York Jets back in February. Having since been released, Awe is currently looking for work.

UPDATE: Awe signed with the B.C. Lions on August 20.

DL Freddie Bishop III – Detroit Lions (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Bishop was a beast during his three-year stint in Calgary during which he recorded eleven sacks in 2015 alone. Having spent the past two years with the Jets, Bishop signed with Detroit just before camps opened.

DB Elie Bouka – Philadelphia Eagles (N)

CFL rights holder: None

Bouka signed with Saskatchewan late last season but was released in order to pursue an opportunity with the Eagles. Though he may have a verbal agreement to return to the Riders, Bouka is technically free to sign with any team in the CFL should he return north.

OL Brett Boyko – Los Angeles Chargers (N)

CFL rights holder: B.C. Lions

Boyko made his NFL debut late last season after two years on the Chargers’ practice roster. He is currently penciled in as Los Angeles’ second-team right tackle.

WR Mark Chapman – Denver Broncos (N)

CFL rights holder: Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Hamilton drafted Chapman No. 1 overall in the 2018 CFL Draft. Chapman didn’t sign with the Ticats and his patience paid-off when the Broncos came calling.

UPDATE: Chapman was waived by the Broncos on August 31.

DL Stefan Charles – Kansas City Chiefs (N)

CFL rights holder: Edmonton Eskimos

Charles, 29, is now with his fifth NFL teams in six years. Charles was a free agent through most of last season after his release from the Jacksonville Jaguars in September.

DL Christian Covington – Houston Texans (N)

CFL rights holder: B.C. Lions

The Vancouver native appeared in just seven games of his third season in Houston (starting two) due to a torn bicep he sustained in week eight. Covington is a free agent after this season.

DL Tyrone Crawford – Dallas Cowboys (N)

CFL rights holder: None

Crawford earned $10.3 million in 2017, recording 27 combined tackles and four sacks in fourteen starts. The Windsor native is currently under contract with Dallas through 2020 and, needless to say, will likely never sign a CFL contract.

OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif – Kansas City Chiefs (N)

CFL rights holder: Calgary Stampeders

Duvernay-Tardif made international headlines in May when he became the first active NFL player to earn a medical degree. Regrettably, the NFL has turned down the McGill product’s request to add “M.D.” to the nameplate on his uniform… for now, anyway.

OL Geoff Gray – Cleveland Browns (N)

CFL rights holder: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Gray joined the Browns late last season when Cleveland signed him off of the New York Jets’ practice roster. The Manitoba product is currently penciled in behind veteran Kevin Zeitler at right guard.

UPDATE: Gray was placed on waivers by the Browns on August 28.

DB Erik Harris – Oakland Raiders (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Harris appeared in fifteen games with the Raiders last season, recording five combined tackles. Harris has drawn praise from head coach John Gruden this off-season for his work in organized training activities (OTAs).

OL Ryan Hunter – Kansas City Chiefs (N)

CFL rights holder: Toronto Argonauts

This year’s top-ranked CFL draft prospect signed with the Chiefs as a priority free agent after going unselected in the NFL draft. Hunter has the ability to start at tackle in the CFL should he ever choose to come north.

WR Dontrelle Inman – Free Agent (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Inman spent this past year between the Chargers and Bears, recording 25 receptions for 334 yards and a touchdown in twelve games. The former Argonaut has caught 130 passes since departing for the NFL following the 2013 season.

DL Tom Johnson – Seattle Seahawks (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Johnson has 21 career sacks in seven NFL seasons following a two-year stint with the Calgary Stampeders (2009-2010). Johnson was a full-time starter last season with the Minnesota Vikings.

OL Brett Jones – New York Giants (N)

CFL rights holder: None

Jones became the Giants’ starting centre this past season, taking the first snap in thirteen of a possible sixteen games. The former Stampeder signed a second-round tender after the season, giving him a one-year contract this season worth 2.9-million USD.

UPDATE: Jones was traded to the Minnesota Vikings on August 28.

WR T.J. Jones – Detroit Lions (N)

CFL rights holder: None

Jones finished his third season with the Lions this past season, recording 30 receptions for 399 yards and a touchdown in 14 games. The Winnipeg native has never expressed interest in playing in the CFL.

LB Jeff Knox Jr. – Free Agent (I)

CFL rights holder: None

The former Rider has bounced around considerably over the past two years with stints in Tampa Bay, Saskatchewan, and Washington. Knox is still just 26.

UPDATE: Knox Jr. was placed on waivers by Washington on August 19.

LB Deon Lacey – Buffalo Bills (I)

CFL rights holder: None

The former Eskimo appeared in all 16 regular season games with the Bills in 2017 and recorded nine total tackles. Lacey is a free agent after the 2018 season.

DB Kenny Ladler – Washington (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Ladler turned an impressive two-year stint with Edmonton into a two-year contract with Washington. His contract does not include any guaranteed money.

LS L.P. Ladoceur – Dallas Cowboys (N)

CFL rights holder: None

The Montreal native enters his 14th season as the Cowboys’ long snapper. Now 37, Ladoceur is one of the oldest active players in the NFL.

K/P Brett Maher – Dallas Cowboys (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Maher earned a two-year deal with the Cowboys following a successful season with the Ottawa Redblacks that saw him convert on 41 of 50 field goals and post an impressive 46.7 yard-per-punt average. The Nebraska product will compete with veteran Chris Jones for Dallas’ punting job.

WR Chris Matthews – Free Agent (I)

CFL rights holder: None

The CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie from 2012 is without NFL employment for the first time since 2014 when he was a member of the Seattle Seahawks. The Bombers are said to not be interested in bringing the 6’5 pass catcher back north.

DB Dexter McCoil – Free Agent (I)

CFL rights holder: None

McCoil is currently without a team after splitting the past two seasons with Los Angeles and San Francisco. Potential CFL landing spots for the two-time West Division all-star include Edmonton, B.C., and Saskatchewan.

UPDATE: McCoil was re-signed by the 49ers on August 17.

DB Jonathon Mincy – Chicago Bears (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Mincy joined the Bears back in January following two seasons as the Alouettes’ boundary cornerback. He is signed through the 2020 season.

OL Michael Ola – New Orleans Saints (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Ola has appeared in 31 NFL games since 2014, starting 19. The Hampton product is now with his eighth different NFL team since he left Montreal at the conclusion of the 2013 season.

DL David Onyemata – New Orleans Saints (N)

CFL rights holder: Saskatchewan Roughriders

The University of Manitoba product finished his second season with the Saints last year, recording 38 combined tackles and two sacks. Onyemata garnered national attention during the NFC divisional playoff round when he delivered this violent hit on Panthers’ star quarterback Cam Newton.

OL Austin Pasztor – Atlanta Falcons (N)

CFL rights holder: Edmonton Eskimos

Pasztor completed his sixth NFL season in 2017, his first with Atlanta. Pasztor is currently penciled in as the Falcons’ second-team right tackle.

LB Brian Peters – Houston Texans (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Peters has become one of the NFL’s most well-respected special teams players since leaving the Riders following the 2014 season, recording 45 tackles in 40 career games. He is in the final year of his contract with Houston.

WR DeVier Posey – Baltimore Ravens (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Posey signed a one-year contract with the Ravens fresh-off a Grey Cup victory with Toronto. The 28-year-old is scheduled to earn $705,000 USD this season, including a $100,000 signing bonus.

DB Jeff Richards – Los Angeles Chargers (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Richards spent last season on the Chargers’ practice roster after participating in training camp with Carolina. He spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons as a member of the Ottawa Redblacks.

DB Shaquille Richardson – Free Agent (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Richardson turned a solid 48-tackle, four-interception 2017 season with Calgary into a shot with the Raiders. Oakland is the sixth NFL team on Richardson’s resume.

UPDATE: Richardson was placed on waivers on August 6.

DB Kacy Rodgers II – New York Jets (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Rodgers signed his first NFL contract in February when the lock-down cover man became a member of the Jets. Rodgers’ father, Kacy Rodgers Sr., is the Jets’ defensive coordinator.

P Jon Ryan – Seattle Seahawks (N)

CFL rights holder: None

Ryan has been the Seahawks’ punter for the past ten years and was part of the Seattle team that captured Super Bowl XLVIII over the Denver Broncos. Seattle drafted a punter, Michael Dickson, in the fifth round of this year’s NFL draft, which could spell trouble for the 36-year-old’s future with the ‘Hawks.

UPDATE: Ryan was released by the Seahawks on August 20 and has since signed with the Buffalo Bills.

OL Justin Senior – Free Agent (N)

CFL rights holder: Edmonton Eskimos

Senior was released by Seattle last season after suffering a knee injury in training camp. He has been a free agent since December, meaning he may not be far from signing with Edmonton. Senior would be a potential day-one starter at tackle for the Eskimos.

DL Nathan Shepherd – New York Jets (N)

CFL rights holder: Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Shepherd impressed scouts as a late-bloomer along the defensive line enough to be selected by the New York Jets in the third round of this year’s draft. Shepherd is seen as an athletic interior defensive lineman with impressive size (6’4, 315).

OL Dakoda Shepley – New York Jets (N)

CFL rights holder: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Shepley was signed by the Jets as a priority free agent following the conclusion of the 2018 NFL draft. Receiving a significant signing bonus from the club, it’s clear that New York is willing to invest some time and energy into developing the athletic big man.

WR/DB Terrell Sinkfield – New York Jets (I)

CFL rights holder: None

The speedster spent this past season on New York’s practice roster after converting from receiver to defensive back. Sinkfield has starred as pass catcher north of the border with Toronto, Hamilton, and B.C.

UPDATE: Sinkfield was waived by the Jets on August 31.

WR Tevaun Smith – Jacksonville Jaguars (N)

CFL rights holder: Edmonton Eskimos

Smith spent the 2017 season out of football outside of a one-week stint on the Raiders’ practice squad. Smith now looks to earn a spot with the up-and-coming Jaguars.

DL Brent Urban – Baltimore Ravens (N)

CFL rights holder: Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Urban’s four-year NFL career has been marred by injuries, but the Ravens are still committed to the Mississauga native. Baltimore signed Urban to a one-year, 1.1-million USD extension this past March.

OL Greg Van Roten – Carolina Panthers (I)

CFL rights holder: None

The former Argonaut appeared in ten games for the Panthers last season after cracking the club’s roster out of training camp. Van Roten signed a two-year extension with Carolina this off-season worth 1.66-million USD.

DL Cameron Wake – Miami Dolphins (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Wake might be 36, but the superstar pass rusher hasn’t shown signs of slowing down in Miami. The former B.C. Lion recorded 10.5 sacks a season ago and should again be a big part of the Dolphins’ defence in 2018.

TE Luke Willson – Detroit Lions (N)

CFL rights holder: Toronto Argonauts

Willson signed a one-year, 2.5-million USD contract with the Lions this season following a five-year stint with the Seahawks. The Windsor native has recorded 89 career receptions for 1,129 yards.

TE Adam Zaruba – Free Agent (N)

CFL rights holder: Saskatchewan Roughriders

The rugby star signed a three-year deal with the Eagles last season, but was cut near the end of training camp. Back for another crack at making the roster, the 6’5, 265-pound B.C. native will seek to make an impact with the reigning Super Bowl champions.

UPDATE: Zaruba was placed on waivers on August 6.

WR Brandon Zylstra – Minnesota Vikings (I)

CFL rights holder: None

Coming off a league-best 1,687-yard season with Edmonton, Zylstra looks to make the roster of his hometown Minnesota Vikings. Zylstra did not receive any guaranteed money in his contract with Minnesota.

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

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About the author

John Hodge

John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.

By John Hodge

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