Jordan Williams-Lambert got himself a side deal.
One of the things CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie cracked down on early in his tenure was the practice of side deals – handshake agreements between teams and players that allowed them to circumvent the two-year minimum of the standard entry-level contract and get an early shot at the NFL. A couple of teams, most notably the B.C. Lions, were fined for doing it and a couple players groused publicly that they had been promised opportunities that never materialized.
Then this summer, with the Alliance of American Football league ramping up and the XFL on the horizon, the league reinstated the NFL window that allowed players to work out for American teams despite being under contract in the CFL – something that had previously been standard practice. But there was a catch: it only applied to contracts signed after Aug. 20, 2018.
That left guys who signed entry-level deals before this season high and dry – obligated to play out their contracts in the CFL in 2019 without the ability to workout (and sign) with NFL teams this winter. But Williams-Lambert, the Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver, found a way: by filing a grievance through the union.
The Riders chose not to fight it, reportedly to stay in the player’s good graces and, theoretically, increasing their chances of re-signing him either next off-season or when he returns from the NFL (if he gets a shot.) It makes sense on some level but it also creates a situation where one player has an opportunity that others don’t.
How many guys are we talking about? Well, here are nine players who would likely get a look if they had the chance (which they don’t.)
Player: Nick Marshall, DB, Saskatchewan
Why he’d get an NFL look: three interceptions in 13 games, played at a big NCAA school (Auburn) and is just 26. Proved he could play cornerback after playing quarterback in college.
Player: Romar Morris, RB, Calgary
Why he’d get an NFL look: 376 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games with Calgary, plus a punt return touchdown. As the NFL opens up offensively, smaller fast guys like Morris may get more opportunities.
(Or maybe not)
Romar Morris tore his Achilles in the Western Final. Doubtful for CFL let alone NFL!
— Steve Nickerson (@stevenick1) December 24, 2018
Player: Tre Roberson, DB, Calgary
Why he’d get an NFL look: three interceptions in 16 games played for the Stamps. Like Marshall, he played quarterback in college and has now proved he can make the switch.
Shaq Evans, REC, Saskatchewan
Why he’d get an NFL look: Played in 17 games, made 50 catches for 785 yards and he’s 6-foot-1, 210. He’s a former fourth-round pick of the Jets.
R.J. Harris, REC, Ottawa
Why he’d get an NFL look: Played 16 games, made 49 catches for 697 yards.
Avery Williams, LB, Ottawa
Why he’d get an NFL look: Undersized by NFL standards at 5-foot-10, Williams had 43 tackles in 17 games for the Redblacks and he’s just 24.
Marcus Sayles, DB, Winnipeg
Why he’d get an NFL look: Very solid first season in the ‘Peg with 72 tackles and three picks in 16 games. Another guy who didn’t get much of an NFL look coming out of small college.
Kyran Moore, REC, Saskatchewan
Why he’d get an NFL look: Another speedster with two punt return touchdowns in 10 games but also added 32 catches for 475 yards.
Markeith Ambles, REC, Calgary
Why he’d get an NFL look: You can’t teach size and Ambles is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. He also had 28 catches and four TDs in just six games.
Chris Streveler, QB, Winnipeg
Why he’d get an NFL look: It’s been a good year for mobile quarterbacks in the NFL with Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen having at least some success. Streveler didn’t play a ton his rookie year but the quality of quarterbacking in the NFL means he might warrant a look…