Thunderstruck in Saskatchewan: Riders run it back with flashy defensive lineman A.C. Leonard

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have agreed to a two-year contract extension through the 2021 season with defensive lineman A.C. Leonard, per sources.

Leonard earned a substantial raise to an average around $150,000 each season. He produced a career-high nine sacks and three forced fumbles to go along with 44 tackles in 2019 while recording two tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble in the West Final. Defensive coordinator had talented book ends with Leonard and Charleston Hughes who led the league in sacks with 16.

During the 2018 season, Leonard started 17 games for the Redblacks in 2018 after leaving the Riders to sign a $145,000 one-year contract in Ottawa. He made 49 tackles and six sacks, but Leonard was healthy scratch in the playoffs because Noel Thorpe felt he didn’t fit the defensive scheme anymore.

Since Chris Jones converted Leonard from receiver to defender he has 160 tackles, 25 sacks and four forced fumbles in 73 games. The six-foot-two, 250-pounder is ultra-athletic for his size. As a tight end coming out of Tennessee State, Leonard was the top performer at his position group during the 2014 NFL combine in the 40-yard dash (4.50), vertical (34 inches) and broad jump (10-feet, six inches).

The Minnesota Vikings signed Leonard as an undrafted NFL free agent in 2014, but he was released during training camp. Then he signed with B.C. in 2015 as a pass catcher making 17 receptions for 187 yards and two touchdowns. After that Leonard went to Saskatchewan in May 2016 and that’s when Jones transformed the pass rusher.

General manager Jeremy O’Day and head coach Craig Dickenson may have just identified the Riders’ primary defensive end for the future.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.