Former NFL receiver Jalen Saunders opts out of CFL contract

Former NFL receiver Jalen Saunders wants another shot south of the border.

Saunders has opted out of his CFL contract with the Ottawa Redblacks. It was a one-year deal which means if he does return to Canada, Saunders would be a free agent in February 2021.

Saunders was selected by the Houston Roughnecks and head coach June Jones in the XFL Draft, but he was placed on injured reserve before the start of the season. With Vince McMahon’s league declaring bankruptcy, Saunders returned to his CFL roots and signed with Ottawa.

The 27-year-old registered 45 receptions for 739 receiving yards and two touchdowns in nine games for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2018 before suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Toronto Argonauts. He was on pace for well over 1,000 yards.

Saunders led the Ticats in receiving yards during the 2017 schedule with 1,170 on 76 catches. In 25 games over two seasons with Hamilton (2017-2018), the native of Stockton, California accumulated 121 receptions for 1,909 yards and six touchdowns, 15.8 yards per grab.

The five-foot-nine, 171-pound Saunders was selected by the New York Jets in the fourth round, 104th overall during the 2014 NFL Draft. He played in nine games with the Jets and New Orleans Saints during his rookie season, posting one reception for seven yards, 15 punt returns for 125 yards and three kickoff returns for 139 yards.

The University of Oklahoma product also spent time with the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots and Chicago Bears over his two years in the NFL and earned over $850,000 USD.

While with Oklahoma, Saunders played 22 games recording 1,558 receiving yards on 123 receptions with 11 touchdowns. He spent two years in Norman, Oklahoma after two at Fresno State University where he produced 80 catches for 1,527 yards and 15 touchdowns in 26 games.

Saunders has dynamic athletic ability. At the 2014 NFL Combine he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds, recorded a vertical jump of 34 inches and landed a 10-foot, two-inch broad jump. When fully healthy, Saunders can infuse playmaking ability into any offence.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.