Former Ottawa Redblacks punter Richie Leone hasn’t been a free agent for very long, but he has already earned an NFL opportunity.
“Punter/kicker Richie Leone has a workout with the Steelers on Tuesday,” TSN’s Farhan Lalji reported. “Needs to go through COVID testing protocol before then. Averaged 48.4 yards per punt in 2019.”
Leone made use of the agreement between the CFL and CFL Players’ Association for the cancelled 2020 season and opted out of his contract on Monday. Now, he’s headed to Pittsburgh to try and make an impression.
Leone is a three-time CFL all-star punter, leading the three-down league in punting average in 2015 and 2016 (49.5 and 49.3) and East Division in 2019 (48.4). The 28-year-old Leone has played 71 career games north of the border punting 472 times for 22,809 gross yards (48.3 average). 83 yards is Leone’s longest career punt.
After the 2016 CFL season Leone inked a deal with the Arizona Cardinals, but he was waived among the final roster moves before the regular season on September 2 and signed a free agent pact with Ottawa. Leone went unselected in the 2014 NFL draft out of the University of Houston. He went to training camp with the Baltimore Ravens, but was released among final training camp cuts.
Leone re-signed with Ottawa this off-season, but his contract was set to expire in February 2021, so he made the low risk decision to opt out. Should he return to the CFL, he will be a free agent.
With NFL final cuts coming Saturday, September 6, Leone is unlikely to find an NFL active roster job before then. However, NFL teams have been hard at work this week trying out free agent kickers who might serve as insurance should they suffer a breakout of COVID-19 once they leave the training camp bubble.
With the unique ability to both kick and punt at a professional level, Leone is an attractive option to stash on the expanded practice roster or to call upon in an emergency.