Elks’ GM Brock Sunderland: ‘players outplayed’ DL Shawn Lemon and LB Vontae Diggs

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

Edmonton general manager Brock Sunderland made it crystal clear why two recognizable players were cut by the green and gold.

The Elks released veteran defensive end Shawn Lemon and young linebacker Vontae Diggs on Thursday following the completion of training camp.

“Very simple: there was players that we felt outplayed them. Nothing more than that, nothing less than that,” Sunderland said.

“We had some young rookie linebackers that came in that had tremendous camps, we felt that they played better. And same on the defensive line, we have two other American defensive ends that we thought played better than Shawn.”

Lemon signed a one-year contract for the 2021 season with the Elks in February. He is a nine-year CFL veteran with 70 sacks and 22 forced fumbles on his resume over his 107-game career.

Diggs was named Edmonton’s Most Outstanding Rookie in 2019. He recorded 84 total tackles, two sacks, one interception, and one forced fumble in 2019 from the weak-side linebacker position.

“We cut some great men in Vontae Diggs and Shawn Lemon,” head coach Jaime Elizondo said.

“Both Vontae and Shawn are very good football players and they’re great people,” Sunderland said.

Edmonton has decided to start two Canadians at the defensive end positions, Kwaku Boateng and Mathieu Betts, which means national depth was needed behind them. That’s part of the reason why Lemon was let go.

At linebacker, Nyles Morgan, Keishawn Bierra and Malik Clements were deemed by Sunderland and the football operations staff as having better performances during camp than Diggs.

“It’s not that they’re bad football players, it’s a good problem to have with a pro football team during training camp, when you have some younger guys that you think are a little bit better,” Sunderland said.

Diggs had a $13,000 first time active roster bonus due for playing one snap in Week 1. That was part of his contract for 2021 which was scheduled to pay him the base minimum $65,000 salary with $12,000 in housing.

“Vontae was as classy and as professional as he could’ve been. Vontae brings an energy into the room, he always lights it up. He did a great job leading the young guys, one of the most high character guys that we have,” Elizondo said.

“That made the decision that much tougher, but he was professional, classy, treated it the right way. I know it’s hard on him, any time any player gets cut that’s difficult, but he couldn’t have handled it any better.”

Diggs had been relegated to second team reps as Morgan appears set to take his vacated spot on the weak-side, while Bierria takes over in the middle from the departed Larry Dean.

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