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Riders expected to be busy as 2024 free agency period approaches


Feb. 13 will mark the beginning of Canadian Football League (CFL) free agency and the Riders will look to round out their roster heading into the 2024 season.

It is no secret that one of the biggest signings for the team will be running back A.J. Ouellette who was one of the top running backs in the league last season.

In 15 games with the Argonauts in 2023, he had 178 carries for 1,009 rushing yards.

Last week, it was reported that Ouellette had a deal in place with the Riders and he even took to social media to spray paint his iconic ‘Thor’s’ hammer green eluding to his future in Rider Nation.

Right now the Riders have Frankie Hickson, Thomas Bertrand-Hudon, and Jerrion Early under contract in the running back position. That means their top running back from 2023, Jamal Morrow is a pending free agent.

As for full backs, Bruno Labelle and Morgan Runge are under contract and Albert Awachie is headed to free agency.

It was a hot topic heading into free agency how many high-caliber running backs were available and that included Ouellete. Across the league Ka’Deem Carey and Sean Thomas-Erlington remain available.

The CFL’s top running back, Brady Oliveira, re-signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Grey Cup Champion, William Stanback, left the Montreal Alouettes to join the BC Lions.

Unlike 2023, the Riders head into free agency locked-in when it comes to their quarterbacks. The team admitted earlier this year to re-negotiating veteran quarterback, Trevor Harris’, contract but that he will be their go-to guy in 2024. They also re-signed backups Mason Fine and Antonio Pipkin. As well they still have Shea Patterson under contract.

That means Jake Dolegala, who ended up being the team’s primary backup when Trevor Harris missed a majority of the season due to injury, will test the waters of free agency. In 2023 he suited up for 13 games where he recorded 216 completions for 2641 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Some other well-known QB names that are pending free agents include: Nick Arbuckle, Dominique Davis, Dakota Prukop, and Matthew Shiltz. However it was reported last week that Shiltz is expected to sign with the Calgary Stampeders.

It is also a different feel for the Riders this year when it comes to their receiving corps.

In 2023, the team basically did an overhaul of that position group but this year they have plenty veterans returning in Samuel Emilus, Kian Schaffer-Baker, Brayden Lenius, Shawn Bane Jr., Mario Alford, Mitch Picton, Kendall Watson, Jerreth Sterns, Jake Parker, and Kalija Lipscomb.

However, there are two new faces with the club that signed ahead of free agency, Geronimo Allison and Dhonte Meyers.

There are also two that have not re-signed with the team: Tevin Jones and Juwan Brescacin. Jones had 65 receptions for 882 yards and three touchdowns in 2023.

The Riders have three offensive lineman that will head to free agency: Evan Johnson, Colin Kelly, and Eric Lofton.

It has been reported that landed a top offensive lineman in Jermarcus Hardrick to a two-year contract.

The 34-year-old started 18 games with the Blue Bombers in 2023 which included the Western Final and Grey Cup. He was Western Division’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman nominee.

On the defensive side of the ball, one of the most notable players yet to re-sign is veteran linebacker, Larry Dean. Dean played 18 games with the Riders in 2023. He recorded 104 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble.

Right now the Riders have C.J. Reavis, T.J. Brunson, A.J. Allen, K.D. Davis, Adam Auclair, Jaxon Ciraolo-Brown, Mark McLaurin, Jaylen Moody, Zakoby McClain, Matt Dean, and Nick Thomas under contract.

The team released Derrick Moncrief last month. There are a few big names across the league that are available in Simoni Lawrence, and Jameer Thurman. The Calgary Stampeders locked down Micah Awe last week who was also a hot ticket amongst the league. The Riders also added a veteran linebacker who was expected to hit the market when it was reported on Friday they signed Adam Auclair.

Auclair had 63 tackles in 18 games with the Ottawa Redblacks.

Linebackers, Justin Herdman-Reed and Micah Teitz are both pending free-agents.

On the defensive line the Riders will let Pete Robertson, and DeMarcus Christmas test the free agency waters. Meanwhile, the team announced on Monday that Micah Johnson had signed a one year extension.

Johnson played in all 18 games for the Riders in 2023 picking up 27 defensive tackles and five sacks, which was tied for second most on the team. He added one tackle for a loss and a fumble recovery in 2023 as well. 

The team currently has Anthony Lanier II, Miles Brown, Charbel Dabire, Christian Albright, Nicholas Dheilly, Bryan Cox Jr., Lake Korte-Moore, Habakkuk Baldonado, Brayden Thomas, Roman Harrison, and Caleb Sanders under contract.

One of the defensive line names is free agent Mathieu Betts of the B.C. Lions. The 28-year-old is predicted to become the league’s highest paid defensive lineman wherever he signs.

Last season Betts led the league in sacks with 18, the most ever for a Canadian. But there have also been rumours swirling that Betts could head down south to the National Football League (NFL). TSN’s Farhan Lalji reported that there was a possibility Betts agreed to a futures contract with the Detroit Lions.

Meanwhile, the Riders will look to another big name in Malik Carney who had a top career performance with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2023 with a career-high 52 tackles, five sacks, one interception, and one forced fumble in 17 games.

The defensive backs may see an addition or two but the team will look to veteran Rolan Milligan Jr. as one of their key pieces when he returns following a dismal injury in 2023. Milligan re-signed with the club earlier this year.

Other players under contract include: Godfrey Onyeka, Jayden Dalke, Amari Henderson, Deontai Williams, Jaxon Ford, Jayden Dalke, Nelson Lokombi, Mark Field II, Nick Nelson, C.J. Coldon, Rodney Clemons, and Cole Coleman.

The team released Nic Marshall in 2023 and that leaves Jeremy Clark as the lone free agent.

Last week it was reported that Saskatchewan had agreed to terms with BC Lions’ Jalon Edwards-Cooper.

Teams can not officially sign pending free agents until the start of free-agent period – which is set to begin at 12 p.m. EST (11 a.m. in Saskatchewan) on Tuesday, Feb 13.

-- With files from Drew Postey. Top Stories

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