Evans among free-agent moves

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - mm­c­cormick@post­media.com twit­ter.com/mur­raylp MUR­RAY MCCORMICK

Day 1 of the CFL’s free REGINA agency pe­riod was one of sub­trac­tion and ad­di­tion for the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers.

The Rid­ers added to the list of free agents Tues­day by re­leas­ing of­fen­sive line­man Derek Den­nis, line­backer Glenn Love and de­fen­sive line­man An­to­nio Longino.

The CFL team fol­lowed those trans­ac­tions by sign­ing free agent de­fen­sive tackle Zack Evans, a Regina prod­uct, and re-sign­ing full­back Spencer Moore.

Shortly be­fore the free agency dead­line, the re-sign­ing of cen­tre Dan Clark had been an­nounced.

Evans, who signed a one-year con­tract, spent 2012 and 2013 with the Roughrid­ers be­fore join­ing the Ot­tawa Red­blacks.

“Hon­estly, free agency is scary,” Evans said via con­fer­ence call from Ot­tawa. “It’s so ques­tion­able, be­cause it’s ei­ther re­ally good for you or re­ally bad and you have no idea. When this fell into my lap and I heard what was go­ing on (with the Rid­ers), it was the per­fect fit to the per­fect fairy tale for me.”

Evans, 27, re­turns to the Rid­ers as a dif­fer­ent player.

“I was look­ing at old pic­tures of my last sea­son with the Rid­ers,” he said, ref­er­enc­ing the cham­pi­onship 2013 sea­son. “I look like a 15-yearold boy. I had a shaved face. I was skinny and it didn’t look like me.

“Now I have a wife. I have a son. I have an­other Grey Cup ring. I’ve ma­tured as a player. I’m ex­cited to bring my ex­pe­ri­ence back to the Rid­ers and to help out the team. Hope­fully we can get an­other Grey Cup there.”

Den­nis’s re­lease took place al­most a year to the day af­ter the Rid­ers signed the in­ter­na­tional amid much fan­fare. He was com­ing off a 2016 sea­son with the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers in which he was named the CFL’s top of­fen­sive line­man.

Den­nis didn’t reach that level with the Rid­ers. He started six games at left tackle be­fore shift­ing to left guard with the emer­gence of Bruce Camp­bell at left tackle.

Den­nis’s per­for­mance and his salary likely con­trib­uted to his re­lease. Ac­cord­ing to 3Down­Na­tion.com, Den­nis was the high­est­paid of­fen­sive line­man in the CFL, earn­ing $180,000 in the first year of a three-year deal. He was sup­posed to re­ceive a raise in the sec­ond and third years of the con­tract.

Some of the money freed up by re­leas­ing Den­nis was used to sign Evans. Ac­cord­ing to 3Down­Na­tion, Evans will earn $170,000 in 2018.

Sign­ing Evans im­proves a Rid­ers defence that had only 27 sacks in 2017. The Rid­ers ear­lier re-signed Wil­lie Jef­fer­son, the team’s sack leader (with eight) in 2017. They also ac­quired de­fen­sive end Charleston Hughes, who as a Stam­peder led the CFL in sacks in each of the past two sea­sons, from the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats for backup quar­ter­back Ver­non Adams Jr.

“It’s go­ing to be a re­ally good year,” Evans said. “I’m very ex­cited to work with (Jef­fer­son and Hughes).”

Evans is a two-time Grey Cup cham­pion, hav­ing most re­cently cel­e­brated a Cup with the Red­blacks in 2016. He joined Ot­tawa af­ter be­ing se­lected in the ex­pan­sion draft, held af­ter the 2013 sea­son.

“It was very tough to leave (Regina) be­cause hon­estly I thought I would al­ways be a Rider and that I would re­tire as a Rider,” Evans said. “Life throws you a curve­ball and you have to make the best of it. Ot­tawa gave me an op­por­tu­nity to earn a spot and to be­come the player I am to­day.”

Clark signed a two-year ex­ten­sion just be­fore the free agency pe­riod be­gan Tues­day. Moore sub­se­quently agreed to a two-year deal.

Clark joined the Rid­ers in 2009 as a ter­ri­to­rial ju­nior. He made his CFL de­but in 2012 and has been the start­ing cen­tre for three years.

Moore was se­lected in the fifth round (44th over­all) of the 2013 CFL draft. Over five sea­sons, he has dressed for 63 games and recorded 34 spe­cial-teams tack­les.

The Rid­ers had nine play­ers file for free agency Tues­day — Camp­bell, Moore, run­ning back Greg Mor­ris, re­ceiver Nic Dem­ski, de­fen­sive end A.C. Leonard, de­fen­sive tack­les Ese Mrabure and Ed­die Steele, line­backer Otha Fos­ter III and kicker Quinn van Gyl­swyk.

Dem­ski, Leonard and Mrabure signed with new teams Tues­day. Dem­ski agreed to a two-year deal with his home­town Win­nipeg Blue Bombers. Leonard (now of Ot­tawa) and Mrabure (Cal­gary) signed one-year deals.

Regina-born de­fen­sive tackle Zack Evans, who spent the last four sea­sons with the Ot­tawa Red­blacks, signed with the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers Tues­day. JUSTIN TANG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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