Riders, Stamps, Als and REDBLACKS head up Thursday transactions

TORONTO — Teams across the league have been busy retooling their rosters for the 2021 CFL season. Saskatchewan, Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa announced a number of signings on Thursday, making for a busy day on the transaction wire.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders got the ball rolling, announcing they’d signed American linebacker DeMarquis Gates and American defensive lineman Markus Jones.

Gates (six-foot tw0, 226 pounds) joins the Roughriders after a stellar college career, and a young pro career that has spanned three professional leagues. Most recently, Gates was a member of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, but prior to that was a standout player in the XFL and AAF.

Gates played in five games for the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks where he collected 32 tackles – including three for a loss – the fifth-most in the league while also earning two sacks, three quarterback hurries, one interception, three pass deflections, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries. While with the Memphis Express, the 24-year-old led the AAF with 52 tackles and five forced fumbles through eight games. The undrafted Gates also had NFL stops with the Cleveland Browns (2018) and the Washington Football Team (2019).

Collegiately, Gates was a defensive star at Ole Miss where he led the team in tackles for three straight seasons (2015-2017). As a senior, he started all 12 games at middle linebacker, making 114 tackles (9.5 per game) – good enough for third in the SEC. His 70 solo tackles led the SEC and saw him ranked 13th nationally. Gates also collected two sacks, a fumble recovery and five quarterback hurries. Over four collegiate seasons he amassed 282 total tackles (163 solo), six sacks, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in 49 games played.

Jones (six-foot-three, 250 pounds) comes to the Green and White after stops in the XFL and NFL over the last two years. The 24-year-old defensive lineman played in four preseason NFL games for the Green Bay Packers, earning four tackles, two defended passes – including one that led to an interception – and one fumble recovery. Prior to being picked up by Packers he had signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Most recently, Jones was part of the XFL’s Team 9.

Jones spent five collegiate seasons at Angelo State University. As a senior, he recorded 84 tackles, including 37 tackles for loss — the highest number recorded across all divisions of NCAA football — while also collecting 18 sacks, two blocked kicks and four forced fumbles and winning the Gene Upshaw Award as the best offensive or defensive lineman in Division II football. As a junior he earned All-America honours from the AFCA, D2Football.com and Don Hansen in addition to being named the Lone Star Conference J.V. Sikes Defensive Player of the Year and LSC Defensive Lineman of the Year, a Cliff Harris Award finalist and D2CCA All-Super Region Four Team selection.

Stamps keep Peck 

The Calgary Stampeders have re-signed American receiver Aaron Peck.

The six-foot-three, 235-pound Fresno State alum appeared in two games during the 2019 campaign – his rookie season – and made nine catches for 105 yards. He made his CFL debut in a Week 15 contest against Toronto and had six receptions for 42 yards. He was also in uniform for the regular-season finale and hauled in three passes for 63 yards including a 40-yarder.

Peck attended training camp with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers in 2017 and was with the San Diego Fleet in the Alliance of American Football in 2018.

The Riverside, CA product played four seasons at Fresno State and made 93 catches for 941 yards and six touchdowns.

Als sign a trio of locals 

The Montreal Alouettes announced on Thursday that the club has added three local players to the roster, as offensive lineman Philippe Gagnon, fullback Christophe Normand and defensive lineman Junior Luke have all signed contracts for the 2021 season.

Gagnon (six-foot-four, 311 pounds) spent the 2019 season with the Ottawa REDBLACKS after playing his first three professional seasons with the Alouettes. Drafted in the first round (second overall) by Montreal in 2016, the 28-year-old played 45-career games in the CFL, including 36 as a starter.

In 2019, the L’Ancienne-Lorette, QC native played nine games with Ottawa, including eight as a starter. During his last season in Montreal in 2018, Gagnon was part of an offensive line which allowed running back Tyrell Sutton to gain 843 rushing yards on 152 carries, while scoring five majors. In 2017, along with his teammates on the offensive line, he helped create openings which allowed the Alouettes to finish in third place in the CFL with 1,718 rushing yards, averaging 95.4 rushing yards per game. Gagnon helped the Université Laval Rouge et Or win back-to-back Vanier Cups in 2012 and 2013.

Normand (six-foot-two, 230 pounds) helped the Alouettes’ offensive line in 2019 when he was used as a fullback on offence, on top of being an important cog on special teams, where he finished fourth on the team with 11 tackles, including three in one game against Ottawa in Week 4. The 29-year-old Bromont, QC native joined Montreal in 2019, following stops in Winnipeg and Edmonton. The former Université Laval Rouge et Or has played 75 games in the CFL, recording 25 special teams tackles.

Luke (six-foot-three, 291 pounds) was the BC Lions’ first-round draft pick (seventh overall) in 2017. He played in 53 games with the Lions, registering 25 defensive tackles and four quarterback sacks. In 2019, the former Université de Montréal Carabin amassed nine defensive tackles, one sack, on top of intercepting one pass and knocking down another. The 29-year-old was a member of the Carabins when the team won the Vanier Cup in 2014 at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.

“We are extremely happy to continue spreading out the good news and to be able to count on established local players on our roster,” said Alouettes General Manager Danny Maciocia.

“These guys are real hard workers for who wearing their hometown team’s jersey represents something special.”

REDBLACKS re-sign three Canadians 

The Ottawa REDBLACKS have re-signed defensive back Justin Howell, wide receiver Marco Dubois and fullback Anthony Gosselin to a one-year contract extension, the club announced.

Howell, a former Carleton University standout, has been with the REDBLACKS since 2018, taking on an expanded role during the 2019 season. The Bradford, Ont. native, has played 27 games with the REDBLACKS since entering the CFL and has accumulated 21 defensive tackles and 16 tackles on special teams in the span.

Dubois was the 13th overall pick in the 2018 CFL draft and he joined the REDBLACKS following a university career with Laval. In 35 regular-season games, he has seven receptions for 45 yards while also featuring on special teams, recording six tackles. Dubois scored his first career touchdown in the 2018 East Final.

Selected by the REDBLACKS in the 2nd round, 18th overall, in the 2017 CFL Draft, Gosselin played 29 games with Ottawa since joining the team, following his university career at Sherbrooke. He ran the fastest 40-yard time for any running back or fullback at the CFL combine 4.73 seconds.

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