The Saskatchewan Roughriders have reached a deal with international receiver Chad Owens.
The move came as a surprise to many, but Owens said when it was clear he wouldn’t be going back to the Hamilton Tigercats, Saskatchewan was a great option.
“I’m really looking forward to everything. To the new facility, new beginning, it’s a new era in Riderville and for me to be a part of it, I’m honestly extremely excited,” Owens said from his home in Mississauga, Ont.
Owens spent six seasons in Toronto before playing last year with Hamilton, but was plagued by injuries the last two season. Owens, however, doesn’t want fan to worry about that.
“I’m expecting to be ready and at the top of my game,” he said. “My foot is right there where it needs to be in the offseason and once it comes around, all I’m going to say is … don’t be surprised, because I won’t be.”
The green and white also announced Wednesday they have signed national safety Marc-Olivier Brouillette.
Brouillette was a seven-year veteran of the Montreal Alouettes and was taken in the 2010 draft. He started all 18 games for Montreal last season. He was also named an eastern all-star.
The signings come after the Riders got off to a strong start in free agency Tuesday signing the 2016 Offensive Lineman of the Year, Derek Dennis and then adding Canadian running back Kienan LaFrance later in the day.
Canadian fullback Aaron Milton and Canadian offensive lineman Ryan White have also been signed by the club.
Head coach and general manager Chris Jones said that the focus on Canadians was intentional and necessary.
“That’s how you win football games in this league, it’s quarterback play and Canadian depth,” he said. “That’s one of the things since we’ve been here we’ve been trying to achieve … try to acquire as many good Canadians as you can, so it’s been a priority.”
Also turning out to be necessary is the signing Dennis and White, the two offensive lineman. While providing a free agent update Wednesday afternoon, Jones didn’t exactly sound optimistic about the futures of Rider veterans Chris Best and Brendon LaBatte.
“They’ll be some information coming out on Best pretty soon, but LaBatte, he’s gotten some prognosis that’s been positive but we’ll have to reserve judgment until we actually see it,” Jones said.
Best spent the entire 2016 season on the injured list, while LaBatte suffered a concussion in July and hasn’t played since.
In the event that one or both of Best and LaBatte are unable to play, Dennis brings a strong presence to the offensive line and White — who spent two years with the Alouettes — adds Canadian depth to the line.
Meanwhile, Winnipeg-born Milton spent the last three seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos, meaning the Roughriders head coach and general manager Chris Jones would have plenty of familiarity with the 24-year-old. Milton provides Canadian depth at running back behind LaFrance and Greg Morris, who was signed by the team last year.