The Saskatchewan Roughriders are giving four players a jump start on free agency by releasing them a few weeks early.
Quarterback Mitchell Gale, running back Curtis Steele, receiver Shamawd Chambers, and defensive lineman Dylan Ainsworth were released on Friday.
Steele made the biggest impact on the Riders last season, though he was only able to play in seven games due to injury.
Steele led the team in rushing yards, but more importantly, was able to protect the quarterback better than any of the other running backs who were filling in while he was out with injury.
Gale played in nine games in the 2016 season and was the quarterback who guided the Riders to their first win of the season against Ottawa, while Darian Durant missed three games with an ankle injury.
Shamawd Chambers was one of a handful of players who followed head coach Chris Jones from Edmonton but was also plagued by injuries for most of the 2016 season.
Dylan Ainsworth was the 11th overall pick by the Riders in the 2014 CFL Draft, collecting 29 special teams tackles over his first two seasons. He didn’t suit up at all for the Riders in 2016.
All four players were due to hit the free agent market on Feb. 14.