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Roughriders Sankey, Lanier will be listening to other CFL free-agent offers

TORONTO — Saskatchewan Roughriders Darnell Sankey and Anthony Lanier II will be among the CFL players entering the league's negotiation window this weekend.
Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Darnell Sankey (53) runs onto the field before CFL football action against BC Lions in Regina on Friday, August 19, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

TORONTO — Saskatchewan Roughriders Darnell Sankey and Anthony Lanier II will be among the CFL players entering the league's negotiation window this weekend.

Sankey, a middle linebacker, and Lanier, a defensive lineman, are both slated to become CFL free agents Feb. 14. They could still re-sign with Saskatchewan but, according to two league sources, neither will before Sunday when the negotiation window opens.

Sankey, 28, registered a CFL-leading 120 tackles last season, his first with Saskatchewan. The six-foot-one, 245 pound middle linebacker posted a league-leading 98 tackles in 2021 with the Calgary Stampeders.

Sankey added two special-teams tackles, three sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles with Saskatchewan in 2022.

Lanier, 29, has spent the last two seasons with Saskatchewan. He appeared in 11 regular-season games in 2022, recording 19 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles.

The six-foot-six, 285-pound Lanier has played 21 career CFL regular-season games, registering 32 tackles, nine sacks and two forced fumbles.

Two other big names that will hit the window include veteran quarterback Trevor Harris and receiver Eugene Lewis, both of the Montreal Alouettes.

Harris, 36, completed 71.6 per cent of his passes last season for 4,157 yards (third-most in the CFL) with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Lewis was a favourite target with 91 catches for 1,303 yards and 10 touchdowns en route to being named the East Division's outstanding player.

Earlier this week, Lewis, 29, tweeted, "See y’all in Free Agency!!"

Harris and Lewis helped Montreal (9-9) finish second in the East Division last year. The Alouettes dispatched Hamilton 28-17 in the conference semifinal before losing 34-27 the following week to the eventual Grey Cup-champion Toronto Argonauts.

But there's been uncertainty in Montreal since former president Mario Cecchini's three-year deal with the club wouldn't be renewed. The Alouettes are owned by Toronto businessman Gary Stern (25 per cent) and the estate of the late Sid Spiegel, Stern’s business partner and father-in-law (75 per cent) and there's been speculation the estate is interested in selling the club.

Cecchini's successor hadn't been made public as of Thursday. According to a CFL source, Harris and Lewis have spoken to GM Danny Maciocia this off-season but both remain unsigned.

There are reports the B.C. Lions are interested in Lewis after veteran Bryan Burnham retired this off-season. while Harris has been mentioned as a good fit with Saskatchewan.

One Alouettes player who won't be testing free agency is American defensive back Raheem Wilson, who signed a one-year contract extension with Montreal on Thursday. 

CFL teams will be able begin talking to pending free agents starting at noon ET on Sunday. Those players will have until noon ET on Feb. 12 to entertain offers from other clubs.

Those proposals — including base salary and incentives — must be registered with the league and CFL Players’ Association. Any submissions that are made will be considered binding.

When the window closes, teams will have 48 hours to negotiate exclusively with their own potential free agents. The CFL will provide clubs with registered offers that have been made to those players.

Teams will then have until 10 a.m. ET on Feb. 14 to make an offer to their own players, of which a copy must given to both the league and CFLPA.

Following the 48-hour period, the player will have two hours (10 a.m.-noon ET) on Feb. 14 to select any offer made to him. If he accepts one, the chosen team must then inform the CFL.

Should the player turn down all offers, he’ll enter free agency at 12:01 p.m. ET on Feb. 14. Any prior offers will be no longer available.

The free-agency window was introduced in 2020 to curb tampering and also allow pending free agents to explore all of their options and gauge their value before the start of the free-agent period.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press