The Flyin’ Hawaiian is heading to Riderville.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders signed American receiver/returner Chad Owens to a two-year contract Wednesday, the second day of CFL free agency. It’s the second new team in as many seasons for the 34-year-old Honolulu native, who played last year for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats following a six-year stint with the Toronto Argonauts.
“If there is a place I want to play and finish my career, it’s Saskatchewan,” Owens said during a conference call. “It’s the top market when it comes to the CFL and to say I’m going to be able to experience that is unbelievable.
“This will likely be my last stop. Take that with a grain of salt but it very well could be.”
The five-foot-seven 180-pound Owens had 58 catches for 808 yards and five touchdowns with Hamilton, his season limited to 12 games due to a broken foot. As an Argonaut, he won the league’s outstanding special-teams player award in 2010 before adding the CFL’s outstanding player honour in 2012.
Owens also helped Toronto win the 100th Grey Cup in 2012 at Rogers Centre. He has 504 career catches for 5,982 yards and 25 TDs along with 365 punt returns for 4,027 yards and six touchdowns.
“Chad has averaged 11 yards per return in his career and his 13.1 (average) last year led the league,” said Chris Jones, the Riders’ GM and head coach. “If we get that out of him, that’s what we’re looking for.
“He’s a dynamic player regardless of where you put him. He’s not the youngest guy in the world and we spoke to him about that. He keeps himself in great condition but his primary job here will be to flip the field.”
Saskatchewan also signed safety Marc-Olivier Brouillette, offensive lineman Ryan White and running back Aaron Milton, all Canadians. On Tuesday, the Riders added Derek Dennis â€” the CFL’s top lineman last year with the Calgary Stampeders â€” and Canadian running back Kienan LaFrance, who spent 2016 with the Grey Cup-champion Ottawa Redblacks.
Veteran offensive lineman Andrew Jones, a 34-year-old Toronto native who started 10 games with Saskatchewan last year, tweeted Wednesday he’d been released by the club.
For years, Owens was the face of the Argos. On the field, he was an exciting playmaker on both offence and special teams while away from it he was very active in the community. Two years ago, he even moved his family from Hawaii to live full-time in Mississauga, Ont.
But after missing just two games over his first three years in Toronto, Owens was sidelined for 17 regular-season games over the final three. And then he had the foot ailment in 2016.
“I expect to be ready and at the top of my game,” Owens said. “All I’m going to say to everybody is don’t be surprised because I won’t be.
“I still believe in my abilities and what I’m able to do.”
Owens joins a Riders’ receiving crew that includes rising star Naaman Roosevelt (76 catches, 1,095 yards, two TDs), veteran Rob Bagg and former Montreal star Duron Carter. With former starter Darian Durant now an Alouette, veteran Kevin Glenn heads up the six quarterbacks currently on the roster.
Brouillette, a 31-year-old Montreal native, spent seven seasons with the Alouettes. The six-foot-one 220-pound safety recorded 202 tackles, 30 special-teams tackles, eight sacks and five interceptions over his CFL career.
The six-foot-four 290-pound White, a Montreal native, was a 2012 sixth-round draft pick and played 25 games with the Als. Milton, a six-foot-three 215-pound native of Whitby, Ont., spent the last three seasons with Edmonton.
In other moves:
â€” Montreal signed former Hamilton quarterback Jacory Harris and confirmed the signing of defensive back Ryan Phillips to a one-year deal. Phillips was released last week after 12 seasons with B.C. The Alouettes also agreed to a three-year deal with defensive tackle Jabar Westerman of Brampton, Ont., who was an all-star with the B.C. Lions.
â€” Edmonton re-signed defensive end Phillip Hunt, who had 12 tackles and three sacks in eight games last year.
â€” Hamilton re-signed defensive back Emanuel Davis, who had 178 tackles, 24 special-teams tackles and 10 interceptions (four returned for TDs) the last four seasons.
â€” Calgary signed linebacker Beau Landry of Kitchener, Ont., who spent the three seasons with Hamilton but played just six games last year due to a concussion. The Stampeders also signed quarterback Mitchell Gale, who played for Saskatchewan last year.
â€” Toronto signed Canadian defensive tackle Jeff Finley, a six-foot-three 260-pound native of St. Catharines, Ont., who spent three seasons with Montreal.
After signing defensive tackle Drake Nevis and Canadian receiver Matt Coates on Tuesday, Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters made no moves Wednesday. But he said during a conference call he has made an offer to free-agent receiver Clarence Denmark to return.
“I told him, ‘This will be here waiting for you. Do your due diligence, look around,’ and that’s where we’re at,” Walters said. “I’d still like to have Clarence back … we’ll see what happens.”
Walters said while he’s aware of what other teams have done in free agency, he’s not stressed about it.
“Really we’re just focused on ourselves,” he said. “We’ll worry about the teams in the West when we line up and play them.”
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press