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Toronto Argonauts defensive end Ejiro Kuale grabs hold of Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Greg Carr (L) during the first half of their CFL football game in Toronto September 24, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Cassese (Mike Cassese/Reuters)
Toronto Argonauts defensive end Ejiro Kuale grabs hold of Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Greg Carr (L) during the first half of their CFL football game in Toronto September 24, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Cassese (Mike Cassese/Reuters)

CFL Free Agency

Biggest names remain on market Add to ...

And on the first day of free agency, CFL star Andy Fantuz waited – in Africa, no less.

While several teams made their best offer for the former Saskatchewan Roughriders standout on Wednesday, Fantuz was vacationing halfway around the world, letting his agent handle business back home. As a result, the prized Canadian slotback remained unsigned on a day when just as many players chose to remain with their former team than go elsewhere.

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The 2011 Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions re-signed defensive backs Ryan Phillips and Dante Marsh, while the championship runners-up, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, re-signed offensive lineman Glen January, an East Division all-star in 2011.

Winnipeg had hoped to quickly lockup import receiver Greg Carr, but Wednesday he was also considering a bid from the Edmonton Eskimos.

The Toronto Argonauts let several key starters from 2011 enter free agency, but were able to grab one back. They inked Canadian linebacker Jason Pottinger to a new two-year deal. Pottinger made a remarkable recovery last year after suffering what was thought to be a season-ending knee injury.

The first player to sign with another team after the window opened Wednesday at noon (EST) was a now-former Roughriders receiver. Cary Koch agreed to join the Eskimos and will replace Jason Barnes, who was recently released and signed by Toronto. Koch was injured for most of last season. He finished with 15 catches for 133 yards in nine games.

The Eskimos also signed former Winnipeg defensive lineman Don Oramasionwu, a 6-foot-3, 289-pound non-import who adds depth to an already sizable contingent of Canadian defensive linemen in Edmonton (Ted Laurent, Étienne Légaré, Jermaine Reed, Dee Sterling).

Saskatchewan added a local product by signing Regina-born defensive back Paul Woldu, who spent the last four seasons with the Montreal Alouettes. The Riders were reportedly close to securing three-time East Division all-star Brendon LaBatte for their offensive line – at a salary Edmonton general manager Eric Tillman said was “close to $200,000.”

Riders quarterback Darian Durant tweeted that LaBatte, who was born in Weyburn, Sask., and played college football in Regina, “definitely wants to be a Rider.”

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats kept linebacker Ike Brown out of free agency by re-signing him in the morning before the deadline. Hamilton is reportedly hot on the trail of Fantuz, too.

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