Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Eric Tillman was busy man this weekend.
Tillman pulled off two trades prior to the CFL's final cutdown of midnight ET on Saturday. Due to the late deadline, both deals were announced Sunday.
The Riders acquired running back Wes Cates from the Calgary Stampeders for Canadian Rob Lazeo and a conditional 2009 draft pick, effectively filling the void created by the off-season departure of 1,000-yard rusher Kenton Keith to the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. Then the club landed defensive back Tad Kornegay from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for receivers Jason French and Thyron Anderson.
CFL teams had until midnight ET on Saturday to make their final cuts to reach the league-mandated 46-man active roster. The 2007 season begins Thursday evening.
Cates appeared in 17 regular-season games and the West Division semifinal last year with Calgary. Playing behind Joffrey Reynolds - who was second in the CFL in rushing in 2005 - Cates ran for 181 yards on 25 carries and scored two touchdowns. He added 21 catches for 286 yards and a TD.
"If Calgary didn't have Joffrey Reynolds, trust me, Wes Cates would have been a household name in the CFL last year," Tillman said. "Wes is big, fast, has very good hands and he can also be a significant factor in the return game."
Lazeo, a six-foot-five, 310-pound native of Abbotsford, B.C., spent seven seasons with Saskatchewan (1998-'99, 2002-'07). He dressed in 113 regular-season games and eight playoff contests with the franchise. He also spent time with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
"It's never easy to trade a man who has given five years of unselfish service, like Rob has to our team," Tillman said. "He's well liked and certainly leaves with our respect for his many contributions to the Roughriders."
Lazeo played collegiately at Western Illinois and in 1997 he appeared in an exhibition game with the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League, catching a three-yard pass from then quarterback Kurt Warner, who would go on to win a Super Bowl title with the St. Louis Rams.
The six-foot, 185-pound Kornegay spent two years with Hamilton, appearing in 32 regular-season games and registering 54 defensive tackles, an interception and sack. French spent six seasons with the Riders, appearing in 103 regular-season game and eight post-season contests.
Saskatchewan also released 13 players, including offensive lineman John Feugill and defensive back Donnie Ruiz, both CFL veterans.
The Stampeders also made a second deal, sending third-year defensive back Coby Rhinehart to Montreal for future considerations. The five-foot-11, 196-pound Rhinehart appeared in 30 games with Calgary, registering 106 tackles and eight interceptions.
The Alouettes released 14 players to make the 46-man limit, including veteran offensive lineman Uzooma Okeke. The move wasn't surprising as the prevailing talk throughout the Als' camp was that the six-foot-two, 310-pound Okeke was on thin ice as head coach Jim Popp pondered going with an all-Canadian offensive line.
Okeke, 36, spent 14 seasons in the CFL and was entering his 11th campaign with Montreal. The former SMU grad was a six-time all-star and in '99 was named the league's top lineman. He also earned a Grey Cup ring with the Alouettes in 2002.
Montreal also placed slotback Dave Stala and CFL rookie running back Jarrett Payton on the one-week injury list.
For the second time in three year, veteran receiver Derrell (Mookie) Mitchell finds himself looking for another job.
Mitchell, a 10-year CFL veteran, was released by the Edmonton Eskimos prior to Saturday's deadline. He joined the Eskimos in 2004 after being cut by the Toronto Argonauts, where Mitchell had spent the first seven years of his Canadian football career.
But Mitchell, who turns 36 in September, wasn't the only big-name player released by Edmonton. Running back Josh Ranek, a former 1,000-yard rusher with the Ottawa Renegades, was also cut by the Eskimos.
Mitchell, the CFL's top rookie while with Toronto in '97, started 15 games last season and finished with 70 catches for 892 yards and a touchdown. He won a Grey Cup with Edmonton in 2005, his second CFL championship. The first came with Toronto in '97.
"Mookie Mitchell is a future CFL Hall of Famer," said Edmonton coach Danny Maciocia. "We won a lot of games and a championship with him."
Ranek's release Friday came just five months after he signed with the team as a free agent.
Ranek, 29, played in 10 games for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last season, carrying 85 times for 343 yards and adding 26 receptions for 254 yards and three touchdowns.
The five-foot-eight, 205-pound South Dakota native spent the previous five seasons with Ottawa, rising to prominence in 2003 with a team-record 1,122 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He added 373 receiving yards and four scores and was a unanimous selection to the East all-star team.
The Toronto Argonauts released 17 players, including former York University running back Andre Durie, who was attempting to come back from a horrific knee injury suffered two years ago. However, Durie is expected to be added to the Argos practice roster.
The five-foot-11, 195-pound Durie was a blue-chip pro prospect in 2005. But during a game versus Queen's on Sept. 12, 2005, Durie planted his left leg to make a cut when he felt something pop in his knee. Tests revealed he not only tore three ligaments, but also muscles around the joint knee and crushed a nerve that left Durie with no feeling in his lower leg.
Durie had surgery to repair the muscles, then began to rehabilitate them. Doctors didn't want to tackle repairing the ligament damage until Durie regained the feeling in his leg. That didn't happen until last September, yet Durie was jogging less than four months later, and began sprinting in February. Durie was bypassed in the CFL Canadian college draft in last month but signed with Toronto as a free agent shortly afterwards.
On Saturday, he and former Queen's slotback Brad Smith, the son of Montreal Alouettes president Larry Smith, were among those released by the Argos.
Toronto also added tackle Jeff Keeping to the weekly injured list while quarterback Eric Crouch and receiver Chad Rempel were placed on the nine-week injured list.
That means the Argos will open the season with CFL veterans Damon Allen and Michael Bishop as well as former NFL starter Mike McMahon as their three quarterbacks. Toronto will kick off the 2007 season Thursday night at Rogers Centre against the Grey Cup-champion B.C. Lions.