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Argos lose Hendrix, Barlow to Ticats in free agency, keep towering Oakman

Toronto Argonauts Montreal Alouettes Shawn Oakman, Cody Fajardo - The Canadian Press

They lost elements of their pass rush but the Toronto Argonauts did keep a huge presence in the middle of their defensive line.

Toronto re-signed towering defensive tackle Shawn Oakman on Wednesday, the second day of CFL free agency. That came after the Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced they'd signed Dewayne Hendrix and Brandon Barlow, both former Argos defensive linemen, to two-year deals.

The six-foot-nine, 287-pound Oakman had 27 tackles, six sacks and a forced fumble last season, his third with Toronto. The former Baylor star has appeared in 45 regular-season contests with the Argos, registering 90 tackles, 18 sacks and two forced fumbles and was part of a Grey Cup-winning squad in 2022.

Toronto's defence recorded a CFL-best 68 sacks this past season, with Folarin Orimolade leading the way with 10. But the six-foot-four, 260-pound Barlow was close behind with nine while the six-foot-four, 265-pound Hendrix had six.

And linebacker Adarius Pickett — the East Division's top defensive player last year — also registered six sacks for the Argos. Last week, Pickett signed a one-year deal with the Ottawa Redblacks.

Toronto also released American defensive lineman Peter Costigan on Wednesday. He had 17 tackles, one special-teams tackle, six sacks, and two forced fumbles in 13 games last season.

The addition of Hendrix and Barlow certainly helps Hamilton. American Casey Sayles had a team-high seven sacks last season but Malik Carney, who had five, signed with Saskatchewan in free agency.

Hamilton's defence had 41 sacks in 2023, leaving it tied with Montreal for sixth overall. Only Edmonton (39) and Saskatchewan (37) had fewer.

Both Hamilton and Toronto made other moves Wednesday.

Toronto bolstered its offensive backfield, signing Canadian Daniel Adeboboye to a contract extension while adding American Ka'Deem Carey. The 31-year-old Carey ran for a CFL-best 1,088 yards in 2022 with the Calgary Stampeders but dropped to 476 yards in nine regular-season games in 2023.

Toronto certainly has holes to fill with the retirement of veteran Canadian Andrew Harris and American A.J. Ouellette's departure in free agency to Saskatchewan. Ouellette finished fourth overall in CFL rushing with 1,009 yards (5.7-yard average).

The Argos also added American linebacker Malik Clements. The 27-year-old played in 12 regular-season games last year with Winnipeg, recording 23 tackles, six special-teams tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble.

The six-foot, 216-pound linebacker spent two seasons with the Bombers after playing in six contests with Edmonton in 2021.

Hamilton also signed offensive lineman Evan Johnson and receiver Brendan O’Leary-Orange, both Canadians.

The six-foot-four, 290-pound Johnson started 12 games last season at left guard for Saskatchewan. The 29-year-old Regina native has appeared in 101 career regular-season games with the Riders (2021-23) and Ottawa (2017-19).

O’Leary-Orange, 27, registered six catches for 111 yards and a TD in 18 regular-season contests last year with Winnipeg. The six-foot-four, 226-pound Toronto native recorded 25 receptions for 344 yards and two touchdowns over three seasons with the Bombers (2021-23).

Surprisingly, though, receiver Tim White remains on the open market. The five-foot-10, 185-pound American had 75 catches for a CFL-high 1,269 yards with eight TDs last season with Hamilton.

Over three seasons with the Ticats, White has 225 catches for 3,308 yards (14.7-yard average) with 18 TDs.

Also unsigned are kicker Sergio Castillo and returner Janarion Grant — both Americans — however they're both continuing talks to remain with the Blue Bombers.

In other moves:

— Ottawa signed linebacker Silas Stewart and offensive lineman Philip Norman to one-year deals. Stewart, 28, had 53 tackles, 29 special-teams tackles, one sack and a forced fumble over three seasons with Calgary while Norman had been with B.C. since 2019.

— B.C. signed veteran American defensive back Ciante Evans to a one-year deal. Evans, 31, helped Montreal win the Grey Cup last season. The Lions also signed American quarterback Jake Dolegala to a one-year deal. He spent two seasons with Saskatchewan, starting nine games (2-7 record) last season with injuries to Trevor Harris and Mason Fine.

— Montreal signed American defensive lineman Dylan Wynn. The six-foot-two, 290-pound Wynn had four tackles and a sack in seven contests last season with Hamilton but over 77 career regular-season contests with the Ticats (2019, 2021-23) and Toronto (2017-18) has accumulated 173 tackles and 29 sacks while also earning a Grey Cup ring in 2017.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2024.