The Calgary Stampeders are taking a flyer on linebacker Marcus Smith II.
Smith, a former first-round pick of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, is one of 10 players on Calgary’s negotiation list. The nine CFL teams made the revelations Thursday, the first of two they’ll do this year.
Philadelphia selected the six-foot-three, 258-pound Smith in the first round, No. 26 overall, in the 2014 NFL draft. The former Louisville star spent three seasons with the Eagles, who declined the fifth-year option on Smith’s deal May 1, 2017 before releasing him July 26, 2017.
He signed with the Seattle Seahawks but was released Aug. 17, 2018. Smith, 28, signed with Washington twice before being let go for good Aug. 31, 2019.
Smith, a native of Columbus, Ga., has appeared in 53 career NFL games, registering 6.5 sacks, 38 tackles (25 solo) and two forced fumbles.
CFL teams can have up to 45 players on their negotiation list which gives them exclusive negotiating rights to those players should they decide to play in Canada.
Players can be added, or removed, at a team’s discretion on a first-come, first-serve basis. Clubs own exclusive rights to those players so long as they’re on a negotiation list.
Negotiation-list players often are a crapshoot for CFL teams as many never set foot in Canada. But they can bear fruit as 13 players played games for Canadian squads last year after initially being placed on a club’s negotiation list.
Some include: defensive lineman Woody Baron (Montreal), defensive backs Randall Evans (Ottawa), Jumal Rolle (Hamilton) and Marcus Sayles (Winnipeg), quarterback Chris Streveler (Winnipeg) and receivers Janarion Grant, Lucky Whitehead (both with Winnipeg) and Rodney Smith (Toronto).
Streveler is currently the backup quarterback with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
Not surprisingly, quarterbacks dominated Thursday’s reveal with 35 although two more Nick Holley (Toronto) and Blake Jackson (Winnipeg) were listed as quarterback/receivers. Next were defensive linemen (16) and then receivers (13, excluding Holley and Jackson).
Holley is the twin brother of Nate Holley, a linebacker who was the CFL’s top rookie last year with Calgary. Nate Holley is currently on the Miami Dolphins’ practice roster.
Each team had at least two quarterbacks on its list, with Ottawa having nine. The other player on the Redblacks’ negotiation list was American defensive lineman Kendall Coleman, an NFL free agent after being released last month by the Indianapolis Colts.
Smith wasn’t the only former NFL first-round selection on a negotiation list. Josh Rosen, a former UCLA quarterback taken No. 10 overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, is among the 10 players revealed by the Edmonton Eskimos.
And receiver Kendall Wright, a 2012 first-round selection, No. 20 overall, of the Tennessee Titans is on the Toronto Argonauts’ negotiation list.
The six-foot-four, 215-pound Rosen, who’s been released by both Arizona and the Miami Dolphins, is currently on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice roster.
Wright, 30, is currently a free agent. The former Baylor star started 45-of-82 career NFL games with Tennessee and Chicago, registering 339 catches for 3,858 yards with 19 touchdowns. He also spent time with the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona before being released by the Cardinals on Nov. 17, 2018.
But some of the players on CFL negotiation lists are definite future prospects. Quarterbacks Ben DiNucci (Dallas) and Trace McSorley (Baltimore) are on the B.C. Lions and Calgary Stampeders negotiation lists despite still being with NFL squads. Mac Jones and Sam Howell, currently the starters at Alabama and North Carolina, respectively, are on Ottawa’s negotiation list while Ian Book, Notre Dame’s No. 1 quarterback, and Wake Forest starter Sam Hartman are on Winnipeg’s and Hamilton’s negotiation lists.
Minnesota State receiver Shane Zylstra remains on Edmonton’s negotiation list. Zylstra’s older brother, Brandon, had 100 catches for 1,687 yards and five TDs with the Eskimos in 2017 and is currently with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
For years, Hamilton had former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel on its negotiation list. The former Texas A&M star eventually joined the Ticats in 2018 before being dealt to the Montreal Alouettes that season.
Montreal released Manziel after the ‘18 campaign on orders from the league for reportedly contravening terms of his CFL contract. He was also barred from joining any another franchise in Canada.
Manziel ended up joining the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football before that league suspended operations in April, 2019.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press
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