February 13, 2018

Thunder buddies are reunited with the Riders

Dan Clark is staying home — and Zack Evans is coming home to join him.

Clark signed a two-year contract extension with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Tuesday, mere hours before he was to become a CFL free agent.

Then, a couple of hours after the market opened, Evans signed a free-agent contract with the Roughriders. The Regina-born defensive tackle spent the past four seasons with the Ottawa Redblacks.

Clark and Evans were teammates with the PFC’s Regina Thunder before playing together with the Roughriders. After Evans spent two seasons with Saskatchewan, he was selected by Ottawa in an expansion draft prior to the 2014 season.

Evans initially joined the Roughriders as a territorial junior in 2012 and played eight games with them in each of the 2012 and ’13 seasons. He was picked by Ottawa in the third round of the expansion draft and became a fixture on its defensive line.

The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder played 18 regular-season games for the Redblacks in 2017 and recorded 23 tackles and five sacks.

In 86 career regular-season games, Evans has registered 87 tackles, 22 sacks and one interception that he returned 66 yards for a touchdown. The 27-year-old is a two-time Grey Cup champion, having won CFL titles with Saskatchewan in 2013 and Ottawa in 2016.

Clark was a member of the Thunder when he joined the Roughriders as a territorial junior in 2009. The 6-foot-2, 310-pound offensive lineman made his CFL debut with Saskatchewan in August of 2012 and since has played in 79 regular-season games, four playoff contests and the 2013 Grey Cup.

In 2017, Clark started the first six games of the regular season at centre before suffering an elbow injury that sidelined him for nine games. His injury forced the Roughriders to shuffle their O-line; Brendon LaBatte moved from left guard to centre, Derek Dennis shifted from left tackle to left guard and Bruce Campbell was inserted at left tackle.

Clark was activated off the injured list with three contests left in the regular season after Dennis sustained a back injury. Clark reclaimed his spot at centre and LaBatte returned to guard.

Clark is one of nine Roughriders who signed a new deal before free agency arrived. Receivers Devon Bailey, Duron Carter and Caleb Holley, offensive linemen LaBatte and Thaddeus Coleman, defensive end Willie Jefferson, defensive back Jovon Johnson and quarterback Brandon Bridge all agreed to extensions before their previous deals expired.

Clark’s new deal left Saskatchewan with eight players who became free agents at 11 a.m.

That group comprised Campbell, defensive linemen A.C. Leonard, Ese Mrabure and Eddie Steele, running backs Spencer Moore and Greg Morris, receiver Nic Demski, linebacker Otha Foster III and punter/kicker Quinn van Gylswyk.

That number dropped to seven later in the day when Demski signed with his hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Demski was Saskatchewan’s first-round pick (sixth overall) in the 2015 draft out of the University of Manitoba and spent three seasons with Saskatchewan.

Leonard subsequently signed elsewhere as well, inking a deal with the Redblacks. The 26-year-old Floridian spent two seasons with the Roughriders after signing with them as a free agent prior to the 2016 season.

The Roughriders announced Tuesday that they had released three international players, including two who were signed as free agents in 2017.

Dennis and linebacker/special-teamer Glenn Love were let go, as was defensive end Antonio Longino.

Dennis appeared in 15 regular-season games in 2017, while Glenn had 18 special-teams tackles and one defensive stop in his 11 games played. Longino appeared in five games and recorded eight defensive tackles, three special-teams stops and a quarterback pressure.