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Ex-Patriots in the CFL’s fold as 2019 season nears

Looking for players from New England’s past on Canadian Football League rosters.

Cincinnati Bengals v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Canadian Football League’s opening rosters had to be submitted by Saturday. Up to 10 practice players per team were eligible to be added as of Sunday. And come 7:30 p.m. ET this Thursday, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats will get the 2019 CFL season up and running.

So will some recent and distant names from the New England Patriots’ past.

Six of the league’s clubs currently roster at least one player with a previous stop in Foxborough, and the BC Lions, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes are the lone exclusions.

As for who’s where in the three-down game, here’s a glance at the CFL 46-man rosters and practice squads through a Patriots prism.


DaVaris Daniels, wide receiver – The Patriots claimed Daniels at the old 75-man cutdown in 2016, and the undrafted wideout by way of Notre Dame and the Minnesota Vikings was waived in the days that followed the preseason finale. Daniels went on garner the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie of the Year Award. He tallied 148 catches for 2,375 yards and 20 touchdowns through three years with Calgary.

Tommie Draheim, offensive lineman – Draheim spent a week on New England’s practice squad in December of the 2012 campaign. The San Diego State product with six NFL cups of coffee moved on to the CFL in 2015. Draheim won the Grey Cup in 2016 and started four games for Edmonton in 2018.

Kelcy Quarles, defensive tackle – Quarles, now a member of Edmonton’s practice squad, was claimed by the Patriots as the calendar turned to September 2014. The UDFA out of South Carolina would log time on New England’s scout that season and the next. Quarles’ stay with New England was split by 12 months with the Indianapolis Colts.

Nick Usher, defensive end – The Patriots signed Usher late last August, and the rookie outside linebacker out of UTEP was part of mass roster cuts six days later. Usher appeared in eight games for the Eskimos in 2018, recording 10 total tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.


Derek Dennis, offensive lineman – Dennis was in training camp with the Patriots back in 2012. He’s since checked into 56 CFL games. The 6-foot-3, 348-pounder out of Temple has been a Grey Cup champion, a recipient of the league’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award and a two-time All-Star.


Marcus Thigpen, running back – The 2009 undrafted free agent via Indiana appeared in 50 NFL games and was rostered by eight teams. The Patriots were one of them, signing Thigpen to the practice squad in the formative stages of 2014. Thigpen, now 33, has amassed three touchdowns on missed field goals, two on kickoffs and another on punts in his CFL career. He’s scored 13 touchdowns on offense, too.

Shaq Evans, wide receiver – New England added the former New York Jets fourth-round pick to the practice squad in October 2016. Evans was released a week later. The UCLA Bruin joined the CFL ranks this past season, catching 50 passes for 785 yards as a Roughriders rookie.


Ryker Mathews, offensive lineman – The most current ex-Patriot of the group, Mathews penned a futures contract with New England in January yet was waived at the start of May. The 26-year-old offensive tackle had spent the previous two seasons as a Tiger-Cat, and Mathews is one again.

Ja’Gared Davis, defensive end – The Patriots were awarded Davis off the wire leading up to the 2013 campaign, and the linebacker via Southern Methodist played in four games on special teams for the Patriots over parts of two campaigns. Davis, who also resided on New England’s scout team, is now entering his first year with Hamilton. He racked up 123 tackles, 23 sacks, seven forced fumbles and three interceptions and a pair of touchdowns while with Calgary.


McCleod Bethel-Thompson, quarterback – Bethel-Thompson has gone from the Arena Football League to the United Football League to The Spring League. He’s gone from the NFL and to the CFL, as well. The QB was a member of the Patriots’ initial practice squad back in 2014, and the won the Grey Cup with Toronto in 2017.


Chris Martin, offensive lineman – The Patriots crossed paths with Martin on two occasions, with the Central Florida bookend checking in on the practice squad in the fall of 2014 and returning through waivers the following summer. Martin was with Ottawa in 2018 and returned to the CFL following the Alliance of American Football’s disbandment.

Among the other onetime Patriots with recent CFL experience, there are the likes of wideouts Jalen Saunders, Chris Harper and Griff Whalen, plus offensive tackle Brian Simmons, linebacker Taylor Reed and cornerback Will Likely.

Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was placed on Winnipeg’s suspended list last month. And in the months prior, linebackers James Vaughters and Alex Singleton signed futures contracts with the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively.