The Canadian Football League’s 2021 season is up and running at last.
And from the active rosters and practice squads to the injured and suspended lists, former New England Patriots are represented in some capacity across eight teams.
Those teams are the BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Toronto Argonauts, Ottawa Redblacks and Montreal Alouettes. The Edmonton Elks, at this time, mark the lone omission.
Here’s the list of past Patriots in the fold as Week 1 opens with an 8:30 p.m. ET Grey Cup rematch Thursday at IG Field.
Ryker Mathews, offensive tackle — After stints with the New Orleans Saints and Tiger-Cats, Mathews signed a futures contract with New England in January 2019. The Brigham Young product would be waived in the midst of organized team activities four months later. Mathews, now 28, returned to the three-down game on the way to being named a CFL East All-Star. He agreed to terms with BC on a two-year contract in February 2020.
Ufomba Kamalu, defensive tackle — Undrafted out of Miami in 2016, Kamalu made stops with the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals before joining New England’s practice squad in 2018. The defensive lineman would be elevated to appear in two games during the Super Bowl LIII run. He was waived at the 2019 roster deadline and later agreed to join the Baltimore Ravens off the Patriots’ scout team. Arrested on a warrant for domestic violence the following offseason, the 28-year-old Kamalu was suspended by the NFL for the rest of 2020. He signed with BC in December.
Sean Riley, wide receiver — A member of New England’s 2020 undrafted class, Riley was waived at the cut from 90 to 80 players prior to training camp last July. The 23-year-old wideout later revisited the Patriots for a free-agent workout before signing with the Stampeders in January. Riley played in 49 games at Syracuse. He finished his Orange tenure third in program history with 4,358 all-purpose yards.
D.J. Killings, cornerback — Killings signed with the Patriots as a rookie free agent following the 2017 draft. The defensive back out of Central Florida was subsequently waived with the injury designation that September and reached a settlement two weeks later. Killings, now 25, has also been a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers and Las Vegas Raiders. The Super Bowl LII champion joined Calgary in May after opting out of the 2020 NFL season due Covid-19 concerns.
Shaq Evans, wide receiver — Once a fourth-round selection, Evans signed to New England’s practice squad in October 2016. The ex-UCLA target was released eight days into his stay and made a stop with the Dallas Cowboys before heading to Saskatchewan. Evans, now 30, became a CFL All-Star in 2019. His Roughriders career spans 122 receptions for 2,119 yards and five touchdowns.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
Kelvin McKnight, wide receiver — Placed on Winnipeg’s injured list Wednesday, McKnight signed his CFL pact in June. Prior to then, the Samford standout made his initial NFL tour with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted rookie in 2019 before briefly joining New England’s practice squad that October. McKnight then returned to Denver in the weeks that followed and remained into the early stages of 2020. The 24-year-old receiver and returner also logged time in The Spring League.
Cam Meredith, wide receiver — On the Blue Bombers’ practice squad resides the 28-year-old Meredith, who joined the CFL ranks in July after spending 2020 out of football. Meredith caught 86 passes for 1,112 yards and five touchdowns after entering the NFL undrafted in 2015. The wideout out of Illinois State had signed with New England during 2019 training camp. He was placed on physically unable to perform while working back from knee injuries that curtailed his previous two seasons. Meredith was then released from the PUP list one month into the campaign.
J’Mar Smith, quarterback — Smith signed with the Tiger-Cats in May, and he checks in on the practice squad to begin 2021. The former Louisiana Tech quarterback originally signed with the Patriots as part of the organization’s undrafted class last spring, but was waived leading up to training camp due to 90-man restrictions. Smith, 24, was Conference USA’s 2019 Offensive Player of the Year.
Jake Burt, tight end — On Hamilton’s one-game injured list, Burt would also arrive with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie one spring ago. The Boston College alum from Lynnfield, Mass. would spend 2020 between the New England’s practice squad and injured list. Burt was not signed to a futures deal following the season. And in May, the 24-year-old tight end became the No. 1 overall pick in the CFL draft.
Ja’Gared Davis, defensive end — The Patriots claimed Davis off the waiver wire in 2013, and the linebacker out of Southern Methodist played in four games on special teams from there over two seasons. Davis, who also spent time on New England’s practice squad, has been in the CFL since 2016. From the Stampeders to the Tiger-Cats, the 30-year-old has amassed 177 tackles, 36 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, a trio of interceptions and a pair of touchdowns. He’s been a CFL East All-Star and a Grey Cup champion.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson, quarterback — The 33-year-old Bethel-Thompson has ventured from the Arena Football League to the United Football League to The Spring League since going undrafted out of Sacramento State in 2011. He’s ventured from the NFL to the CFL, too. Bethel-Thompson was part of the Patriots’ first practice squad back in 2014. He’d become a Grey Cup champion with the Argonauts in 2017 and led the league in passing touchdowns in 2019.
D.J. Foster, running back — Foster, who joined the Argonauts in July and resides on the practice squad, signed with New England as a priority free agent following the 2016 draft. The rusher-slash-receiver out of Arizona State made the 53-man roster as a rookie. Seven carries, one reception and one kickoff return followed. And after a week on the New England practice squad that winter, Foster returned to the active roster on the way to Super Bowl LI. He departed for the Cardinals early in 2017, and was placed on injured reserve both in 2018 and 2019. Foster, 27, appeared in 10 games for Arizona last season.
DaVaris Daniels, wide receiver — The Patriots were awarded Daniels off waivers during the 75-man roster cut in 2015. The undrafted receiver out of Notre Dame was waived by New England shortly after that year’s preseason finale. Since then, Daniels has collected the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie of the Year Award and won a Grey Cup. From Calgary to Edmonton to Toronto, the 28-year-old has recorded 190 catches for 2,975 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Khyri Thornton, defensive tackle — On the Argonauts’ suspended list sits Thornton, whom the Patriots once claimed off waivers heading into the 2015 season. The former third-round pick out of Southern Miss had a pair of stints on New England’s roster that fall. Thornton was selected by the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks in 2019. The 31-year-old signed with Toronto in February.
Kony Ealy, defensive end — The Patriots moved down from No. 64 overall to No. 72 overall in the 2017 NFL draft to acquire Ealy from the Carolina Panthers. The defensive end from Missouri played 95 preseason snaps for New England before being claimed off waivers by the New York Jets. Now 29, Ealy joined the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks in 2019 and signed with the Argonauts in February.
Ryan Davis, wide receiver — Davis signed with New England as an undrafted free agent out of Auburn in 2019, after he and quarterback Jarrett Stidham combined to set the school’s all-time receptions record. Davis caught three passes for 30 yards with New England during his rookie preseason before being waived at the 53-man cutdown. The 24-year-old agreed to terms with Ottawa in February.
Nick Usher, defensive end — The Patriots signed Usher at the tail end of the 2018 preseason, and the pass-rushing rookie from UTEP was waived one week later. Now 26, Usher appeared in 26 games Edmonton before joining Montreal as free agency opened in February. His CFL career includes 43 tackles, seven sacks and four forced fumbles through 26 games.
Adarius Pickett, safety — Pickett signed to New England’s practice squad in the final month of the 2019 season. The Patriots marked the third NFL team for the former UCLA defensive back, who later reached a futures deal yet was waived heading into training camp last July. Pickett, 24, signed with the Alouettes in June.