It was a bad weekend for many CFL veterans and hopeful prospects, as teams had to cut their active rosters down to 46 players. Although rookies trying to crack the rosters bore the brunt of the cuts, there were also plenty of notable veterans axed. The cuts had to be submitted to the league by 10 p.m. Eastern Saturday night, but announcements of them (and announcements of which players had accepted assignments to practice squads, which have been newly expanded to nine players) were still trickling in Sunday morning. The Edmonton Eskimos tallied the longest, as they didn't report a single transaction on the central league site, their own site or their Twitter account until their cuts were finally released just after noon Eastern Sunday. Here are five of the most surprising cuts from around the league:
Kevin Huntley, defensive tackle, Toronto Argonauts: The Argos continued their defensive line makeover this weekend, releasing Huntley, who'd been with the team since 2009. Huntley notched 26 sacks over four seasons with Toronto, but battled injuries last year and only recorded two sacks. He was a backup by the end of the season, although he did contribute as a rotational player. Huntley was an East Division all-star as recently as 2011, though, and a league all-star in 2010. At 31, he might have something left, but his injury history and salary likely were factors here. We'll see if he winds up with another CFL team.
Stevie Baggs, defensive end, Calgary Stampeders: Baggs is a long-time CFL and NFL veteran, playing in one of the two leagues with a plethora of teams since 2004, but at 31, he's also not incredibly old by CFL standards. However, he didn't play much last season after being cut by Hamilton mid-year and picked up by Calgary in September. Baggs earned high praise from Stamps' head coach and general manager John Hufnagel in a pre-camp conference call and was set to compete for a job, but apparently didn't do enough to beat out Calgary's younger pass-rushers. The question now is if another team thinks Baggs has something left or if this ends his CFL career.
Quinton Porter, quarterback, Montreal Alouettes: Porter was one of the most notable offseason acquisitions in Montreal, as he'd proved to be a capable backup and even sometimes a starter in Hamilton. He looked like a man who might be able to capably step in to the void left by departed backup QB Adrian McPherson, who went to the Arena Football League this offseason. However, Porter appears to have been beaten out by Josh Neiswander, who's in his third year with the team. This could work out for Porter, though: Edmonton might be in the market for an experienced CFL backup to Mike Reilly following Matt Nichols' injury, and Winnipeg also could look to bring in someone with some experience behind the oft-injured Buck Pierce. We'll see if either team bites on him.
LaMarcus Coker, running back, Calgary Stampeders: Coker is an unusual cut, as he's a talented back who's been with the Stamps since 2011 and is only 26. He obviously wasn't going to start, as Calgary has 2012 Most Outstanding Player finalist Jon Cornish, but Coker has proven a valuable fill-in piece at times, averaging seven yards per carry last year (on 21 rushing attempts). He did fumble twice in this week's preseason clash with Saskatchewan, though, so that might be part of the rationale here. It wouldn't be surprising to see him land elsewhere.
Brody McKnight, kicker, Saskatchewan Roughriders: This move might not seem as notable as some at first, but it continues the strange saga of McKnight, a kicker the Alouettes drafted in the first round in 2011 (the same year they also sent a 2012 first-rounder to B.C. for Sean Whyte), then traded to Edmonton for a first-round pick, a fourth-round pick and Canadian kicker Derek Schiavone in 2012. Since then, McKnight's stock has plummeted off a cliff: Saskatchewan acquired him and a sixth-round pick for just two fifth-rounders earlier this offseason. At the time, that looked like part of Edmonton's urge to clean house under general manager Ed Hervey. With McKnight unable to catch on with Saskatchewan, though, you have to wonder about what's happened in three years to make his value swing from a first-round pick to a first-round pick, a fourth-round pick and a player to a pair of fifth-round picks to nothing. It's an amazing story, but it seems likely to end here; given McKnight's struggles in Edmonton and Saskatchewan, it would be surprising if anyone else picks him up. You never know in this league, though; it's a land of second chances, and if McKnight can somehow turn himself into a valuable CFL player again, that might even be more remarkable than his incredible fall.