June 13th, 2024

Veteran lineman Shawn Lemon still on CFL’s open market

By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press on February 17, 2023.

BC Lions quarterback Vernon Adams, right, throws the ball as Calgary Stampeders defensive lineman Shawn Lemon closes in during second half CFL football action in Calgary, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. Three days after the start of CFL free agency, Lemon remains on the open market. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Three days after the start of CFL free agency, veteran American defensive lineman Shawn Lemon remains on the open market.

And that’s definitely surprising given what the Calgary Stampeder did in 2022. The six-foot-one, 242-pound Lemon led the West Division in sacks (14 to tie a career high) and was second in the CFL behind Ottawa’s Lorenzo Mauldin IV (17 sacks).

Lemon and Mauldin were named the West and East Division’s top defensive players and CFL all-stars. But Mauldin got the nod as the league’s outstanding defensive performer.

Receivers Lemar Durant (Ottawa), Chris Osei-Kusi (Hamilton) and Rasheed Bailey (Winnipeg), global defensive lineman Valentin Gnahoua (Saskatchewan), linebacker Micah Awe (B.C.) and defensive backs Chris Edwards (Hamilton), Ciante Evans (Montreal) and Sherrod Baltimore (Ottawa) all signed deals as free agents Friday. But there’s still a number of veterans who, like Lemon, remain on the open market, including receivers Derel Walker (Edmonton) and Darvin Adams (Ottawa), offensive linemen Ucambre Williams (Ottawa), Dan Clark and Jamal Campbell (both Saskatchewan) and defensive lineman Charleston Hughes (Saskatchewan), to name a few.

Linebacker Darnell Sankey (CFL-high 122 total tackles last season with Saskatchewan) hit CFL free agency this week but signed with the XFL’s Arlington Renegades. Canadian receivers Hergy Mayala (Montreal) and Richie Sindani (Calgary), both free agents in Canada, are now with the USFL’s New Orleans Breakers.

Lemon is a well-travelled CFL player, having suited up for five different teams. He’s played for Saskatchewan (2011, 2016), Calgary (2013-15, 2021-22), Toronto (2016-18, 2019) and B.C. (2018, 2019) on separate occasions as well as Edmonton (2012).

Lemon has been part of two Grey Cup-winning teams (Calgary in 2014, Toronto in 2017).

But even at age 34, Lemon showed no signs of slowing down last season. The veteran player appeared in 17 of 18 regular-season games in 2022, registering a career high 29 tackles with five forced tackles.

Lemon established his career-high in sacks in 2016 with Toronto. But over the last two seasons, Lemon has 22 sacks in 28 regular-season contests and 70 over the last seven CFL seasons.

He has recorded double-digit sacks in a season four times.

Mauldin, 30, signed a one-year extension with Ottawa this off-season that will reportedly pay him $200,000. Defensive lineman Anthony Lanier II, 29, signed a one-year deal with the Saskatchewan Roughriders just before the start of free agency a CFL source said was worth a guaranteed $250,000.

The source spoke on the condition of anonymity as CFL teams don’t divulge financial details.

Lemon enters the ’23 CFL campaign with 92 sacks, 221 tackles, an interception and 29 forced fumbles over 135 career CFL regular-season games.

Calgary lost defensive lineman Folarin Orimolade in free agency to Toronto (two-year deal reportedly worth $490,000). Orimolade had nothing but praise for Lemon.

‘He (Lemon) helped me improve,” Orimolade said in a telephone interview Friday. “What people don’t realize sometimes is that it’s about changing (things up) and becoming unpredictable.

“Shawn helped me take out some weaknesses that I said I was having. He has been around and seen many really good pass rushers.”

Orimolade called Lemon “an extremely good teammate.”

“I’d say he’s taken people me under his wing and helped me understand when to do moves, how to do them better and make everything much more efficient,” Orimolade said. “He’s always trying to get better himself.”

Before the start of CFL free agency Tuesday, Stampeders head coach/GM Dave Dickenson told reporters he felt Lemon deserved an increase in pay.

“He actually played for a cheap deal last year and he understands he deserves a raise,” Dickenson said. “I don’t know what he’s getting offered, but he should be a guy who ultimately gets a raise and I think he deserves it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2023.

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