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Thursday, February 11, 2016


Chris Jones is taking the same approach to rebuilding the Saskatchewan Roughriders that has won Grey Cup titles in his previous CFL stops.

The Riders' head coach/GM was busy bolstering his defence Wednesday, the second day of CFL free agency. He agreed to terms with Canadian defensive end Justin Capiccotti and signed linebacker Greg Jones and defensive backs Ed Gainey and Otha Foster.

Jones also added running backs Kendial Lawrence and Curtis Steele while acquiring American offensive lineman Bruce Campbell from the Toronto Argonauts for a 2016 fourth-round draft pick. Linebacker Jake Doughty and punter Ray Early, both Americans, were released.

"You've got to play defence in order to win championships,'' Jones told reporters Wednesday. "Everywhere we've been, we've been able to play good D and so adding these guys to what we already have is a good plus.''

Jones knows what it takes defensively to succeed. He won a Grey Cup in '02 as Montreal's defensive line coach before capturing titles as a defensive co-ordinator with Calgary ('08) and Toronto ('12). He led Edmonton to last year's league championship as the head coach but was still instrumental in the Eskimos' staunch defence.

Jones shored up his defence after focusing on the offence Tuesday. Saskatchewan extended offensive lineman Chris Best prior to the start of free agency. Then, after re-signing defensive lineman Dylan Ainsworth, he secured deals with receiver Shamawd Chambers of Markham, Ont., the top Canadian in last year's Grey Cup and national offensive lineman Andrew Jones - both former Eskimos - as well as American receivers John Chiles and Jeremy Kelley.

Jones really drew the ire of Riders Nation last month when he released defensive end John Chick and receiver Weston Dressler - both fan favourites - for financial reasons. Dressler resurfaced with Winnipeg while Chick signed with Hamilton. But Jones was pleased Wednesday with the defensive talent the Riders amassed.

"You've got to be able to get after the quarterback and not have to blitz every down. We've tried, with the addition of (veteran defensive lineman Shawn) Lemon early and Capiccotti if he does indeed sign, those are two very good players.

"And, of course on the second level with Jones he's not only one of the better (middle) linebackers he's also a very good blitzer and tremendous special-teams guy. And in the secondary with the guys we've added it gives us versatility and guys that have played in the league and man cover.''

Capiccotti, a Toronto native, spent the last two years in Ottawa and was a CFL all-star last season. The six-foot-three, 235-pound end registered 23 sacks while with the Redblacks and was a highly sought commodity in free agency.

The six-foot, 242-pound Jones spent the last two seasons with Toronto. Last year, the 27-year-old started all 18 regular-season games and registered a team-high 98 tackles.

Jones was also a member of the New York Giants 2011 Super Bowl-winning squad.

The five-foot-11, 195-pound Gainey spent the last two seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats after beginning his CFL career in Montreal. The 25-year-old has played in 43 career games with 69 tackles, 25 special-teams tackles, two interceptions and three fumble returns, including one for a touchdown.

The six-foot-four, 212-pound Foster spent the last two seasons with Edmonton, starting all 33 regular-season games he appeared in. He recorded 103 tackles, seven special-teams tackles and two interceptions.

Other moves Wednesday, included:

- Toronto re-signed veteran running back Brandon Whitaker, the East Division's second-leading rusher last season.

- Hamilton added Demond Washington, the former Winnipeg defensive back/kick-returner while announcing the re-signing of veteran Canadian defensive tackle Ted Laurent and return of American offensive lineman Brian Simmons.

- Ottawa signed Canadian defensive lineman Arnaud Gascon-Nadon, a former Ticat and Montreal native.

- Edmonton re-signed linebacker JC Sherrit, the CFL's top defensive player in 2012.

- Calgary added receiver Bakari Grant and linebacker Taylor Reed, both former Ticats.

- B.C. agreed to terms with running back Jeremiah Johnson while signing offensive lineman Levy Adcock, both Americans.

Saskatchewan announced the signing of Chambers on Wednesday. Chambers spent four seasons with Edmonton, playing in 50 career regular-season games with 112 receptions for 1,234 yards and seven TDs.

"He's one of the top guys out there and he's a young guy who has all the physical tools in the world,'' Jones said. "Certainly he's able to play in a lot of different places for us.''

The five-foot-nine, 195-pound Lawrence spent the last two seasons in Edmonton after beginning his CFL career in Hamilton. In Lawrence, the Riders have versatile performer who can play running back and receiver while also returning kicks.

"He can play across the board for us offensively,'' Jones said. "He needs to work on his blocking, that's the thing he knows going in.''

(Canadian Press)