Hamilton Tiger-Cats sign former Buffalo Bills receiver, but defenders move on in CFL free agency


Published February 14, 2023 at 6:16 pm

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats got a Duke to sign on the dotted line on Day 1 of CFL free agency, even as four members of their defensive line and linebacker corps sought other football opportunities.

The Tiger-Cats announced they have signed American receiver D’haquille (Duke) Williams, a one-time CFL receiving leader who also got some run with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills. The 29-year-old, who was last with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, could be a possible
threat to pair with reigning all-star receiver Tim White.

White is planning to re-sign in Hamilton, according to a TSN report on Feb. 11. But fellow 1,000-yard receiver Steven Dunbar Jr. opted to sign with the Edmonton Elks, creating a vacancy for a veteran receiver like Williams.

Williams (shown in 2018, above) dressed in eight regular-season games last season in Saskatchewan, tallying 480 receiving yards with four touchdowns and a 16.6-yard average. The six-foot-three, 225-pound Los Angeles native has played 43 games over four seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Roughriders (2021-22) and Edmonton (2017-18), registering 180 receptions for 3,059 yards and 20 receiving TDs. That includes a league-leading 1,579-yard, 11-TD season in 2018 when he was a league all-star with Edmonton.

Over two seasons (2019-20) in Buffalo, Williams appeared in five games and made 12 receptions for 166 yards and one TD.

Hamilton will apparently have a new look defensively when training camp begins this spring. All-star cover linebacker Kam Kelly, according to 3DownNation, is pursuing playing opportunities in the XFL, which plays 11-a-side four-down football like the NFL. Kelly previously played in another U.S.-based spring league in 2019, and ultimately landed a shot with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.

Three other front-seven contributors are gone. Defensive linemen Julian Howsare (Calgary Stampders) and Micah Howsare (Saskatchewan) signed elsewhere, and so did middle linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox (Ottawa Redblacks). But 3DownNation reported last week that Jameer Thurman is committed to becoming Hamilton’s middle linebacker.

Longtime outside linebacker Simoni Lawrence is also in the free-agent queue, as are seasoned defensive backs Ciante Evans and Jumal Rolle.

An apparent Canadian signing by the Tiger-Cats was reported by 3Down Nation later on Tuesday night. Veteran receiver-special teams player Llevi Noel is apparently joining Hamilton. The 31-year-old has played six seasons with the Toronto Argonauts, Ottawa, and Edmonton.

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