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Five former MAC footballers named on Canadian Football League negotiation lists

It’s the first time the CFL has released the names of players under consideration for contracts. See if your favorite MAC star made the cut!

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105th Grey Cup Championship Game Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

Early Tuesday afternoon, the Canadian Football League released a partial negotiation list for all nine of the league’s franchises, a first for the professional football league north of the border.

There are some easily recognizable names listed by CFL teams amongst the 90 players released, including former NFL’ers such as Robert Griffin III (Hamilton Tiger-Cats), Denard Robinson (Toronto Argonauts) and Colin Kaepernick (Montreal Alouettes). There is also a number of college prospects either currently enrolled in college or declaring for the NFL Draft, such as Shea Patterson (BC Lions), Quinton Flowers (Winnipeg Blue Bombers), Baker Mayfield (Toronto) and Tua Tagovailoa (Hamilton.)

The lists are not fully transparent; each of the nine franchises are allowed to hold negotiating rights for as many as 45 players at a time during a calendar year, although lists generally stay at around 35 players each. The league approved a proposal to both expand the size of the list for a short period (mid-December to May 15th) and release 10 names on its negotiation list on a semi-annual basis starting this season.

Players on the list are free to negotiate with the CFL club which hold negotiating rights or sign another contract with another league. If a team does decide to negotiate for a contract, they have a 10-day window to offer a prospect. If no deal can be met, the player is removed immediately. If the deal is rejected by a player, the window for removal is extended to a year retroactive to the offer.

The released list features five MAC alum, all of whom have NFL experience. We’ve listed them here in the alohabetical order of each team.

Najee Murray, DB, Kent State (Neg. listed by BC Lions)

NFL: Cleveland Browns-Minicamp Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Najee Murray’s most recent stop in professional football was with the Cleveland Browns, who picked up the former Golden Flash as an undrafted free agent after the 2017 NFL Draft.

He worked his way into a contract after a tryout with the Cleveland Browns, playing in the preseason before getting cut and signed to the practice squad. He was eventually released.

Murray, a five-foot-nine, 185 lb. former Ohio State transfer from Steubenville, Ohio, was a standout safety for Kent State, totalling 100 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, 21 passes defended, four forced fumbles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery touchdown in 27 games. He earned first-team all-MAC honors in his fifth-year senior season.

Tommylee Lewis, WR, Northern Illinois (Neg. listed by Calgary Stampeders)

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

It’s highly unlikely Lewis would leave New Orleans for the colder climes of Calgary, but that didn’t stop the Stampeders from listing him as a negotiable player.

Lewis, a five-foot-seven, 186 lb. wide receiver for the Saints, just finished his second professional season out of NIU after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2016. In his two seasons, Lewis has accumulated 17 receptions for 192 yards and a touchdown.

He’s mostly known to football fans for his reaction to the Miracle at Minnesota in the NFL Playoffs earlier this year:

At NIU, Lewis was something of an offensive dymano, seeing work at the receiver, running back and returner position for the Huskies. In his four seasons as a Huskie, Lewis had 1,680 receiving yards, 578 rushing yards, 11 receiving touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns, and four kickoff return touchdowns. He left DeKalb fifth all-time in catches, third all-time in kickoff returns, second all-time in kickoff return yards (1,673) and sixth all-time in all-purpose yards (4,066.)

J.T. Jones, DT, Miami (Neg. listed by Ottawa REDBLACKS)

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Miami (Ohio) Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

JT Jones just completed his first season as a member of the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2017. The Macon, Georgia native didn’t see any playing time in the regular season, although he did register seven tackles in the preseason.

Jones, who stands at six-foot-three, 245 lbs., was a defensive force for the RedHawks, earning all-MAC honors in 2015 (third-team) and 2016 (second-team.) Jones would finish his career as a RedHawk with 175 tackles, 41 tackles-for-loss and 24.5 sacks in 38 starts and 49 appearances over four seasons from the defensive end position.

JoJo Natson Jr., WR, Akron (neg. listed by Ottawa REDBLACKS)

NFL: New York Jets at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Natson, who split time between Utah State and Akron as a receiver, signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2017 NFL Draft with the Indianapolis Colts, playing in the preseason before getting released on the final cut day.

He eventually found his way onto the New York Jets practice squad, where he was promoted to the active roster midseason after the suspension of kick returner/receiver Jeremy Kerley. Natson registered two catches for 18 yards in seven game appearances, mostly contributing on special teams.

Natson, who stands at five-foot-seven, 153 lbs., made history upon his promotion as the smallest NFL player to play in a game since 2012.

In his one season at Akron, Natson made a lot of noise at both the receiver and returner positions, making the all-MAC first team as a punt returner and the all-MAC second team as a wide receiver in 2016. Natson reeled in 58 receptions for 538 yards and 10 touchdowns, while also taking back two punt return touchdowns on 16 attempts, accumulating 261 yards.

Andrew Wylie, OL, Eastern Michigan (neg. listed by Ottawa REDBLACKS)

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Andrew Wylie signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent after the 2017 NFL Draft and went through the journeyman cycle pretty quickly, collecting time with the Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs in one season.

At last check, Wylie was signed to a future/reserve contract by Kansas City on Jan. 9, per the Kansas City Star.

At Eastern Michigan, Wylie, a Midland, Michigan product, made 46 starts, cycling between left and right tackles and the left guard position. The six-foot-six, 311 lb. lineman is regarded as a tackle at the professional level.