Blue Bombers dip into free agency to land Harris

Running back Andrew Harris. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

WINNIPEG — Andrew Harris is going home.

The veteran running back signed a three-year deal Tuesday with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Harris, a 28-year-old Winnipeg native, spent the last six seasons with the B.C. Lions.

The Bombers, who posted a 5-13 record last year to finish fourth in the West Division, also signed veteran kicker Justin Medlock, Canadian defensive lineman Keith Shologan, Montreal-born running back Pascal Lochard, veteran offensive lineman Jeff Keeping and receiver Ryan Smith in free agency.

The five-foot-11, 202-pound Harris was one of just three 1,000-yard rushers last year in the CFL. He ran for 1,039 yards in 2015, second only to Montreal’s Tyrell Sutton (1,059 yards).

Winnipeg hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2012, when Chad Simpson ran for 1,039 yards.

But, more importantly for the Bombers, Harris gives the club the flexibility to play an American elsewhere in the lineup.

Medlock led the CFL in scoring last year with 181 points, hitting 42-of-47 field goals (89.4 per cent) with Hamilton. He also made a league-best 57-yard boot.

Medlock also posted a 40.3-yard punting average and averaged 62 yards on kickoffs. He’s the most accurate kicker in CFL history, having hit on 182-of-208 attempts (87.5 per cent).

Hamilton special-teams co-ordinator Jeff Reinebold took to social media to bid his former kicker a fond farewell.

"Justin Medlock thank you for what you gave! Best to you and your family in Winnipeg — it’s a great football town," Reinebold tweeted.

Reinebold served as Winnipeg’s head coach in 1997-98.

Improving the kicking game was a priority for Winnipeg as Lirim Hajrullahu, who agreed to a one-year deal with Toronto on Tuesday as a free agent, made 22-of-32 field goals attempted (68.8 per cent ) last year.

The six-foot-two, 290-pound Shologan, an Edmonton native, had 23 tackles and seven sacks in 15 games last season with Ottawa. Shologan has started 114-of-122 career CFL games and appeared in three Grey Cups, winning in 2013 with Saskatchewan.

The six-foot, 215-pound Lochard spent the last two years as Harris’s teammate in B.C., registering 16 special-teams tackles.

Keeping, a six-foot-five, 295-pound centre, spent 10 of his 11 CFL seasons with Toronto. He won a Grey Cup with the Argos in 2012 and was a CFL all-star the following season.

Smith had 72 catches for 1,150 yards and seven TDs over two seasons with Saskatchewan. The 24-year-old native of Wahpeton, N.D., recorded 59 receptions for 991 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games last year with the Riders.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.