O’Leary: Thin on linebackers, Dean a big get for Sunderland

J.C. Sherritt was an undersized middle linebacker, but the void he’d leave with the Edmonton Eskimos would be a big one.

In his first move of the 2019 free agent period, Esks’ GM Brock Sunderland went big at middle linebacker to go into the future. The Eskimos signed former Hamilton Tiger-Cats middle linebacker Larry Dean to a one-year deal on Tuesday.

Dean, 30, was the East nominee for Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2018, after racking up 105 tackles and two interceptions and a touchdown in his third year with the Ticats. Through those three seasons, he has 279 tackles, five sacks, three interceptions, five forced fumbles and a touchdown.


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In Edmonton, Dean will reunite with Phillip Lolley, who was hired this winter to be the Esks’ defensive coordinator. Lolley was the Ticats’ linebackers coach in 2016 and served as DC for the back half of the 2017 season.

“He’s in Edmonton because Lolley had him in Hamilton,” CFL.ca’s Davis Sanchez said of Dean.

Dean matched his season-best 11 tackles in Hamilton’s East final loss to the Ottawa REDBLACKS.

“He’s athletic enough in the run and pass game and he’s physical,” Sanchez said of the six-foot, 226-pounder. “He’s a great leader.”

In replacing Sherritt, who retired on January 16 and later took a linebackers coaching job with the Calgary Stampeders, the Esks will lean on Dean for that leadership, on and off the field.