VANCOUVER — Shawn Gore considered other options, but decided in the end to stay with what he knew.
The receiver signed a new contract with the B.C. Lions on Thursday after trying out for three NFL clubs and bypassing a chance at CFL free agency.
“I’m really excited that we came to an agreement,” said Gore. “I know where my future is heading for the next little while.”
The speedy wideout led the Lions with 722 receiving yards in 2012. The Toronto native has spent three seasons with the team after being selected in the second round (10th overall) in the 2010 Canadian College Draft.
Before committing to the Lions, Gore had tryouts out with the New York Jets, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.
“They went well, but I wasn’t invited to a training camp,” he said. “So I could have done a little better.”
Gore, who was due to become a CFL free agent Feb. 15, also wants to do better with the Lions in 2013. He is looking forward to playing a “big offensive” role in place of departed veterans Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce III.
Simon, the CFL’s all-time leading receiver, was traded to Saskatchewan, while Bruce was released and subsequently signed with the Montreal Alouettes.
“It affects me as being a leader,” said Gore. “They are two veteran leaders who have left the locker-room and someone needs to step up. I think I can be one of those guys, and lead by example and offer encouragement.”
Gore wants to show his teammates the amount of work that is necessary to “really compete” after B.C. finished 13-5 in the regular season but dropped the Western Final to the Calgary Stampeders.
Lions general manager Wally Buono says Gore will be a key factor in B.C.’s title hopes as the club looks to recover from last season’s disappointment.
“Re-signing Gore), for me, was critical,” said Buono. “He is a young and very exciting receiver who I believe will give all of us many great moments in the future.”
Gore had a season-high 96 receiving yards in a 28-23 win over the Toronto Argonauts on Sept. 15. He had a 48-yard reception in the game, his longest of the year. Gore has 122 receptions for 1,558 yards and six touchdowns over 48 regular-season games. The new contract continues Buono’s efforts to develop a younger team and fill the void created by Simon and Bruce’s departure.
“Shawn is going to be a big part of our transition,” said Buono, adding the receiver’s best years are “still way ahead of him.”
Buono praised Gore for showing his commitment to the Lions after exploring his NFL options and bypassing free agency.
“I would say, if he was on the market, he would have received a lot of interest,” said Buono.
The Lions also dealt backup quarterback Mike Reilly and a second-round pick (14th overall) in this year’s Canadian draft to Edmonton on Thursday for the Eskimos’ second-round selection (11th overall) in the 2013 Canadian draft and their second-round pick in 2014.
Reilly’s departure was all but confirmed after the Lions re-signed Lulay to a new contract earlier in January. Buono said B.C.’s chances of re-signing Reilly went “pretty well out the window” after the club inked Lulay to his new deal.
The former B.C. backup has made no secret of his desire to be a starter elsewhere.
“He was going to test the market, and if anybody got close to what he wanted, he was going to take (the offer),” said Buono.
The deal, he added, shows Edmonton GM Ed Hervey “knows what he wants and is willing to pay a price to get it.”
Buono says the trade helps the Lions in the draft this year and strengthens the team next year. The Eskimos, meanwhile, have shored up their quarterback situation after Stephen Jyles, acquired from Toronto in the Ricky Ray trade, and veteran Kerry Joseph produced little in the way of results.
“Mike has the chance to be an elite quarterback in this league,” Hervey said in a statement. “This is a step toward stabilizing our quarterback position.”
B.C. has three quarterbacks under contract – Thomas DeMarco, who was the third-stringer all last season, and Jarret Brown, who joined the team’s practice roster late in the 2012 campaign. Buono said he could bring in a couple more quarterbacks for rookie camp and the main training camp.
One option is Casey Therriault, who was brought in last fall and released following a tryout.
Gore is looking forward to continuing to work with Lulay, a quarterback who gives him confidence, but the receiver was also said to see Reilly go.
“We’re going to miss him,” said Gore. “Reilly is a great character in the locker-room. He is also a good football player.
“It’s something that had to be done.”
Notes: Later Thursday, the Eskimos released import defensive back Rod Williams and import defensive end Lee Robinson. … B.C. assistant coaches are expected to confirm Friday whether they will return. Buono says offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine declined an interview with the Montreal Alouettes for their head coaching job after the Lions gave him permission to talk to them. The Lions’ GM says Chapdelaine skipped a trip to Montreal because the Als were too far along in negotiations with another candidate.