EDMONTON — It hasn’t taken general manager Ed Hervey long to put his stamp on the Edmonton Eskimos.
A whirlwind week for the team began last Thursday with the acquisition of quarterback Mike Reilly from the B.C. Lions. It continued Tuesday with a five-player trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and another trade with Montreal Alouettes and was capped Wednesday with the signing of two young free agents.
Hervey, who was named GM on Dec. 10, said the changes aren’t done yet.
“We’ll never be satisfied until we win a championship but the moves we’re making gives us a chance to compete,” he said Wednesday at a new conference to introduce Reilly to the Edmonton media.
“We’re looking at making a few more moves, there will be a few more moves made.”
First there are a couple of free agents he has to sign on his own roster, including seven-year CFL veteran defensive back Chris Thompson.
“Hopefully we can get those guys signed before free agency and then we can make a nice, subtle push in free agency when it gets here,” he said. “But so far so good. As we look around the roster we’ve gotten younger, a little bigger, more athletic in some areas and we’ve improved the quarterback play tremendously.”
Quarterback was the Eskimos’ No. 1 problem area last year when neither Stephen Jyles, Kerry Joseph nor Matt Nichols could provide the stability and consistency at that position. Nichols showed the most promise but suffered a dislocated ankle in the Eastern Semi-Final.
Head coach Kavis Reed said Wednesday his recovery is going well and he expects Nichols to be completely ready to return by mid spring.
Reilly, who spent the last three seasons backing up Travis Lulay in B.C., is looking forward to a fresh start with the Eskimos.
“It’s a great opportunity to be part of a great organization, a great franchise that has incredible history and tradition, not only as a championship program, but also having developed top quality quarterbacks,” said the six-foot-three, 215-pound Reilly. “Look around the Ring of Honour in the stadium, there’s a lot to live up to if you’re going to be a quarterback here.
“That being said, I feel like everything in my career up to this point has led me to the preparation to take over and be the guy.”
It’s that type of confident that enticed Hervey to make the deal with B.C. that also involved an exchange of draft picks.
“There’s something about him, watching him play, talking to him after games and seeing the potential that is there, watching his career blossom,” said Hervey.
“He’s fundamentally sound, every throw looks the same, he’s confident, has the ability to run, the ability to move around, but always looking down field. Being a former receiver, that’s what I’m looking for, the quarterback who is flushed out of the pocket where’s he looking when he’s flushed a his eyes are always down field looking for a receiver. With a gunslingers like Mike and Matt, those guys are going to be able to do some things with this team.”
Hervey then added a wrinkle to the quarterbacking with the signing of import Jacory Harris, 6-4, 195 pounds, who was a three-year starter at Miami where he ranked second in school history for yards passing and touchdowns.
“He has tremendous football IQ,” Reed. “He’s very athletic, had a 65 per cent completion rate a playing in an environment that was not the best. He’s a great talent.”
The Eskimos also signed non-import running back Kyle Exume, who spent last season on Hamilton’s practice roster but caught Hervey’s eye.
“He’s a great special teams player and he’ll have the opportunity to be our backup running back,” Hervey said. “I had my eye on him all year and knew that, if I were to get this position, he would be the guy to replace Jerome Messam.”
Messam, the CFL’s most outstanding Canadian in 2011, was sent to Montreal for a sixth-round pick in 2013.
Also on Tuesday Edmonton acquired non-import linebacker Nathan Kanya and the rights to non-import offensive lineman Carson Rockhill from Hamilton in exchange for non-import offensive lineman Greg Wojt, import quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and import linebacker Simoni Lawrence.