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As the February 15th free agency deadline nears, CFL.ca is breaking down each team’s potential needs, wants and wish list. Today we take a look at last year’s West Division leading BC Lions.
It has been an interesting off-season to say the least for General Manager Wally Buono and the BC Lions. A pair of somewhat shocking cuts, a big trade and the ending of an era are just a few of the moves headlining the last few months in Vancouver.
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Last season, the Leos were surprisingly active coming off a Grey Cup victory, signing veteran defensive backs Byron Parker and Lin-J Shell to help compliment an already rock solid secondary.
This year, they could be even busier with a significant amount of cap space available after parting with what is presumed to be three of their more lucrative contracts in receivers Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce lll and cornerback Parker.
The work done so far:
Simon headlined the biggest move thus far in the Lions’ off-season as the future hall of famer was sent to the rival Saskatchewan Roughriders after the two sides reportedly couldn’t come to terms on a restructured contract.
The salary dump began before that however, as two veterans – Parker and Bruce lll – were let go. The two signed in Montreal two days later.
Buono’s first significant move of the off-season was signing starting quarterback Travis Lulay to an extension which made backup Mike Reilly unlikely to get a new deal. In the interest of getting a return before the February 15th deadline, Buono shipped his backup pivot to Edmonton.
Now a veteran in the receiving corps, Shawn Gore also re-upped with the Leos last week, ensuring stability at the Canadian receiver spot.
The most significant question mark entering free agency is the status of offensive tackle Jovan Olafioye. The league’s reigning Most Outstanding Lineman has yet to sign a new deal but has been exploring opportunities south of the border.
Another question mark is linebacker Solomon Elimimian who returned midway through last season but played sparingly after the emergence of Adam Bighill. Elimimian is also rumoured to be trying out down south but given Bighill inked a new deal and the potential money that Elimimian may command, he may be made expendable.
Defensive back Cauchy Muamba also remains without a deal. With the departure of Parker and ratio being a factor as always in the CFL, Muamba is likely a player that the Leos will try and lock down this week before the deadline. That said, he may want see what he can get on the open market after making large strides last season.
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With experienced vets Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce gone, the Leos may be looking another pass-catcher to compliment their corps. Could Clarence Denmark be in their plans?
Along the offensive line, there are two players set to become FA’s in Jesse Newman and John Hameister-Reis. Both have been key parts of the Leos’ offence in recent years but battled significant injuries last season. Their chance of re-signing in BC depends entirely on how much faith management has in their ability to bounce back.
Other notables: James Yurichuck
Who may be on the radar?:
The Lions receiving corps is significantly cheaper but also significantly younger. With Gore and Akeem Foster now leading the way, they may be on the market for a veteran pass-catcher. There are a few set to hit the market or already have that could fill that void without seriously impacting the cap.
Recently released by the Montreal Alouettes, Brian Bratton could fit nicely as a dependable receiver with years under the league’s most potent offence under his belt.
Another option could be Winnipeg Blue Bombers wideout Clarence Denmark. After emerging as a solid compliment to Terrence Edwards in 2011, Denmark was quiet last year in a tumultuous season in Winnipeg.
Should the two aforementioned offensive lineman walk, the Lions could be looking for a way to shore up the protection in front of Lulay. Unlike most years, there are not a lot of o-lineman available this year. The most high-profile is likely Montreal’s Jeff Perrett, followed closely by Hamilton’s Brian Simmons. If they want to go younger and cheaper they could look at a guy like Calgary’s Mark Dewit.