As the February 15th free agency deadline nears, CFL.ca is breaking down each team’s potential needs, wants and wish lists. Today we take a look at last year’s East Division leading Montreal Alouettes.
To say Alouettes GM Jim Popp has been busy this off-season would be an understatement.
Popp, who is set to enter his 18th year as Montreal’s General Manager, has had more than player signings to deal with since his Als last took to the field on Nov. 18 in the Eastern Final, a game they lost to the eventual Grey Cup champion Argonauts in front of a packed Olympic Stadium.
Gone are Head Coach Marc Trestman and Assistant GM Marcel Desjardins, two extremely crucial components to Montreal’s success both on and off the field.
Trestman left the Als in January to take on the head coaching gig with the NFL’s Chicago Bears. Desjardins, meanwhile, is now the General Manager of the new Ottawa Franchise that is set to return to the CFL in 2014.
To make matters more difficult for the Als, they also lost the majority of their coaching staff to other suitors. Some followed Trestman down south, while others found new opportunities within the league or were simply not retained for 2013.
Combine all his personnel issues with a daunting free agency to-do list and it’s fair to say that Popp has been hard at work this off-season.
The Work Done So Far:
The success of the Montreal Alouettes in 2013 (and beyond) resides on the shoulders of their 40-year-old QB Anthony Calvillo, which is likely why Popp was in such a hurry to re-sign him on Dec. 13.
Calvillo will have a new target hauling in his passes this season, as veteran slotback Arland Bruce III was brought in alongside DB Byron Parker and backup pivot Quinton Porter.
With Dwight Anderson about to hit the free agency market, the Alouettes might be looking elsewhere to find his replacement. Among available DBs could be Winnipeg’s Deon Beasley or Toronto’s Evan McCullough.
The arrival of Bruce, Parker and Porter signaled the end for receiver Brian Bratton, backup QB Adrian McPherson and kick returner Trent Guy, as all three were released shortly after.
With Brandon Whitaker’s contract status still up in the air, the Als acquired Canadian running back Jerome Messam to provide some stability and big-body presence alongside Calvillo in their offensive backfield.
The Als also managed to extend OL Kristian Matte, DE Chima Ihekwoaba, G Andrew Woodruff, their top rookie Patrick Lavoie and OL Ryan Bomben and offensive tackle Jeff Perrett.
One of the more interesting moves the Als made this off-season was signing Canadian QBs Kyle Quinlan and Kyle Graves.
Quinlan, the reigning Hec Crighton Trophy winner, will look to earn himself a spot on the Als’ roster as a quarterback, while Graves will likely try and make the team as a punter, slotback or safety.
With the arrival of Messam via trade and the emergence of Chris Jennings at the tail end of last season, the Als might very well be willing to part with Whitaker, who is coming off a season-ending ACL injury that he suffered in a Week 12 matchup vs. the Roughriders.
Whitaker has proven to be an invaluable asset both on the ground and through the air for the Alouettes, so expect him to draw a lot of interest should he hit the open market.
Veteran fullback Dahrran Diedrick might also be on his last leg with the Alouettes. The bruising eight-year veteran has been solid for the Als in short-yardage situations in years past.
On the defensive side of the ball, Dwight Anderson’s two-year stint in La Belle Province might well be over as well. The speedy and outspoken DB could draw interest from a team looking to add depth to their secondary.
Other notables: Seth Williams
Who may be on the radar?:
While the Als are a constant force to be reckoned with on the offensive side of the ball, the same can’t be said for their defence.
Last season, the Als allowed an uncharacteristic 489 points against, as their depleted secondary was often exposed on deep passes.
That being said, it’s possible the Als look towards the likes of Evan McCullough out of Toronto, or Deon Beasley out of Winnipeg.