TORONTO – As training camp draws near, CFL.ca takes a team-by-team look back at an off-season filled with trades, personnel changes and key signings and arguably no club was more active than the Edmonton Eskimos.
After letting Eric Tillman go a week before their Eastern Semi-Final game, the Eskimos made their most significant off-season move - one that would shape their franchise for years to come - as they named Ed Hervey their new general manager. A two-time Grey Cup champion and former CFL All-Star, Hervey spent the previous four seasons as the Esks' Head Scout.
The Esks capped off a busy final month of 2012 by inking their most prized potential free agent LB JC Sherritt. They also extended kicker Grant Shaw and released Devin Tyler.
After locking up key potential FA's in his first few weeks on the job, Hervey inked DE Marcus Howard to a contract extension. Joining the Esks midway
Esks Introduce QB Mike Reilly
through the 2011 season, Howard made an immediate impact finishing the season with a team-leading 11 quarterback sacks, 18 defensive tackles and two forced fumbles. They also released non-import receiver Glenn McKay but the real news surrounded the shuffling of the quarterbacks.
Out was Steven Jyles - released on January 21 - and in was Mike Reilly who was acquired from the Lions in a trade for draft picks six days later.
The Green and Gold also re-shaped thier coaching staff, hiring veteran CFL coaches Greg Marshall and Doug Sams as defensive coordinator and offensive coordinator respectively.
A day later, Edmonton also announced the release of two defenders, linebacker Rod Williams and DE Lee Robinson.
On the second day in February, Hervey explains that Reilly will not be handed the #1 quarterback job but rather will compete for it with Matt Nichols who was coming off a serious ankle injury sustained in the playoffs.
Already cleared of Cory Boyd, the Eskimos made even more room in what was a busy backfield, trading non-import RB Jerome Messam to the Alouettes for a 6th round draft pick.
A day later, they completed a five-player deal with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to acquire non-import linebacker Nathan Kanya and the rights to non-import offensive lineman Carson Rockhill.
After adding a long list of new coaches to support Kavis Reed, the Esks turned their attention to free agency where they signed Chris Thompson to an extension before the deadline and put pen to paper on a new two-year contract with star receiver Fred Stamps.
Wasting little time, the Eskimos were the first to make a significant splash in the free agent pool, signing defensive end Odell Willis away from Saskatchewan. They also added depth in the defensive backfield by signing DB Chris Rwabukamba along with DB Marcell Young and also adding non-import OL Alexander Krausnick..
After sustaining a scary injury in the playoffs, Nichols underwent a successful surgery the team announced on February 23 to remove a screw from his left ankle. The team also confirmed that he is on schedule to be healthy for the start of training camp.
The first day of March kicked off with yet another trade as the Esks sent kicker Brody McKnight to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in exchange for draft picks. Later that day, they announced that the Mathieu Bertrand era ended in Edmonton, releasing the veteran fullback.
With the Combine underway, the Esks continued to add draft picks, trading DT Jermaine Reid to the Argonauts for two 5th round selections.
Not as much wheeling and dealing this month for Ed Hervey but he did re-sign of import receiver Marcus Henry who ended ended his sophomore year with 382 yards and a touchdown on 28 receptions in just nine games. He also added non-import depth in the form of former Rider WR Ismael Bamba and former Argos project DL Gregory Alexandre.
Fast forward to the 2013 CFL Draft and the Esks went big along the defensive line, drafting hulking pass-rusher Stefan Charles and the powerful Elie Ngoyi.