It was great to see the CFL and Pierre Karl Péladeau finalize the purchase of the Montréal Alouettes last week after a period of uncertainty. Stability and solid ground are important for one of the league’s proudest franchises and I’m glad a period of league stewardship in Montréal was relatively short lived.
Péladeau is an established and successful businessman and a very recognizable face in his hometown. He brings local ownership to the Als and, with his successful business ventures elsewhere, Péladeau has seemingly solidified the long-term future for the team in Canada’s second-largest city. Now the focus switches to the on-field product for 2023.
I think it’s fair to say offseason operations in Montréal were disrupted due to the temporary limbo the team was in. Those challenges likely led, at least in part, to the departures of receivers Eugene Lewis (Edmonton) and Jake Wieneke (Saskatchewan), and quarterback Trevor Harris (Saskatchewan). But circumstances didn’t stop general manager Danny Maciocia from making a few savvy moves for 2023.
» Pierre Karl Péladeau acquires the Montreal Alouettes
» Free Agency movement: Montreal Alouettes
» O’Leary: Fajardo embraces new opportunity with Als
» Tyrell Sutton highlights 2023 Als’ coaching, football ops staff
I quite like a couple of additions in the defensive backfield for the Alouettes, starting with the signing of Jumal Rolle. After four years with the Tiger-Cats, Rolle joins Montreal as one of the CFL’s most established lockdown defenders. Rolle should stabilize the crucial boundary corner spot for the Als, which saw a rotating cast in 2022 before finally being seized by Nafees Lyon. Rolle, who’s started at boundary corner for much of the last three seasons, and the returning Lyon have the potential to form a solid tandem.
Similarly, signing fellow defensive back Ciante Evans looks good on Montreal. Evans also joins the Alouettes from Hamilton, where he spent the last two seasons. Last year saw Evans starting opposite Rolle at boundary corner, which is likely where he’ll slot in with his new team after the departure of Mike Jones (BC) in free agency.
And then of course there’s the quarterback situation. While not an actual trade, the Als and Riders essentially swapped players in free agency with Cody Fajardo heading east and Harris going the other way. After a trying and frustrating final season in Saskatchewan, I’m fascinated to see what a motivated Fajardo brings to the table with his new team. I never underestimate a player with something to prove.
Due mostly to timing, 2023 might end up being a transitional season in Montreal and that’s okay. The important part is figured out and that’s the long-term future of the team. And, with a few solid off-season moves, I still think the Alouettes should be a competitive group when the season kicks off in a few months.
Still on the board
Free agency is almost a month old, which means a good number of impact players have either re-upped or joined new teams. That said, here are three interesting names still available for the coming season.
Mike Edem, defensive back
Edem had another strong season in 2022, his fifth with Saskatchewan and remains a strong National defensive option. Edem started 17 games at safety last year and finished with 57 tackles, two sacks and one interception. It was a nice bounce back after Edem had his 2021 campaign cut short after just five games due to a broken wrist.
Starting National options are always valuable and everything I saw last season suggests Edem still has plenty left in the tank.
William Powell, running back
2022 was a frustrating year for Powell as he battled injuries all season with Ottawa. Powell had to wait until Week 4 to make his season debut after recovering from an Achilles injury. Knee and shoulder ailments hampered him later in the year, which limited him to just seven appearances in his return to the REDBLACKS.
When healthy, Powell was generally effective and finished the season with 306 rushing yards and one touchdown on 71 carries. At 34, Powell’s time as a bona fide workhorse may be behind him, but I think his experience could benefit any offence in this league.
Michael O’Connor, quarterback
I felt bad for O’Connor last year. He had a great opportunity to put himself on the map as a CFL starter after Nathan Rourke went down in Week 11. O’Connor started BC’s Week 12 game against Saskatchewan but sustained a groin injury in the second quarter. That paved the way for a Vernon Adams Jr. acquisition and he started the rest of the way for the Lions.
But BC signed O’Connor for a reason in 2022 free agency. He was brought in as the team’s backup, which means they were confident and prepared for him to get playing time as Rourke’s backup. Still just 27 years old, O’Connor was a prolific quarterback at UBC and I think there’s plenty of potential still to be unlocked.