January 15, 2024

Continuity key for Lions in Grey Cup-hosting season

Danielle Del Valle/CFL.ca

The BC Lions are trending up right when they are about to host the Grey Cup in Vancouver for the 2024 season.

For the first time in two years the Leos will have the same guy under centre to start the season while also looking to keep together a roster that made it to back-to-back Western Finals.

Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. returns as the unquestioned leader of the Lions offence in his second full season as the starter in BC after being traded halfway through the 2021 campaign from the Montreal Alouettes.

Adams Jr.’s importance to the group will be even bigger than before after the retirement of quarterback Dane Evans, who played a key role in 2022 for the Lions as the backup pivot.

“We will always be open for business to sign players as we hit free agency,” said head coach and co-general manager Rick Campbell in a press conference from Nashville, TN where the CFL held its annual president and general managers meetings, about addressing the backup quarterback position in the wake of Evans’ retirement.

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The Lions led the league in passing yards in 2023 with Adams Jr. guiding a passing offence that had multiple dangerous weapons at their disposal in Keon Hatcher, Alexander Hollins, Dominique Rhymes, Lucky Whitehead, Justin McInnis and Jevon Cottoy. The team announced on Monday that they have extended Hatcher to a three-year contract as the wide receiver recovers from an Achilles injury suffered in his last appearance for BC.

Even with the return of Hatcher, the Orange and Black will have to do some reshuffling as the veteran works his way back from injury, while Hollins is still set to hit free agency in February.

“I have utmost respect and confidence in our scouts bringing guys in,” said co-general manager and director of football operations Neil McEvoy from Nashville. “I know we do have some free agents and everything else, with Keon (Hatcher) going down. That’s going to be a blow for us, but I believe we’ll be able to bring in the guys we need and at the end of the day, it’s Vernon (Adams Jr.) getting the ball to them.”

“If (Adams Jr.) continues to trend in the up direction, which we all feel he is and he feels he is then (Adams Jr.) will get the ball to them. And those guys will have to make plays which I know our guys will do.”

Some teams might feel that bringing guys in could be extra important when hosting a Grey Cup, but the Lions won’t change what has been a successful operation despite the excitement of hosting the game.

“We’ll always do everything we can to win the Grey Cup regardless of where it’s played,” said Campbell. “But we are super excited to have it in Vancouver. There’s a good buzz in the town about the Lions and about the CFL and I think it’s going to be a pretty good show.”

On the other side of the ball things there’s another big name that is set to become a free agent in February in Mathieu Betts. The reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player was a key piece for a Lions pass rush that finished second in the CFL in sacks with 55 in 2023 and would definitely change the outlook of the unit if he’s wearing a different uniform in 2024.

“I think it’s based on continuity,” said McEvoy about their plans for the defence. “That’s something that we’ve tried to maintain and keep as many good players as we can and we know Betts is a tremendous asset.

“We’re looking to keep him and our defence intact. I know we have a bunch of free agents, but so does every other team. We’re just working here at the early stages to get all these guys signed. And once we do, and once free agency hits we will have a better idea where we’re at. We’re going to do the best we can to keep him in Vancouver and keep him as a BC Lion.”


The Lions have built a culture under Campbell over the last two years that has kept kept them as a threat in the West Division, winning 24 of their last 36 games over two seasons. The challenge now is to find new players that can contribute to the culture while also contributing on the field with a roster that already has a lot of talented players.

That’s why free agency could be a crucial moment for a team that is looking to go over the top and win the West Division after falling to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in back-to-back years.

“The reality is that we have a tight knit group of players that not just anyone’s going to be able to come in. Those are things that we have to work on and not only maintaining and keeping our current group, but bringing guys in that’ll help you on the field and that will fit within our group of guys,” said McEvoy.

The continuity that McEvoy speaks of is also present when it comes to the coaching staff, with BC returning the entire group led by Campbell and coordinators Jordan Maksymic and Ryan Phillips.

“Tremendous advantage,” said McEvoy. “I know the players obviously that’s where it sets and starts. But our football staff and our coaches certainly are a big part of that. And I’m happy that we were able to keep the whole group together because they work really well together and they teach a lot of good football, which equals winning football,” added the general manager.

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