General manager Ed Hervey and the B.C. Lions should have one goal next month: acquire Mike Reilly. The Lions are on the verge of becoming an elite CFL team, and Reilly would make them just that. That’s not to say Hervey doesn’t have his work cut out for him, he’s had 37 Lions free agents to worry about.
Of the B.C Lions 37 free agents heading into the off-season, only three have had their contracts extended. Of the remaining 34, one (Ty Long) has left for the NFL, 20 play on the offensive side of the ball, and 13 on defence. With less than two weeks before free agency, here’s what the Lions have, and what they need going into free agency.
2019 CFL free agency begins at 12 p.m. on February 12, 2019.
B.C. Lions Current Free Agents
Cody Fajardo, Jonathon Jennings, Travis Lulay.
Jeremiah Johnson, Wayne Moore, Chris Rainey, Brandon Rutley, Tyrell Sutton.
Emmanuel Arceneaux, Bryan Burnham, Ricky Collins, Tyler Davis, Shaquille Johnson, Anthony Parker, DeVier Posey, Cory Watson.
Christopher Greaves, Cody Husband, Jovan Olafioye, Hunter Steward.
Maxx Forde, Shawn Lemon, Ivan McLennan.
Micah Awe, DyShawn Davis, Bo Lokombo, Ron Omara.
Otha Foster, T.J. Lee, Anthony Orange, Gary Peters, Winston Rose, Anthony Thompson.
Must-sign Free Agents
Bryan Burnham, Otha Foster, T.J. Lee, Anthony Thompson, Jovan Olafioye.
With three consecutive seasons of 65-plus catches and 1,000-plus yards, Bryan Burnham has become the Lions’ best receiver. B.C. needs their go-to guy back. Otha Foster has made a name for himself in the CFL as a versatile, play-making defender at the strong-side linebacker position. T.J. Lee has emerged into one the CFL’s best halfbacks, while Anthony Thompson is a rare physical, ball-hawking, National safety. Jovan Olafioye would solidify the other offensive tackle position, while bolstering the leadership on the club.
What the Lions have
- Solomon Elimimian
- Veteran Defensive Line
- Joel Figueroa
- Strong Coaching Staff
- Money to Spend
With over 700 tackles in the CFL, Solomon Elimimian has been a force for years. The Lions have their stud middle linebacker under contract heading into free agency, allowing Ed Hervey to build a defence around Elimimian, literally. At 32, reoccurring long-term injuries could be an issue, but it’s no question whether the 2014 Most Outstanding Player can still play.
Established Defensive Line
Odell Willis, Davon Coleman, Claudell Louis, David Menard, and Junior Luke are roster players that the Lions already have under contract going into 2019. The Lions’ defensive line was one of their strengths in 2018, and the majority of that group will be back. There’s just one more important piece to re-sign on the d-line: Shawn Lemon.
Two-time Grey Cup champion and stud left tackle Joel Figueroa is one of the only Lions that has re-signed since the end of the 2018 season. At 29 Figueroa is one of the best linemen in the league and is key to the Leos’ success on offence.
Strong Coaching Staff
Undoubtedly the biggest splash the Lions have made in the off-season has been their coaching staff announcements. Headlined by former Calgary Stampeders defensive coordinator DeVonne Claybrooks, Hervey has been busy re-tooling his 2019 staff. Claybrooks is the new head coach, Rich Stubler will be the defensive coordinator, and former CFLers Ryan Phillips (defensive backs), Nik Lewis (running backs), and Drew Tate (quarterback) have all joined the Lions’ coaching staff.
Money to Spend
With so many pending free agents (33), it’s same to assume Hervey has money to spend. Look at bigger names like Mike Reilly, William Powell, Derel Walker, Greg Ellingson, Duron Carter, Sukh Chungh, and Taylor Loffler to get pitches or even offers from the Lions. Second, with almost all of their 2018 running backs, receivers, and defensive backs without a contract, B.C. can start offering higher deals to their pending free agents, or they may sign elsewhere.
What the Lions need
- Mike Reilly
- Defensive Backs
- Running backs
The most important person for the B.C. Lions this February is Mike Reilly. With Bo Levi Mitchell all but gone to the NFL, Reilly will not only be the best quarterback in the CFL but the best player. The Lions have a strong chance at signing the two-time Grey Cup champion, and bringing him home to where his CFL career began.
Possible candidates: Mike Reilly.
Considering every player from their 2018 starting secondary is without a contract, this is a massive need for B.C. heading into free agency. Luckily for Hervey, instead of going into the open market, he can re-sign his group of defensive backs that ranked in the top three in many team defensive categories last season. Otha Foster, T.J. Lee, Anthony Orange, Gary Peters, Winston Rose, and Anthony Thompson should all be back in black and orange in 2019 after a collectively stellar year.
Possible candidates: Otha Foster, T.J. Lee, Anthony Orange, Gary Peters, Winston Rose, Anthony Thompson.
Ty Long has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, leaving B.C. without their all-star kicker and punter. It’s likely going to be a wide-open tryout in training camp for the positions, especially since they are slim pickings across the league. Aside from Lirim Hajrullahu, no CFL veterans are really available.
Possible candidates: Lirim Hajrullahu, CFL draft, NCAA.
Again, another need for the Lions that can be fully addressed in-house. All of Jeremiah Johnson, Wayne Moore, Chris Rainey, Brandon Rutley, and Tyrell Sutton are pending free agents. But with Johnson, Rainey, and Sutton all 30-plus years old, is it time for the Lions to move in a new direction in the backfield? As of today, the only running back on the Lions’ roster is Shaun “John Wick” Wick.
Possible candidates: Jeremiah Johnson, Chris Rainey, Brandon Rutley, Tyrell Sutton, Mossis Madu, William Powell, Brandon Burks, Mercer Timmis, John White, Kienan LaFrance, Cameron Marshall, Martese Jackson.
Surprise. Another need that can mostly be addressed in-house. Emmanuel Arceneaux, Bryan Burnham, Ricky Collins, Tyler Davis, Shaquille Johnson, Anthony Parker, DeVier Posey, and Cory Watson are all without a contract. The Lions should for sure look to re-sign Burnham and Posey and look at Johnson, Collins, Arceneaux, and Watson for the right price. Regardless, there’s plenty of fish in the sea.
Possible candidates: Emmanuel Arceneaux, Bryan Burnham, Ricky Collins, Shaquille Johnson, DeVier Posey, Cory Watson, George Johnson, Duron Carter, Derel Walker, Greg Ellingson, Naaman Roosevelt, Terrell Sinkfield, Terrence Toliver, Lemar Durant, Bakari Grant, Vidal Hazelton, Kenny Stafford.
The Last Word
Thirty-plus free agents make for a busy February. However, those players come second. First priority is Mike Reilly. If Reilly signs with the Lions, negotiations with other free agents should become much easier. The Lions have many important positions to fill: quarterback, running back, receiver, interior offensive line, secondary, kicker, and punter, but their off-season depends on Reilly.
Out of speculation, I’d guess the Lions do sign Reilly, and pick up Lirim Hajrullahu, Terrell Sinkfield, Duron Carter, T.J. Heath Martese Jackson, and possibly Taylor Loffler and Sukh Chungh in free agency.
Up next: Calgary Stampeders
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