Free Agency Preview: Montreal Alouettes

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OTTAWA, ON - AUGUST 31: Montreal Alouettes wide receiver B.J. Cunningham (85) during warm-up before Canadian Football League action between the Montreal Alouettes and Ottawa Redblacks on August 31, 2018 at TD Place Stadium, in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The path to success partially runs through free agency for the Montreal Alouettes. General manager Kavis Reed has already stated that the Alouettes will not engage in a bidding war for any of the high priced free agent quarterbacks. However, Reed acknowledged that there is room for improvement in the receiving corps, defensive backfield, and pass rush. Some of this improvement will need to come via free agent signings.

2019 CFL Free Agency begins at 12 p.m. on February 12, 2019. 

Montreal Alouettes Current Free Agents

Wide receiver:
Adarius Bowman, B.J. Cunningham, T.J. Graham, George Johnson.

Offensive line:
Luc Brodeur-Jordain, Dillon Guy, and Philippe Gagnon.

Defensive line:
Jean-Samuel Blanc, John Bowman, Jesse Joseph, Gabriel Knapton.

Linebacker:
Nicolas Boulay, Chip Cox, D.J. Lalama.

Defensive back:
Dominique Ellis, T.J. Heath, Jermaine Robinson.

Must-sign Free Agents

B.J. Cunningham, Dominique Ellis, Philippe Gagnon.

While Kavis Reed mentioned that the Alouettes would look to upgrade their receiving corps in free agency, signing B.J. Cunningham provides a measure of stability at the position. He managed over 600 yards receiving during the quarterback carousel last year.

Montreal needs good defensive backs and Dominique Ellis is just that. Employed in the bend but don’t break Stubler scheme last year Ellis still managed to secure 69 tackles and two interceptions.

Lastly, Philippe Gagnon was in and out of the lineup last year and is an effective player who can help a young offensive line.

What the Alouettes have

  • A Plethora of Quarterbacks
  • A Young Offensive Line
  • A Potential Star Running Back
  • A Pair of Stud Defensive Backs
  • A Stud National Middle Linebacker

A Plethora of Quarterbacks

The Alouettes have numerous quarterbacks to work with. Johnny Manziel is the favourite to start Week 1 but is still a work in progress. Matthew Shiltz, Antonio Pipkin, Vernon Adams Jr, Jeff Matthews, and Hugo Richard are under contract for the Als too.

A Young Offensive Line

First-round picks Tyler Johnstone and Trey Rutherford are set to see more reps on the offensive line. Na’Ty Rodgers, 23; Sean Jamieson, 24; Zach Annen, 24; Andrew Erbes, 23; and Damian Love, 24 all also in the mix, with Rodgers and Jamieson being potential 2019 starters.

A Potential Star Running Back

William Stanback should see an increased workload in 2019 after a stellar rookie season. Stanback produced more than 850 total yards in 2018 and finished with a 6.7 yard average per rush. Stout special teams play allowed Stanback to initially stick around, and with a full season of starting, he could be in the race for a rushing title and put himself into elite running back territory.

A Pair of Stud Defensive Backs

On defence, Branden Dozier and Tommie Campbell are two of the best defensive backs in the league. Both are part of the core to what’s looking like an improving Als defence. The Als have question marks across their defence with holes at defensive line and halfback, but Dozier and Campbell are two pieces to build around. Injured Mitchell White should return in 2019 too, who could play cornerback opposite of Cambell.

A Stud National Middle Linebacker.

The headline shouldn’t need an explanation. A stud Canadian in the middle of the defence is as CFL as it gets, and the Als have that in Henoc Muamba. Muamba is coming off his best CFL season, one where he recorded 108 tackles and five sacks. The Als have decisions to make at weak and strong-side linebacker with Nicolas Boulay and Chip Cox heading to free agency, but Muamba will be back in the middle in 2019.

What the Alouettes need

  • Receivers
  • Defensive Linemen
  • Nationals
  • Halfbacks
  • Secondary Depth

Receivers

If the Alouettes do not sign any big-name receivers they will start the season with a mediocre core once again. Eugene Lewis, Ernest Jackson, and B.J. Cunningham were decent last year; however, the Alouettes do not have a reliable deep threat. T.J. Graham may be someone the Als could also bring back, but for the most part, Kavis Reed needs to hit the open market for some high-profile pass-catchers.

Possible candidates: Greg Ellingson, Mike Jones, Nic Demski, Nate Behar, Shaquille Johnson, Duron Carter, Derel Walker, Terrell Sinkfield, Terrence Toliver, Lemar Durant, Vidal Hazelton, Kenny Stafford, Juwan Brescacin, Naaman Roosevelt, Bryan Burnham, DeVier Posey.

Defensive Linemen

If John Bowman does retire it could be troubling for the Als to sustain consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Ryan Brown was a revelation last year but the Alouettes need more than one player in order to prevent teams from running all over them. Don’t count out the Als to sign a big-name free agent defensive lineman or two.

Possible candidates: John Bowman, Jesse Joseph, A.C. Leonard, Jeffrey Finley, Dylan Wynn, Adrian Tracy, Trent Corney, Drake Nevis, Tristan Okpalaugo, Mic’hael Brooks, Cory Johnson, Junior Turner, Ese Mrabure, Micah Johnson, Willie Jefferson, Makenna Henry.

Nationals

The Alouettes would have a heck of a time dealing with their seven National starters if the season started today. For the most part, Joshua Stanford, George Johnson, Kristian Matte, Philippe Gagnon, Jesse Joseph, Henoc Muamba, and Tevaughn Campbell occupied the seven slots. Today, Stanford and Campbell have been released, and Johnson, Joseph, and Gagnon are free agents. Players like Bo Banner, Zach Annen, and Ty Cranston could emerge into starting roles, but the level of talent could be a concern. The Als need Nationals, specifically at receiver and defensive line.

Possible candidates: Mike Jones, Cory Watson, Lemar Durant, Juwan Brescacin, Jesse Joseph, George Johnson, Dylan Wynn, Trent Corney, Ese Mrabure, Jeffrey Finley, Makenna Henry, Junior Turner, Nic Demski, Nate Behar.

Halfbacks

If the Alouettes are content with Greg Reid’s rookie season at halfback, they’ll have one of two halfback spots filled. Dominique Ellis and T.J. Heath, two starting halfbacks last year, are both free agents. Branden Dozier can transition to half, but that would open up a hole at either safety or strong-side linebacker. If Ellis and Heath leave during free agency, Montreal’s going to need to find experienced CFL halfbacks, or else they could rank near last in defensive passing categories again.

Possible candidates: Rico Murray, Aaron Grymes, Forrest Hightower, Emanuel Davis, Brandon Alexander, Ciante Evans, Patrick Levels, Kevin Fogg, Brandyn Thompson, T.J Lee, Gary Peters.

Secondary Depth

Along with starting halfbacks, the Als need adequate depth in their secondary. Kavis Reed has signed a plethora of rookie defensive backs, but it wouldn’t hurt to sign a proven depth defensive back or two. Ty Cranston, Najee Murray, Greg Reid, Lekan Idowu, Dondre Wright, and Paul Kozarchuk make up the experienced Als depth right now. Since Montreal’s 2018 season ended, Larry Hope Jr., Jamal Marshall, Marcellus Pippins, Jermarcus King, Ryan Carter, and former Riders defensive back Chirs Lyles have been added to Montreal’s roster. Reed and the Alouettes are hoping at least one turns out.

Possible candidates: Larry Hope Jr., Jamal Marshall, Marcellus Pippins, Jermarcus King, Ryan Carter, Chris Lyles, Forrest Hightower, Brandyn Thompson, Jovon Johnson, Kevin Fogg.

The Last Word

In the words of the great movie Draft Day, Kavis Reed needs to “make a splash.” He has the perfect opportunity to do just that. While teams like the Roughriders, Lions, and Eskimos engage in a bidding war to retain or gain a quarterback, Reed can swoop in and pluck some key free agents. Receivers, halfbacks, and defensive linemen are not as flashy as signing a quarterback but are crucial to Montreal’s rebuild. The Alouettes need to upgrade these positions in a big way or it will be a long season for their fans.

Expect Montreal to target Greg Ellingson, Terrence Toliver, Juwan Brescacin, Nic Demski, Tristan Okpalaugo, Makenna Henry, Ese Mrabure, Rico Murray, T.J. Lee, Aaron Grymes, and Kevin Fogg in free agency.

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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