It may be defined as a win the way a certain rookie import U.S. president sees winning these days, but the B.C. Lions nonetheless believe they are already ahead in the game known as off-season free agency even before it gets underway Tuesday.
On his way to occupying the biggest power seat on the planet, Donald Trump used to remark on the campaign trail he’d win so often people would beg him to occasionally lose just to make things interesting.
To the rest of the free world, at least the universe where the CFL resides, the Lions have already suffered unprecedented losses, with no fewer than five players signing NFL futures contracts.
Coach/GM Wally Buono will need at least three defensive starters to emerge from training camp, including a replacement for the loss of linebacker Adam Bighill, whose exit to the NFL’s New Orleans Saints could be defined as self-inflicted.
A kicker with CFL experience, Swayze Waters, has been acquired to replace NFL-bound punter Richie Leone, but the Lions have also determined they don’t want the same two-import backfield they had last season, choosing not pursue Anthony Allen. They must also hope for a Canadian to emerge because of another exit by prized backup, Bo Lokombo, who was going to be Bighill’s replacement when he too left.
Buono sees the exodus, however, as a means to show his U.S. scouting staff is functioning, with the losses a sign to street import free agents that his team can be a potential NFL path. “It means we’re finding the right people,” he wrote in an email before starting his free agent expedition this year.
And the even better news is that the legendary Lions leader sees free agency far differently than he did prior to last season, when he all but flatly refused to overspend for three-down talent and adjusted to become a player in a bloated player market.
B.C. last year bought four starters, already signing two of them, DL Bryant Turner and RB Jeremiah Johnson, to new deals this winter, not to mention sewing up the potential prize on the free agent market, LB Solomon Elimimian.
They’d be hard-pressed to have enough starters in the defensive secondary, going down to the free agent wire with injured unsigned veterans Ronnie Yell and T.J. Lee, though at this writing the Lions could choose from no fewer than 36 other potential free agents. Alex Bazzie has already left the defensive front four and appear as if Jabar Westerman and Mich’ael Brooks will follow.
The Lions also said goodbye to 12-year veteran Ryan Phillips, although that was foreshadowed some time ago.
Just another opportunity for the Lions, and hey, who ever thought the guy in the White House would ever make it to the finish line either.
Additions: K-P Swayze Waters, ST Dylan Ainsworth
Losses: LBs Adam Bighill (Saints), Bo Lokombo (Ravens), DB Anthony Gaitor (Saints), DL Alex Bazzie (Colts), K Richie Leone (Cardinals), DB Ryan Phillips
Holds: KR Chris Rainey, LS Mike Benson, DB Steven Clarke, LB Solomon Elimimian, RB Jeremiah Johnson, ST Nehemiah Kankolongo, FB Rolly Lumbala, DB Keynan Parker, DT Bryant Turner, SB Nick Moore, OL Hunter Steward.
Potentially on the market: RB Anthony Allen, DL Mich’ael Brooks, WR Bryan Burnham, WR Marco Iannuzzi, DB T.J. Lee, WR Terrell Sinkfield, DT Jabar Westerman, CB Ronnie Yell.