New Alouettes GM Kavis Reed has already put his stamp on his team by acquiring quarterback Darian Durant from Saskatchewan, signing defensive tackle Keith Shologan and re-signing slotback Nik Lewis, defensive end Gabriel Knapton and offensive lineman Luc Brodeur-Jourdain.
Although Reed is off to a good start, there’s still a ton of work that needs to be done to make the Als roster competitive in 2017.
The acquisition of Durant was greeted with complete optimism, but we’ll really find what it cost the Alouettes by next week. Durant signed a lucrative extension with Montreal and not only will that cost the team cash and cap space, it will also force them to part ways with players they’ll no longer be able to afford.
How will fans feel if the acquisition of a new quarterback ends up costing them multiple key pieces like Alan-Michael Cash and Winston Venable?
Regardless of who they re-sign or don’t re-sign, the Alouettes need to make improvements to the roster once the market opens in a few days.
So, where should they be looking to make improvements?
No team gave up more sacks than the Alouettes in 2016. Now, I admit the offensive line was very inconsistent last year, but it’s too easy to say it was all their fault. The fact that they had young quarterbacks under center didn’t always help the sack total. Sure, there were times Vernon Adams Jr. ducked under an opposing defensive lineman or he scrambled to extend a play, but there were other times where Rakeem Cato wasn’t progressing through his reads quick enough and it resulted in sacks.
Reed parted ways with veteran tackle Jeff Perrett and the team is still looking at bringing in former first-round pick David Foucault, who spent time with the Carolina Panthers in the NFL. With Foucault still looking at his NFL options, it may be time for the Alouettes to think about a ratio change at that position.
If the Als do indeed look to bolster their offensive line in free agency, who better to bring in than the reigning lineman of the year, Derek Dennis (Calgary).
The 28-year-old played in every game during his first year as a full-time starter in 2016 and he would definitely help keep Durant upright this season. Spending big money on a quarterback is great, but if you can’t keep him healthy, what’s the point?
Again, Dennis’ price point will likely be the issue here. Can Montreal afford to pay big money for an American tackle? We’ll see.
When Jacques Chapdelaine decided it was time to part ways with Duron Carter and Kenny Stafford, it definitely left a hole at receiver. The Alouettes still have solid pass catchers in Nik Lewis and B.J. Cunningham, but they could use another proven target for Durant to get the ball to.
If S.J. Green (knee) was fully healthy, this wouldn’t be an issue. But as Chapdelaine pointed out last week, there’s a good chance he won’t be ready for the start of the season (I say you should never count out S.J. Green, by the way).
Finding a solid international receiver is “easier” than finding a quality tackle, so they don’t necessarily need to break the bank for someone at this position.
This management group has shown that they won’t only look at players on the field, but off the field as well. They want quality players and people in their organization. When I think of that criteria, a few names pop into my head.
Marquay McDaniel might be 32 years old, but he’s been a valuable contributor in Calgary over the last few seasons. Even though he’s old by football standards, McDaniel has missed just two games over the last two years.
Another name that could be interesting is Kenny Shaw. When the Argos decided to release Tori Gurley, Kevin Elliott, Vidal Hazelton and Phil Bates because of commitment and attitude issues, you’ll notice that they held onto Shaw.
The 25-year-old started 17 games for the Argos last season and he caught 77 balls for 1,004 yards and five touchdowns.
Redblacks receiver Ernest Jackson could be another intriguing target for the Als. The 30-year-old posted career highs with 88 receptions, 1225 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was the East Division’s nominee for Most Outstanding Player.
As I mentioned before, the Alouettes were able to lock up Knapton for two years prior to the start of free agency, but they still might have to replace a number of key players at the position.
In my eyes, Alan-Michael Cash is the most underrated player in the CFL. He might just be the best defensive tackle in the entire league. If Montreal can’t bring him back, that would be a huge loss up front.
If Cash and the Als can’t come to terms on a new deal, they could turn their attention to another Mic’hael Brooks (BC), Euclid Cummings (Winnipeg), Drake Nevis (Hamilton) and 2016 Grey Cup Champion Moton Hopkins (Ottawa). All could be in the mix if Cash walks in free agency.
Another player I’d like the Alouettes to retain is Canadian Michael Klassen. When healthy, Klassen is a player who can cause problems for the opposition in the trenches.
His stats don’t necessarily jump off the page, but anyone who has watched him closely knows he has the talent to be a starter in this league. Letting him walk in free agency would be a mistake.
The Alouettes can take care of this need by bringing Marc-Olivier Brouillette back. Brouillette is scheduled to become a free agent and although I think a deal will eventually get done, you just never know.
I don’t have a vote, but if I did, he would have been my Alouettes nominee for most outstanding Canadian last year. Brouillette didn’t miss any games in 2016, but whenever he came off the field on defence, the secondary just wasn’t the same.
Again, I think a deal eventually gets done. If ever Reed and Brouillette can’t come to terms on a new deal, the Als will need to bring someone else into the fold because they don’t have anyone on the roster who can fill in right away.
Dominique Termansen and Anthony Coady are both good young players, but I don’t think they’re ready to step in and start right away.
After an outstanding 2015 season, Boris Bede slumped badly in ’16. I haven’t thrown in the towel on Bede just yet. Everything he accomplished in ’15 can’t be ignored, but I’d definitely look to bring in some competition.
Maybe a guy like Grant Shaw could be an interesting target for the Alouettes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they sign a guy or two with no CFL experience.
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