There was considerable rejoicing when the B.C. Lions scored a major win with their free agent signings of Chris Williams and Swayze Waters but it appears that move has come at a price, in the form of six-time all-star offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye.
That’s not necessarily the viewpoint of the Lions, but Olafioye is now a member of the Montreal Alouettes and the surface optics of the trade that sent the six-time CFL all-star packing would suggest a complete fleecing of Wally Buono by his rookie general manager counterpart, Kavis Reed.
In exchange for the import tackle, the Lions receive the rights to non-import offensive lineman David Foucault, who has made but one pro start and played five games overall in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers since he was taken fifth overall by the Als in the 2014 Canadian college draft.
The 6’8”, 305-pounder hasn’t played in more than a year and is unsigned. If Foucault, 28, does agree to play in the CFL, the Lions will send another player to Montreal. B.C. also receives practice roster import offensive lineman Vincent Brown to complete the transaction.
For weeks the move to send Olafioye away had been billed as a trade but in reality stemmed from Buono’s reluctance to pay the 29-year-old what was in his contract. That’s not exactly an unfamiliar theme.
Off-season moves by Buono have always included the removal of at least one veteran player before their due date and the coach/GM of the Lions kept his streak intact earlier in the winter by cutting defensive back Ryan Phillips when the 12-year veteran couldn’t agree to a restructured deal. Money also cost Buono linebacker Adam Bighill when the option window created by the general manager by asking for a pay cut in 2016 turned into a three-year futures deal with the New Orleans Saints.
Olafioye’s exit follows somewhat of a familiar script. The difference this time is that rather than make him accept a restructured deal for less money, the Lions offered Olafioye the chance to strike his own deal elsewhere not wanting to completely insult him yet knowing they couldn’t release him outright either. For weeks, Reed saw Olafioye’s value in a manner similar to the Lions, but eventually found middle ground.
The last contract announced by the Lions came Jan. 16, 2016 when Olafioye agreed to terms reportedly in excess of $200,000 annually carrying him through the 2018 season. Foucault also has had to deal with monetary issues, reportedly balking at an offer by Montreal to accept an $80,000 annual offer, so on one level at least, the trade is an even move of convenience.
The Olafioye move also gives B.C. a bit of wiggle room in determining their non-import ratio for the coming season. B.C. still isn’t sure if veteran wideout Shawn Gore will return, much less where he would play with Williams ticketed to become a regular if healthy.
Buono, however, has said he was examining ways to ensure his team could start eight Canadians, one more than the league standard, for flexibility, also stating he was uneasy starting three non-imports on defence.
Shipping Olafioye out will mandate the Lions must now start four Canadians on the offensive front. Regardless of whether they get Foucault or for that matter Brett Boyko, who remains in pursuit of his NFL dream, the trade opens up a move back to tackle for Hunter Steward and creates an opening for second-year Canadian Charles Vaillancourt.
But it comes at the expense of the only consistent performer the Lions have had the last six years on the offensive line, a position group which always hasn’t been a position of strength.
As Andrew Harris discovered last year and countless others before him, Olafioye found out what happens when the man in charge makes an off-season re-evaluation.