The value of a Canadian passport isn’t what it used to be in the past evidently in the eyes of the B.C. Lions after they traded non-import Mike Edem to the Saskatchewan Roughriders Thursday.
The deal was hardly a surprise, given that it had been rumoured for weeks. The shocker is that according to the Riders they only had to exchange conditional 2018 draft picks in order to put the 27-year-old on their roster.
That’s essentially a gift in a league where seven Canadian starters are mandated but not where Lions GM/coach Wally Buono is concerned. Buono had undertaken a large-scale project during the off-season to maintain one Canadian spot earlier this winter when he traded for offensive lineman David Foucault, giving up a six-time all-star in Jovan Olafioye in the process, to replace retiring receiver Shawn Gore.
Edem was different, partly because in the eyes of the Lions they overpaid to land in him free agency prior to last season, signing him to a deal worth in the order of $140,000 annually. It’s that contract that was acquired by the Riders and according to TSN he’ll be released by Saskatchewan if he doesn’t renegotiate the deal.
B.C., on the other hand, must find another Canadian starter in a secondary that will bear no resemblance to the one which was destroyed in last year’s West Division final. Remember that group of Brandon Stewart, Ryan Phillips, Edem and Anthony Gaitor? Of course you do. All gone. Only Chandler Fenner is still on the roster from that fivesome and there’s a better than even chance his position this year will be filled by newcomer Buddy Jackson. Nametags will not be optional in training camp.
Buono knew what he wanted at safety, however, which is why veteran import Steven Clarke was asked to turn up to last month’s minicamp to take reps at the position. But the Lions have undertaken a monumental shift in the back end and nowhere is that more evident than the middle of the defence.
Before Edem was sent packing for virtually nothing, the Lions cut fellow Canadian safety candidates Eric Fraser, who asked for his release according to the club, and 2016 draft pick Brennan Van Nistelrooy. Another pick from that draft, Anthony Thompson, must really now wonder whether he has a future at that spot or will be one of three Canadians contesting the wide-side cornerback position.
Nonetheless, it’s arguably now seven starters that must be replaced on defence and when you include key non-import rotational players like Bo Lokombo and Jabar Westerman who are also gone there’s no fewer than 11 defensive roster spots available.
Those who have booked the Lions into hotels during Grey Cup week already might want to at least let them have their first practice.