A team in transition, the B.C. Lions turn to free agency

Here’s how you know the biggest transition with the B.C. Lions in 15 years is working as they head upwind into the most important part of the off-season in the CFL, otherwise known as free agency.

On one floor of their Surrey practice facility the other day after introducing his new staff, svelte coach Wally Buono is holding court on the beauty of the B.C. health care system following successful back surgery, plus relaying his chance meeting with Magic Johnson on Maui during the recent bogus nuclear warning.

A floor above, GM Ed Hervey is in his office, and the door is closed. Staffers say the door is closed a lot.

If there are issues when a power broker like Buono sticks around and gives up the control he once insisted on having to run a three-down operation, they are not evident, which has the Lions poised nicely when the green flag drops on the league’s annual talent market Tuesday.

Optics aside, there remains reason to think the Lions are about to view free agency in a manner much differently than the past, only because until last year Buono annually viewed the talent lottery as a sickness, preferring not to overpay in an open market but find his own talent.

Hervey would offer caution to those suggesting he will attempt to make a splash, however. And a gander at the list of free agents he signed last year for the Edmonton Eskimos, which include mainstays like Euclid Cummings, Cory Greenwood and Shamawd Chambers but also role performers like Travon Van, Kendail Lawrence and Andrew Lue, should reduce expectations.

He’ll stick to his previously stated wish list to improve the line of scrimmage, having been productive already with five potential starters signed on the offensive and defensive lines alone.

But without prompting Hervey also mentioned a desire to address the Lions non-import talent base, which might provide a clue as to his direction in the days ahead.

“That goes without saying,” Hervey said. “The best Canadians on the market are the players we’ll look at; if there’s someone who could change the ratio. Is there an offensive lineman who can be a starter or give us depth? Depth in the teams; linebackers, those are the guys.”

It likely therefore didn’t make Hervey’s day when an offensive lineman like Philip Blake recently re-signed in Montreal. But if it’s a linebacker to change the ratio the Lions want if seeking a replacement for Micah Awe they could hardly go wrong with Hervey draftee and Vancouver College product Adam Konar of the Esks.

Until it starts for real it’s all speculative of course, but with Buono only in collaborative mode these days the Lions are facing their best chance in years to shake things up.

Hervey has already taken a big first step when several starters, including Craig Roh, Alex Bazzie, Kirby Fabien and Ronnie Yell, were not offered contracts.

Hard choices were made too. Realizing only one import defensive back of the two seeking second contracts would likely fit under the salary cap, the Lions made an offer to Chandler Fenner and not Loucheiz Purifoy.

Purifoy had workouts with NFL teams but none came to the Lions looking for an early release. He could still be a target for the Lions but only if they don’t have success with Fenner.

There’s also not enough loonies on the table presently to bring back Travis Lulay, who met with Hervey last week but has yet to strike a deal with the rehabbing quarterback, and might now have to wait until other needs are met by the Lions.

“It’s going to be a bit longer than anticipated; not because there’s any animosity,” said Hervey, claiming the 34-year-old is still considering retirement. “I believe if Travis wants to play I’d hope it would be here.” (Update: Lulay signed a one-year deal with the Lions Monday)

However, armchair handicapping should not, Hervey said, be undertaken simply by grabbing the list of potential free agents from the team he oversaw in Edmonton only last spring. He wasn’t caught unaware when Adarius Bowman signed in Winnipeg, but never made him an offer because B.C. has already invested at the position group. The man has a plan.

“We have our priorities and I’m staying disciplined… In recent years I’ve gone after role players. We never made big a splash in Edmonton.” said Hervey, which only served to illustrate that on one level at least, the transition from Buono to a new guy in charge isn’t much of a change at all.

 

 

 

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.
Lowell Ullrich
Facebooktwitterredditmail
Lowell Ullrich
About Lowell Ullrich (174 Articles)
Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.

12 Comments on A team in transition, the B.C. Lions turn to free agency

  1. In letting Purifoy and Yell walk it will be interesting to see what Hervey has in mind in regards to he secondary. Purifoy is a guy that can play multiple positions and will likely garner multiple offers.

  2. Awaiting Moderation // February 11, 2018 at 7:54 pm //

    What is a “non-import”?
    Some sort of imported item blocked at the border and prevented from entering Canada?

    • the opposite of an imported alien.

    • A term used in the good old days’, meaning “Canadian” born instead of this silly “National” stuff.

      • Yes, exactly. Let’s hope that the Commish can make some tough decisions and scrap the ratio and we won’t have to use the silly terms National or non-import – it will be just “player”

        • I think they should at least reduce the ratio.
          It just doesn’t make sense the level that it is now with so few good players coming out of the CIS.
          The Canadian draft is nothing but teams scrambling to sign offensive linemen and backup running backs and safetys.

  3. I’d love to see us sign Adam Konar. Being a Canadian replacing Awe, an import, at LB would allow another import O lineman. Not sure why Yell was not offered a contract. if it was for ratio reasons (perhaps Hervey wants to start another Canadian on the wide side), maybe signing Konar would allow Yell or Purifoy to be signed?? I thought our secondary was way better last year than the previous. Any problems were more a reflection of no pass rush.

  4. Brian, I agree. Hope Purifoy is still in the Lions plans. Seemed more impressive and hungry over the last couple of years than Fenner. He will be a good signing for someone.

  5. TouchDownBC // February 12, 2018 at 1:32 am //

    Lions D needs lots of work…no pass rush no LB depth questionable secondary no safety scheme/playcalling

  6. I’m taken back a little on the stance BC has come up with on Purifoy. Any time I watched the Lions play last season. I noticed just how much of a ball hawk Purifoy was on each and every play. He is one of the most versatile defenders in the CFL, with the proven ability to play safety, halfback and SAM LB\Nickle. I often watched Purifoy working on the corner in BC and never had an issue on cover and certainly knew how to tackle. I honestly thought he was one of the better corners in the league. I’m not sure if BC considers Purifoy a Boundary or field side corner or if his multi talent is good enough anywhere you put him.
    I know this is the last thing Lions fans want to hear but SK is in need of a boundary side corner and would surely take a run at Purifoy. I’d love to see him in Green and White.
    If not then I hope he signs in the East as I personally think the dude is a serious Defensive player.

  7. BC = joke

Comments are closed.