Forget Johnny, this is the trade Montreal should have made

The Montreal Alouettes recently made a pair of blockbuster trades that brought sweeping change to the club’s roster.

Johnny Manziel, Tony Washington, and Landon Rice were acquired from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on July 24th, all of whom have since joined the starting line-up. The price for the trio? A pair of veterans in Jamaal Westerman and Chris Williams and the club’s first-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021. Montreal appears to be without in-house options to replace either all-star, but the Alouettes’ roster woes are an issue for another column.

Kavis Reed then made a trade with the Toronto Argonauts that sent all-star guard Ryan Bomben and a 2020 fifth-round pick in exchange for defensive back T.J. Heath and a 2020 third-round pick. Heath fills a trouble spot in the Als’ secondary at boundary halfback, but giving up a national offensive lineman for an international defensive back is questionable value.

There’s no changing the past. History can’t be rewritten and trades can’t be undone. Hindsight being 20/20, however, I’d like to suggest an alternative way in which the Alouettes could have gone about acquiring a new starting quarterback — and given up fewer assets in the process.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson won his first career CFL start with the Argos in a spectacular come-from-behind victory over the Ottawa Redblacks this past weekend. After a shaky first half, Bethel-Thompson finished the game with 25 completions on 37 attempts for 302 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception.

Bethel-Thompson is still an unproven commodity and one good start hardly proves that he will be a worthy successor to Ricky Ray. Still, we know that the 30-year-old journeyman has earned the respect of his head coach — he was Toronto’s back-up in last year’s Grey Cup game — and that he’s had well over a year to learn Trestman’s system.

The eight-year pro also did a great job of utilizing his best target in S.J. Green, connecting with the veteran slotback nine times for 134 yards and two touchdowns against Ottawa. Green had a quiet start to the season, recording just 28 receptions for 285 yards and zero touchdowns in his first six games. Maximizing Green’s production — something Bethel-Thompson seems capable of doing — could be the key to kick-starting Toronto’s offensive attack.

Bethel-Thompson’s success is relevant to the Alouettes because it means that another quarterback — one once thought to be the CFL’s next-best-thing — could potentially be available via trade.

James Franklin started four games for Toronto prior to being benched in favour of Bethel-Thompson. After three seasons of spectacular play in Edmonton — highlighted by a 12:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio — Franklin tossed for just 967 yards, two touchdowns, and six interceptions in his four starts with the Argos.

Despite his recent struggles, it’s obvious to see why Montreal would be interested in acquiring Franklin. The 27-year-old Missouri product is young, intelligent, and already well into his fourth CFL season. He’s not a raw rookie struggling to learn the basics of a foreign league; he’s a well-studied veteran who needs the opportunity to apply what he’s learned on the field.

Franklin is a franchise quarterback the Alouettes could build around. He may not have the star power of a celebrity-athlete like Johnny Manziel, but winning is the only way to generate long-term fan interest. Manziel won’t bring victories to Montreal. Franklin may have.

And, considering the talent they’ve recently given up, Montreal had the assets to acquire Franklin.

Toronto has the league’s worst pass rush with just seven sacks this season (for reference, Saskatchewan’s Charleston Hughes has nine). The club never adequately replaced the retired Victor Butler and, as Justin Dunk revealed on the latest episode of the 3DownNation podcast, Toronto traded Shawn Lemon to B.C. believing they’d come to terms with former Stampeder rush end Freddie Bishop. Bishop then signed an NFL contract with Detroit, leaving yet another hole on Toronto’s defensive line.

Jamaal Westerman would have been the perfect addition to Toronto’s front-four. Not only is Westerman a premier CFL pass rusher, but the former all-star is also a national player. Plugging him into the starting line-up would have allowed the Argos to start an extra international player in the receiving corps, an area at which the club currently starts two Canadians.

Enter Chris Williams, arguably the CFL’s best deep threat. Toronto has struggled to replace DeVier Posey since he joined the Baltimore Ravens this past winter. Williams would fill the void left by Posey, the same player who recorded a 100-year touchdown reception in last year’s Grey Cup game.

We also know that Toronto coveted Ryan Bomben given that the veteran guard is currently wearing double blue. Bomben brings a veteran presence to the Argos and gives them the option of starting four national offensive linemen should they choose to do so.

With this in mind, some combination of Jamaal Westerman, Chris Williams, and Ryan Bomben should have been enough to acquire Franklin from Toronto. Montreal may have had to give up more to include T.J. Heath in the deal, but a mid-round draft pick should have been enough. Toronto’s roster needs bolstering in a number of areas and Westerman, Williams, and Bomben bring all-star prowess to key positions of need.

This hypothetical trade wouldn’t be without risk for Toronto. Putting all of your organization’s eggs into McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s basket is worrisome considering his lack of experience, but the rest of the deal makes perfect sense. Ricky Ray being on the six-game injured list makes salary cap implications a non-issue for Toronto, while the organization game up just one player — offensive lineman Mason Woods — to acquire him. Getting three all-star players back is an excellent trade-off.

And, for Montreal, this deal is a slam dunk. The struggling franchise gets a new (legitimate) starting quarterback who’s under contract through 2019. And the Als get to keep their valuable first-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021, bolstering their Canadian talent for years to come.

It’s easy to point out roster moves that teams should have made after the fact — as mentioned above, hindsight is 20/20. Still, had the Alouettes been focused solely on improving on the field (rather than at the ticket box), this deal would have far better served Montreal as they attempt to regain respectability.

John Hodge

John Hodge

John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.
John Hodge
John Hodge
About John Hodge (384 Articles)
John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.

25 Comments on Forget Johnny, this is the trade Montreal should have made

  1. I don’t understand: we already acquired Jeff Mathews from the Argos and he was playing quite well until we lost him to a foot injury. There’s no mention of Jeff here. I don’t think it’s a season-ending injury?

    • Chris Done4 // August 7, 2018 at 1:59 pm //

      “Enter Chris Williams, arguably the CFL’s best deep threat.”

      Absolutely correct!

      Oh wait. It’s not 2016 anymore. No John Hodge, it’s not even arguable. With Saunders and Banks, he’s not even close to being the best deep threat on his own team.

  2. All fun & games but how do you know who was available? I’m betting neither was available as Popp & Trestman are slightly smarter than Kavis. See Grey Cup.
    Why don’t you like JM. I don’t like the hype but think he’ll be fine. However I’m not in a Rod Black type love affair with him.

  3. Barry McCawkiner // August 7, 2018 at 12:05 pm //

    MTL’s problem is simple and until it changes, they are the CFL’s equivalent of a dog chasing it’s tail! *Clueless Kavis Reed*

    • Tiger man // August 7, 2018 at 1:09 pm //

      And that’s where you start the fixing…acquire a GM worth the title and the money..someone with experience and success…

      Kavis is dealing from a position of ignorance and desperation…neither is good…together is a recipe for disaster…last Firday’s game gave those in Montreal a glimpse into their immediate future…

  4. Ray, is starring at retirement and is likely to hang it up at the end of the season. Why would Popp who was treated like shit by Andrew Wetenhall trade one of his two qb’s to Montreal?

    Popp just robbed the Als of a All Star Canadian offensive linesman for a dime a dozen undisciplined DB with a dozen games left on his contract…

    The trade Montreal should make is with Employment Canada,send Kavis Reed to the unemployment roll.

    • Was Popp treated like shit or was he entitled and apathetic in Montreal leaing a massive mess with no Canadian content and no succession plan or QB?

      I think what you mean Popp would not trade a QB to Kavis….at least not Bethel-Thompson who is Trestman’s preference of the two over Franklin and has been since TC.

      Bomben did not want to be in Montreal he wanted to be in Toronto- Stubler had TJ in Toronto and values him.

      You have changed your tune Putin…from insider information in spring camp in Vero Beach to fire Reed.

      Looks like you don’t have all the answers now….

  5. BigRedMachine // August 7, 2018 at 12:12 pm //

    I think the jury is still out whether or not Franklin is the next thing. And so far judging by his performances in TO I would guess not.

  6. Easy to say Als should of done another trade AFTER THE FACT of what they did and how Manziel and Thompson played their first games. I really don’t think the verdict on the Als trades will be determined until the end of the 2019 season. Manziel needs time to get better in the CFL game and Reed needs to improve the overall roster from top to bottom any way possible for Manziel and the Als to turn the tide and be a consistent winner.

  7. So Bethel isn’t worthy of a “legit” starter title because he’s only played well in one game. But Franklin IS a “(legitimate) starting quarterback” because he’s played poorly in 4 games this year….but played well as a back up in edmonton (which is a much better team than Mtl). Not sure I understand how Franklin would look any better in red white and blue than he does in double blue…but sure. You do you Hodge…..

  8. I don’t think Toronto would have traded Franklin. I don’t think the Toronto woes were all his fault in any case – unless he could kick field goals, etc. too.

    As for Montreal, I don’t think they needed to trade for another QB at all. Vernon Adams played well in his first game with a Montreal team that needs other position players more than it needed to replace him. He certainly deserved another start. Personally, as a fan and not a coach or personnel person, I guess/surmise that Adams is better than Manziel and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

    So yes, Montreal needs to get better. Yes, it might be by trade. But they need and have needed other positions more than QB after they picked up Adams. I doubt Franklin is for sale anyway.

    • Montreal is in good shape with VA and VA. Rather than trade for more QB’s, they can now focus on shoring up other areas

  9. A reasonable premise, but i don’t think the Als had the luxury of waiting the two extra games they have had since the Manziel trade (and even now I’m not sure the Argos are ready to trade Franklin). I agree Franklin would have been cheaper, if available. But then he also doesn’t have quite the same talent level of JM (I don’t think).

  10. Major mistake thinking johnny was gonna be a starting qb in this league ! He will be gone in 2 years or less and it won’t be to the NFL…possibly parking cars or something

  11. It must be taken into account that Hamilton gave up two quarterbacks to Montreal, both Manziel and Adams.When you consider the extraneous details of the trade, Hamilton dealing Bomben and giving Adams to Montreal it seems Hamilton has not been wise in trading players.Bomben, Adams, and Chareleston Hughs just tossed for nothing.I have never seen players tossed with such reckless abandon and do not trust the Cat brain trust.

  12. Bring back our Als // August 7, 2018 at 1:53 pm //

    Trestman for Sherman

  13. The Dears // August 7, 2018 at 2:55 pm //

    What if? Sherman coached Manziel already and believes in him. That us why he gave all that up. He would not give up all that fir Franlin? Foreign league? Itz the same sport as the Nfl not curling.

  14. David Tress // August 7, 2018 at 3:09 pm //

    Manziel is still better. Wait until he has more practice time before you jump to any conclusions.

  15. What a dumb article. Manziel is only 25 and was dumped into action before he was ready. Van we not give him a little more time?

  16. Tom calder // August 7, 2018 at 4:44 pm //

    Interesting that thompson and manziel both started there first cfl games on the same day I think both will be starters for years to come. And their teams and the league desperately need them succeed

  17. gocatsgo // August 8, 2018 at 8:52 am //

    The difference between the Thompson and Manziel situation, likely a few who knows, but how about having a training camp to absorb the offence and nuances of the CFL, the CFL is showing that it is not a league where quarterbacks with successful college or NFL credentials can come up to and dominate in after 4 practices with a team!

  18. Evil Empire // August 8, 2018 at 9:32 pm //

    If you took either Reilly, or BLM and under the exact same circumstances. Inserted them into the Als lineup. About the only difference I would honestly expect. Would be that Reilly would have had more rushing yards than Manziel did. And both Reilly, and BLM would have thrown less picks. Both may have had more passing yards but, that’s only a guess. And, should probably be expected considering who they are, and their experience in this league. But, I honestly don’t think either of those guys, or any of the best QBs the league has ever seen, could have won Mtl that football game.

    I expect Manziel to play better this week. Even if that only means that he doesn’t throw those three horrendous picks. And, I expect him to look even a little better next week in Edm. I don’t expect him to win. But, I expect better, or smarter play from him personally. That would be a step in the right direction, and leave room for hope for the future.

    This article is just out there…Way out there.

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