Lions feel they had several solid extra-base hits to open CFL free agency

Three up, three down for the B.C. Lions, and it might be said they’re only in the middle of the first, er, inning, in free agency.

At first glance it might be hard to suggest they knocked it out of the park on the first day of CFL free agency, as they swung and missed on a couple of attempts to plug holes along the line of scrimmage.

But if you were to look at what took place as a six-player trade so far Tuesday, in which Andrew Harris, Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Pascal Lochard were dealt around the league in exchange for defensive back Brandon Stewart, safety Mike Edem and, yes, the return of slotback Nick Moore, it’s a pretty fair exchange.

OK, Harris is a huge loss.

B.C. had two big needs defensively and filled one in versatile Hamilton veteran Stewart, a 29-year-old Seattle native who returns to the west coast for the next two seasons likely to fill the wide-side cornerback spot vacated by the loss of Steven Clarke or perhaps the nickelback void created with the exit of Josh Johnson.

Edem, who also signed a two-year deal, has been coveted by the Lions ever since his draft year three seasons ago when he was taken by Montreal and subsequently traded to Hamilton.

“That trade allowed (teams) me to show my skills and show the league that the Mike Edem who suited up his first year is still here,” said Edem, the latest player attempting to fill the never-ending void at safety with the Lions, who signed Eric Fraser to an extension earlier in the off-season, and a clear admission last year’s free agent signing of Chris Rwabukamba was a washout.

Moore? Well, suffice it to suggest he agreed to terms on a one-year contract that is a lot less than the $185,000 he received from Winnipeg two injury-plagued seasons ago, because his last two offensive coordinators, Khari Jones and Marcel Bellefeuille, pushed for him.

“We know how to use Nick to get the most out of him,” said coach/GM Wally Buono, who spoke about the players conditionally, knowing that contract paperwork has tripped up the Lions a time or two in the past.

“And when he comes back he doesn’t have the pressure on him he had when he left (for Winnipeg), which was tremendous. He missed games last year and he still nearly had 1,000 yards (889). If he can give us 1,000 yards we’d all be saying he’d had a great year, which I can see him doing. It also means we can move Manny Arceneaux around so he doesn’t get stuck on one side of the field.”

On Stewart: “He’s a big-play kind of guy who has done a good job on special teams,” Buono said. “We wanted to fill our secondary that we can go to camp how to play their position.”

To be sure none of the signings are going to result in a sprint to form a lineup for season tickets. But the Lions filled some legitimate needs and might fill another one or two more once Ted Laurent decides on a new home, which appears as if it will be his old home in Hamilton.

That signing will determine how much Ottawa defensive lineman Justin Capicciotti will receive, and whether the Lions can find some more loonies to make a more attractive offer.

B.C. lost out on one coveted offensive lineman, Corey Watman, but Buono said the Lions will play three Canadians on the offensive line regardless of what they do in free agency. They also reportedly made an offer to non-import receiver Shamawd Chambers, who went to Saskatchewan, but perhaps an indicator they too don’t feel Austin Collie is committed to fulfilling his Lions contract.

“Our biggest nemesis,” Buono said. “is our geographical location.”

It does, however, explain why it was huge for the Lions to get Solomon Elimimian to rework his contract lest they would be forced to cut him due to cap considerations, and nail down a new deal worth in the order of $225,000 as a base salary for Travis Lulay.

Not great. Not bad. And they may not be done yet.


  Coming to B.C.: DB Brandon Stewart (Hamilton), SB Nick Moore (Winnipeg), S Mike Edem (Hamilton)

 Leaving B.C: TB Andrew Harris (Winnipeg), TB Pascal Lochard (Winnipeg), LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis (Hamilton)


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.