KAMLOOPS — Nick Moore apparently hadn’t read all of the script.
The routine most often associated with the B.C. Lions when it comes to free agency is that players don’t come to the team run by Wally Buono. They leave the first chance they get, usually because they are assessed a higher financial value someplace else.
Moore saw the Lions as the only place in his relatively short pro career where he had success, best known as an 1,105-yard receiving season in 2013, and wanted to return.
It’s a delicate dance between players and management at times. In the case of Moore he couldn’t wait to leave the Lions initially and assess his worth.
“Can’t wait until Feb. 15,” he tweeted in the days leading up to free agency in 2014, which is why the Lions didn’t exactly chase Moore down the street when he was offered a princely raise to $185,000 annually from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
But the two years he spent in Winnipeg trying to match the expectations of a big-dollar contract were futile, not that constant injuries helped. So he’s back, arguably as the biggest potential impact free agent made by the Lions, which may not sound like much but consider their so-called big splash last year was Chris Rwabukamba.
Moore’s ability to run consistently smooth routes during three previous seasons made him a fit with the Lions before. He’s back seemingly where he belongs now.
“They let me know what they had in store. I felt it was like it was the best bet for me,” said Moore, who’ll turn 30 this month, aware his days of chasing an NFL roster spot are over. “Knowing that I had success here before and being familiar with many of the players and coaches, it was just good to go where you are known.”
The simplistic manner in which Moore presents himself, then and now, is only matched by the quickness at which he and the Lions came to terms on the first day of free agency last February, when it became clear the Bombers no longer wanted the receiver even though he wanted to stay.
“This is home,” he told the Winnipeg Free Press after the Bombers’ final game of a dreary season. “Absolutely. The community in Winnipeg, the fans, the city – they’ve been nothing but welcoming to me. If I have it my way, I will definitely be back.”
It is, after all, a delicate dance.
Buono’s advantage this time came from the fact he had just hired Marcel Bellefeuille as the new Lions receivers coach. Bellefeuille had just been fired as offensive coordinator in Winnipeg and told Moore when last year ended he’d help make a play for him wherever he got the chance.
It’s therefore no surprise he returned, other than the fact it happened as fast as it did.
“The grass aint always greener on the other side. It’s greener where you’re watering,” offered Manny Arceneaux, another receiver who came back to the Lions in 2013 following two years in the NFL.
Arceneaux also elected to stay long before free agency beckoned last winter and like Moore understood the value of chasing continuity before the dollar. Moore, currently the only employed pro receiver in his family with brother Lance an NFL free agent, is doing the same thing.
Arceneaux was asked to stretch the field in the past with the Lions but this year will pair with Moore as the primary inside targets for Jon Jennings, which is why his acquisition in the end might pay more dividends offensively, though the change to either Anthony Allen or Jeremiah Johnson as a tailback tandem to Chris Rainey is no less necessary after the Andrew Harris purge.
Around the Lions though, it’s still significant when someone who leaves comes back.
Returning 2015 starters: Emmanuel Arceneaux, Shawn Gore, Lavelle Hawkins, Marco Iannuzzi.
Returning backups: Bryan Burnham, Terrence Jeffers-Harris, Stephen Adekolu, Geraldo Boldewijn
New on view: Nick Moore (Winnipeg 2014-5) , Brett Blaszko (Calgary, CIS), Devonn Brown (Lamar), Kendrick Ings, Uzoma Nwachukwu, (Texas A&M), Shaquille Johnson (London jrs.) Colin Lockett (San Diego State), Derek Yachison (Kamloops jrs.)
The breakdown: Gore gets a positional move with Austin Collie retiring and will rotate with FB Rolly Lumbala this year to satisfy the ratio. Arceneaux and Moore are the two primary inside weapons. Hawkins’ strong second half with Jon Jennings gives him an edge despite being one of the few Jeff Tedford holdovers. An early candidate for most improved receiver at camp is Boldewijn, who is battling Burnham extremely hard for a spot.
Among Canadians, Blaszko and Johnson could push Adekolu off the roster, though both are being integrated slowly. Yachison no longer has junior exempt status and if he is offered a practice roster spot will have to decide whether to forfeit his CIS eligibility or eventually go through the draft.