If the number of potential free agents aren’t enough to rattle the mindset of the B.C. Lions this winter then surely the prospect of players using option-year clauses is about to shake their collective belief.

Adam Bighill (above) gave the CFL team the most recent reminder of where the Lions fit in football’s food chain when it was announced Friday he has exercised an option in his contract that will allow him to explore his NFL options until Jan. 27.

The move came somewhat of a surprise given that the club never made mention of an option window prior to last season, much less the fact a new contract had been worked out. The last time the club announced a deal involving Bighill, it was a three-year deal in February, 2015.

In a tweet put out by the club today, the Lions said Bighill would be under contract through 2018 if he doesn’t sign an NFL contract in the next six weeks.

In theory, the Bighill deal puts him on the same footing as every other CFL veteran, who are no longer bound by the provision in the previous collective bargaining agreement that previously gave the club an option year on any player signing a new contract. That’s the new reality in the CFL, a benefit to the players who agreed to the last deal in exchange for almost no raise to the salary cap.

It’s just that when you have 24 other free agents looking for more cash from the Lions, the prospect of losing Bighill on option makes the task of reforming a roster that much more daunting.

For his part, Bighill says at 28 he still feels he has market value in the NFL that never existed upon initially signing with the Lions in 2011.

“To put it in simplest terms I’ve never been an UFA (unrestricted free agent). I signed right out of college. I’m in a great position to try,” Bighill said. “It’s tough to do much more than I’ve done the last two years, but if it doesn’t work out I’m happy to come back.”

Bighill says he has no idea what to expect and doesn’t have any workouts lined up at present, though if he wanted he could get pointers on tryout season from Bryan Burnham, Alex Bazzie and Mich’ael Brooks, all of whom have each worked out for a couple of NFL clubs this week.

He’s also well aware, however, that a workout is a long way from becoming an NFL roster player, yet still had to take one more shot. But in addition to trying to re-sign Solomon Elimimian after he too was quietly granted free agency prior to last season, the Lions now have to nervously wait to see whether the other half of their all-star linebacking corps finds a home elsewhere.

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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.