Too much honesty has resulted in a fine levied by the CFL to the B.C. Lions for their part in allowing linebacker Adam Bighill to try to make an NFL roster.
In a release stating all nine teams were compliant with the salary cap in 2016, BC was docked $2,500 Friday for a violation of by-laws pertaining to the contract of the CFL all-star, who was released last December and subsequently signed with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
The Bighill release caught onlookers by surprise after last season given that he had signed a three-year contract that was good through the 2017 season. The Lions asked Bighill to rework his deal prior to the 2016 season in a move that was not made public, and in exchange was granted an NFL option window.
The Lions wanted to allay fan concerns about the window granted to a key component of their defence and offered an explanation just before Christmas in a release: “We have an agreement in place with Adam which allows him to seek out potential NFL opportunities between now and Jan. 27, 2017. If he is not signed by an NFL team, he has agreed to return,” coach/GM Wally Buono was quoted as saying.
Guilty as charged.
It was a provision granted by  Buono to at least one teammate, fellow linebacker, Solomon Elimimian in the past during contract renegotiations, to say nothing of other clubs over the years. However, at least one CFL team asked the league why Bighill wasn’t a free agent if he had been released, and on that score the Lions had to take their medicine.
No matter how deserving, don’t expect the Lions to be reworking the contracts of any player in the future, said Buono, whose team also likely won’t be as forthcoming with information as a result of the sanction.
“It was part of trying to keep fans in the know,” said Buono, who said the CFL is investigating ways to increase flexibility that was successfully reduced for veterans in negotiations which led to the last collective bargaining agreement.
“When we put the release out we probably shouldn’t have tried to be informative, which got us in trouble.”
The Lions have been leaders in a league where a lack of information and access was cited in the recent firing of Edmonton general manager Ed Hervey, once going so far as to announce which players they were targeting in free agency. But for one day, they were on a level press release playing field with habitual offenders working for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Not only did the Lions lose a player who was a key cog but deserving of an NFL opportunity when trying to comply with the cap, they got fined for their trouble as well.

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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.