Knapton deal means Lions open for business

New guy comes in, makes big splash.

That always does seems to be the way, and it was no different Tuesday when Ed Hervey announced his first player acquisition as general manager of the B.C. Lions, acquiring defensive lineman Gabe Knapton from the Montreal Alouettes for wideout Chris Williams in a CFL trade involving a pair of veterans each going into the final year of their contract.

Hervey might not have outdone Wally Buono’s first attempt to impress back in 2003, when he dumped Damon Allen and brought in Dave Dickenson in a splashy exchange of quarterbacks. As entries go, that one may be hard for anyone to beat.

But it’s a deal that works on numerous levels for the Lions.

Alex Bazzie and Craig Roh are both pending free agents and are currently making the rounds on the NFL tryout circuit. DeQuin Evans, a former defensive teammate of Knapton in Montreal, missed the last half of the 2016 season and there’s no guarantee his back injury will allow him to continue. Canadian edge rusher David Menard could also leave as a free agent, too.

Williams, on the other hand, was the poster boy for everything that went wrong last season. Former offensive coordinator Khari Jones developed no means to use him, and paid the price last week.

Williams most certainly would also have been asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Lions in the final year of his contract, a deal he signed so he could be closer to his New Mexico roots. That’s no longer a problem for the Lions, who have distanced themselves fully from Buono’s second-biggest free agent foray of his tenure as general manager, and his biggest bust.

Williams could well end up playing for Mark Washington, the Lions defensive coordinator who is getting a second interview for the head coaching vacancy with the 3-15 Alouettes, when he gets his second chance.

Knapton, an avid outdoorsman who bagged his second buffalo Monday when he got wind of the deal, for his part is over the moon about the prospect of leading the Lions out of the pass rush wilderness.

“I’m gonna be ready,” Knapton said when asked about the prospects of playing for Buono and possibly alongside a former Als teammate in Evans.

“I love Wally’s style; he’s an old school coach. DeQuin’s a tough dude. I like guys who play grungy. It amps the feeling up around everyone …. I’m vocal when I have to be vocal. I’m pretty intense during games but I’m ready to lead by example. After a season like last year I’m ready to get that taste out of my mouth.”

So too is Hervey. By re-signing future father Emmanuel Arceneaux and the acquisition of Knapton, Hervey is identifying the notion that leadership on the Lions was lacking last season. Pending free agents on the Lions also just were formally served notice of change, too.

The moves to remove Jones and fellow assistants Robin Ross and Marcello Simmons last week fall on Buono. Exchanging rotational starters as Hervey did Tuesday confirms the belief that the Lions are now officially open for business with other teams on the trade front. Hervey called Als counterpart and former Edmonton sidekick Kavis Reed on Knapton for the first time Monday and a day later had made his first Lions trade.

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.