Lions hope quality comes with record free-agent haul

The first question in the interview with Wally Buono hadn’t even been asked when the coach of the B.C. Lions summed up the first day of free agency for the CFL team under Ed Hervey.

“I believe,” Buono began prior to his interrogation on TSN 1040, “our GM is doing an excellent job at improving the team and on the line of scrimmage.” On numbers alone, he wasn’t wrong and in a few months it’ll be determined whether there is quality with the quantity that was served up Tuesday.

Nobody keeps records of these things, but it is accurate to state Hervey made more free agent signings in a single day than at any point since the turn of the century for the Lions, perhaps in franchise history.

Buono had seven last season, and it must be noted that of that group only one player, DeQuin Evans, has even a slim chance of sticking with the Lions a year later, but those signings happened throughout the off-season.

Hervey exceeded the boardroom work of his coach, announcing eight deals Tuesday before dinner time (see chart below). They will have another once they clear up paperwork with defensive back Cauchy Muamba, one of three Canadians who will arrive in the haul.

And depending on how you keep score, you could say the Lions have secured 10 new faces. Also to be announced is the signing of import wide receiver Ricky Collins, a 25-year-old who has spent time with Saskatchewan and Hamilton, whose contract was agreed upon last week.

The signing of quarterback Travis Lulay a day before free agency is not a new face, of course, just a pretty one. You can only imagine what the reaction around the Surrey practice facility might have been had the Lions been able to convince Vancouver College linebacker Adam Konar into coming home and joining the Edmonton exodus instead of remaining with the Eskimos.

Hervey said the Lions made a pitch, but instead stayed true to their stated plan of improving the line of scrimmage. Figueroa could give the Lions an anchor at left tackle not seen since Rob Murphy while Antonio Johnson will tentatively move to the right side and scrap over the import spot with newcomer Jeremy Lewis. Cummings completes a much-needed reformation of the defensive front.

B.C. indeed had a plan, and it was pulled off, Hervey said, with personnel staffers Torey Hunter, Geroy Simon and Neil McEvoy doing more successful dialing than anyone in that position had achieved in a long time.

“One person can’t do it all,” understated Hervey, in a brief break to check whether the sun was still out, between signing DB AJ Jefferson and OL Chris Greaves.

“We all had a game plan on how we were going to handle the phone calls and our targets. We were prepped and ready and because of that we were efficient in the players we wanted.”

The plan was to put the full-court press on Figueroa, a 28-year-old who, like Lewis, also has logged time in Hamilton but got to know Hervey in Edmonton, and go from there.

“We feel Joel is one of the most underrated offensive linemen in the CFL. We were sitting here with fingers crossed hoping he would be available. Having that relationship and that trust with us played a part in why he left Edmonton,” said Hervey.

Said Lulay on 1040: “I remember watching him on tape and thinking he’s got a mean streak in him. A couple of guys said in the locker room today ‘I hate that guy’. When you’re picking up guys on the offensive line it makes a quarterback smile.”

Defensively, with Cummings aboard to challenge Mich’ael Brooks and play alongside Odell Willis and Gabe Knapton, the Lions had to pay a price. They didn’t go to the wall on Konar, primarily a first-down linebacker, and couldn’t offer anything approaching the reported $130,000 received by Chandler Fenner in Winnipeg, nor the deal agreed upon by Loucheiz Purifoy to sign in Ottawa.

“For what their market paid them I felt we were better served in the offensive and defensive line. The resources have been placed in the right positions,” Hervey said.

It was pretty much what Hervey said he had hoped to deliver, not making headlines by overspending but acknowledging that changes were needed. Lots of them. With that, the man put down the phone and signed another player, as perhaps the biggest one-day signing splash in franchise history continued onward.


Free agent signings: OLs Joel Figueroa, Jeremy Lewis, DB Dustin Termansen*, LB Mitch Barnett*, DT Euclid Cummings, DBs Garry Peters, AJ Jefferson, OL Chris Greaves, LB Otha Foster, WR Cory Watson,

To be announced: WR Ricky Collins, DB Cauchy Maumba*.

Lost in free agency: DL Alex Bazzie (to Edmonton), DB Chandler Fenner (to Winnipeg), Loucheiz Purifoy (to Ottawa);

Since end of the 2017 season:

Extended: Travis Lulay, Antonio Johnson, Hunter Steward, Cody Husband, Maxx Forde, Shaquille Johnson, Mike Benson, Emmanuel Arceneaux, Solomon Elimimian,

Acquired veterans: RB Brandon Rutley, DL Gabe Knapton, DL Odell Willis

Traded: WR Chris Williams

Released: LB Micah Awe.

Retired: WR Marco Iannuzzi

Lions now free agents: Adrian Clarke*, Jaz Dhillon*, Kirby Fabien*, Buddy Jackson, Andrew Jones*, Nick Moore, Craig Roh, Bryant Turner, Ronnie Yell.



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.