Multiple teams in the mix for Henoc Muamba

Saskatchewan released Canadian linebacker Henoc Muamba on Wednesday and there are a number of CFL clubs already vying for his services.

The Lions, who signed Muamba’s brother Cauchy, are atop the list of suitors. The 28-year-old star defender was close to signing in Edmonton after he stopped there for a visit as part of his cross-Canada free agent tour in 2015. Ed Hervey was the Eskimos general manager at the time and he holds that title in B.C. now. The Leos played a lot of 3-4 defence in 2017, according to league sources, which would mean Muamba could play inside next to perennial all-star linebacker Solomon Elimimian.

Winnipeg drafted Muamba No. 1 overall in 2011 and playing for the Bombers is where he rose to stardom as a CFL all-star in 2013. After three seasons with the Bombers, NFL teams came calling and he left for the Colts. There wasn’t a fit when Muamba came back north. General manager Kyle Walters has stated the team is comfortable going with Jovan Santos-Knox or Ian Wild in the middle and that’s true.

However, adding a ratio-breaking option always has to be considered, especially with a couple injury-prone Canadians being counted on to start in 2018. Thomas Miles, who has CFL starting experience, is already on the roster and the Bombers are high on young linebacker Frank Renaud. Muamba always comes with large contract demands and if the salary could be fit in – roster cuts would need to be made – still has to be determined.

Money is available in Montreal. The Alouettes spent on Canadian defensive lineman Jamaal Westerman and upgraded the secondary. Muamba knows the city and liked it enough to sign there for a brief stint in 2015. Two years ago he was due a $55,000 off-season payment in mid-February and the Als ended up releasing him.

That happened under then-general manager Jim Popp and Kavis Reed currently holds that title so there should be no lingering ill will. Veteran Nicolas Boulay, DJ Lalama and Brandon Calver are under contract in Montreal, providing depth behind Muamba if the Alouettes make linebacker a ratio position. The funds are there if Montreal wants to make the move.

The team in the nation’s capital appears to have a need at linebacker. Ottawa seems to conduct their courting of players in an undercover style, but Muamba in red and black fits well in some ways. Defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe spent time with Muamba in Montreal, which means there is a familiarity between the two. After already playing in Thorpe’s scheme Muamba would know his comfort level in it.

There is not one proven starting linebacker currently on the Redblacks roster (Rico Murry is listed there but he’s a strong-side linebacker or defensive back) which is fine because general manager Marcel Desjardins always has a meticulous plan. That said, rosters are fluid and perhaps Ottawa set aside funds in the event Muamba hit the open market – Saskatchewan had put the talented Canadian linebacker on the trade market and teams knew the $35,000 bonus was coming. Due diligence in terms of gauging the price will be done at the least.

Each time Muamba has hit the open market he’s attracted a crowd and it’s the same this time around.

Muamba was due a $35,000 off-season bonus Feb. 15 as part of his 2018 compensation that would’ve paid him $220,000 if he played at least 15 games. The move was salary cap related as the Riders have acquired big names such as quarterback Zach Collaros, defensive end Charleston Hughes, Canuck defensive lineman Zach Evans, national running back Jerome Messam, American offensive lineman Travis Bond and gave raises to players such as defensive end Willie Jefferson.