By getting Henoc Muamba under contract the Alouettes have a proven middle linebacker in place.
Montreal released Bear Woods just days into training camp last season and three players, including two rookies, started at middle linebacker (MAC or MIKE) for Montreal: Dominique Tovell, Anthony Saro and veteran Kyries Hebert.
Tovell started the season in the middle of the Als defence playing nine games total and making 47 tackles and adding one interception for a touchdown. Sarao suited up in two August games registering nine tackles, one forced fumble and one sack. Hebert manned the spot for the majority of games down the final stretch of the season.
Hebert was released after a career-best 110 tackles and East Division Most Outstanding Player campaign. The Angry Bird seems to be a freak in terms of playing at a high level despite his age – 37. But the fact the Alouettes felt more comfortable with Hebert in the middle even when the team was out of the playoff race tells us all we needed to know about their confidence in the young players Tovell and Sarao.
Muamba stabilizes the middle linebacker position. He is coming off his best season since the CFL all-star campaign he put together with the Bombers in 2013. The 29-year-old played in 17 games for Saskatchewan making 82 tackles, three forced fumbles and two interceptions to earn the Riders Most Outstanding Canadian award. He can play at a high level and brings the key Canadian passport which provides the Als with ratio flexibility.
Before the 29-year-old ratio breaker signed with Montreal, the Alouettes probable plan for starting seven Canadians: three offensive linemen, two defensive linemen and two defensive backs. The Alouettes brought in Jamaal Westerman in free agency who factors into that national equation, paying him handsomely to do so. Muamba, a similar type of impact maker with a Canadian passport would have commanded a similar salary. But because the Alouettes are not paying a quarterback elite money, the team can supplement the roster in other areas, namely ratio flexibility.
With Muamba in the fold, Montreal has players at seven different positions with solid starting experience as Canucks: Westerman (x2), Muamba, Chris Ackie, Dondre Wright, Tevaughn Campbell, Luc Brodeur-Jourdain, Philip Blake, Kristian Matte, Philippe Gagnon. And George Johnson saw some time at receiver last season. That leaves options for ratio iterations based on health.
Perhaps most importantly, the Alouettes could be free to select the best players available at No. 1 overall in the CFL draft. General manager Kavis Reed wanted a player who can contribute in year one, but if the team feels comfortable with the current ratio construction it could take an athlete who that has the highest ceiling possible or be patient waiting on an elite Canadian prospect to exhaust all NFL opportunities.
Muamba provides stability and options for the Alouettes.