Hervey: LB economics factored with Bighill

Nothing personal, it was strictly business. Ed Hervey said the reason why the BC Lions the GM of the CFL team elected  to bypass Adam Bighill on the weekend was strictly financial.

In football terms most relevant to the Lions, it was money better spent if the Lions could ultimately reacquire a six-time league all-star offensive lineman in Jovan Olafioye than an all-star linebacker in Bighill, who rejoined a growing cast of ex-BC players with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Add the cash it would have cost to get Bighill lined up alongside Solomon Elimimian again and the Lions would have been out close to $400,000, according to club and league sources.

Olafioye, who signed in BC mere moments after he was cut Saturday by the Montreal Alouettes and directed a flurry of insults at Als general manager Kavis Reed as he went out the door, left the Lions breathing a huge collective sigh of relief when he agreed to become part of a revamped offensive line which will feature Joel Figueroa at left tackle.

Hervey said he was aware of Bighill’s appeal to the Lions fan base but viewed the weekend events in practical terms.

“First of all, Adam Bighill is one of the league’s best players and I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he has done for this organization, but our primary focus was to strengthen the offensive and defensive lines,” Hervey explained after a spirited morning Lions walkthrough in Kamloops Monday.

“If we were to pay the WILL-linebacker position premium dollars it would be a luxury. It’s no different than when Adarius Bowman came free earlier. We’re staying committed to protecting the quarterback.”

Olafioye was no longer part of the mix when the Als acquitted Canadian lineman Ryan Bomben before the draft. Reed said his club is still in the process of making moves up front. Word is Bomben will be paired this week with former Lions non-import lineman Kirby Fabien.

Olafioye was released partly as a result of a pay dispute, according to his posts on social media, after he reportedly had earlier been given a $50,000 contract bonus. BC, meantime, had a sudden need when import tackle Jeremy Lewis announced his retirement last weekend.

Missing out on Bighill, however, ends an uneven chapter for the Lions. Bighill was under contract to the Lions in 2017 initially but gained his release to try the NFL in exchange for a pay cut. The Lions were fined by the league when they contended Bighill would return if he didn’t make it with the New Orleans Saints, who cut the 29-year-old last week.

Hervey said the Lions were prepared for the possibility Bighill might come free again but in discussing the idea with subordinates it was determined they would not pursue him aggressively.

“Because of the uncertainty on the right side of the line we wanted to keep some cap available for a late trade,” Hervey said.

Instead, the Lions got back the player-coach Wally Buono traded to Montreal for David Foucault 15 months ago without having to give up anything else.

LIONS TALES: Hervey said import Mich Awe will continue to look at his NFL options for the next several weeks and indicated the Lions aren’t holding their breath waiting for the sophomore to make up his mind. Awe graduated from Texas Tech with a degree in petroleum engineering and reportedly continued his studies at the University of Illinois last fall. A career change would not be an unforeseen outcome…The Lions appeared as if they had a new face in camp on the weekend when in fact it was a case of mistaken identity. AJ Jefferson, who is being tabbed to replace CB Ronnie Yell in a new-look Lions secondary, has legally changed his name to AJ Orange…The fourth-year CFL cornerback said the change has nothing to do with the fact he now happens to be playing for a team which has orange in its colour scheme but merely a happy coincidence. “Our whole family’s name is Orange,” he said.

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.