The 2022 CFL season is nearing and that means there’s plenty of action being thrown around on futures odds and the growing number of online sportsbooks in Ontario. One of the teams with the most attractive odds of all is the B.C. Lions out of the West Division. But is this underdog worth placing a bet on?
Lions pinching pennies despite dismal ’21 season
One of the best ways to conduct that due diligence is becoming familiarized with each team’s roster. Typically, CFL team-by-team salary information has been hard to come by, but our JC Abbott was able to do some salary-cap calculations for each of the league’s nine clubs earlier this spring.
Typically, a glimpse at which team has opted to invest in talent upgrades and which is being particularly frugal in that department can certainly help shape outlooks for the upcoming season. When it comes to tabulating which team has been in a bargain mindset with respect to its salaries this offseason, the B.C. Lions lead the way.
The Lions, a fourth-place finisher in the five-team West Division a season ago, are currently expected to spend a CFL-low total of approximately $4.9 million in player salaries for the 2022 season.
That’s the case even with well-compensated veteran quarterback Mike Reilly opting to retire. His presumed replacement, Nathan Rourke, will earn a maximum of $79,000 for 2022.
In fairness, B.C. did make a run at emerging wide receiver Kenny Lawler in the form of a $260,000 offer that would have made him the league’s highest-paid non-quarterback. In the end, Lawler ultimately opted to head to Edmonton, where he’ll reportedly rake in $300,000 in salary in 2022.
That said, there wasn’t a ton of spending on high-impact players for a team with several holes to fill. And that has to play a major role when you’re looking at futures bets, even if the lines for B.C. to win the West () and Grey Cup () have you dreaming of dollar signs.
Lions’ season rests mainly on Rourke’s shoulders
One thing to keep in mind is that B.C. is not devoid of talent despite sparse spending, starting with the quarterback and extending to the skill positions.
The Lions’ biggest uncertainty heading into 2022, at least relative to positional importance, is Rourke. Reilly was dealing with elbow issues over his final pair of seasons, but he was still a competent, savvy vet who threw for 34 touchdowns and over 7,000 yards in his 29-game Lions career.
Rourke, a Victoria native, made his first 82 pro pass attempts last season while appearing in 13 games. He threw for 754 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions, although his impressive mobility also facilitated 111 rushing yards and five additional scores while totaling 6.2 yards per carry.
The Lions’ faith in Rourke may largely be centered on a noteworthy performance against the Elks in the regular-season finale. The 23-year-old went 22-for-34 for 359 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, adding three more scores on the ground as part of a 7-34 rushing line.
Nevertheless, the caveat of the caliber of competition and the fact Edmonton had zero postseason aspirations going into the game certainly apply.
Rourke will at least have a solid amount of experienced skill-position talent around him in the form of James Butler, Shaq Johnson, Lucky Whitehead, Bryan Burnham, and Dominique Rhymes.
The bulk of the Lions’ offseason spending did go into shoring up a defense that allowed the third-most points (25.1) and second-most net yards (364.9) per game. Key holdovers such as linebackers Jordan Williams (team-high 97 tackles) and Bo Lokombo (77 tackles, four sacks, three INTs) along with defensive back T.J. Lee (83 tackles, four INT) should also play important roles again.
Is B.C. worth a futures bet in 2022?
With the season just over a month away from its June 9 kickoff, now is the time for bettors to conduct their research and place their wagers on CFL futures markets being offered by the multitude of leading sportsbooks already doing business in Ontario.
And while there is some talent on the Lions’ roster and some high odds to go along with this longshot, there’s a reason why this team is tied for the longest odds to lift the Grey Cup and dead last to win the West, far behind the likes of Winnipeg and the Riders.
The lack of spending on high-end talent and the unavoidable maturation process of a young quarterback create a situation that won’t allow B.C. to shock the world. If the Lions improve to .500 with the return of an 18-game schedule, that would be a positive for 2022.