B.C. Lions co-GM Neil McEvoy believes ‘winner’ Vernon Adams Jr. well-worth a first-round pick

Courtesy: AP Photo/Larry MacDougal

The B.C. Lions turned to quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. in their time of crisis this week but acquiring the mobile playmaker has long been a card hidden in the back pocket of co-general manager Neil McEvoy.

“Vernon has always been a guy on our radar, ever since I traded him to Montreal seven years ago. He’s a guy that I felt would be a good B.C. Lion and we were able to make that happen this week,” McEvoy said in an appearance on The Rod Pedersen Show Friday.

“This was something that had in our book. We just like to bring in good football players and so, if assets are available to us and it’s something that we can bring along to help us win, we’re certainly going to do that.”

McEvoy, who has been with the Lions organization for 26 years, first encountered Adams when he was a college player on the Lions’ negotiation list. At the time, the two couldn’t hammer out a deal to bring the rookie quarterback to Vancouver and his rights were shipped to Montreal, where Adams eventually became an exciting, but often inconsistent, CFL starter.

The pair were reunited earlier this week when the Lions traded for Adams, who had fallen out of favour with the Alouettes, in order to fill the hole left under centre by the likely season-ending injury to M.O.P. front runner Nathan Rourke.

Having lost with backups Michael O’Connor and Antonio Pipkin calling the shots in Week 12, the 8-2 Lions paid a hefty price — a first-round draft pick — to get a player they believe can help them keep their Grey Cup hopes alive. While some may be concerned about mortgaging the future for short-term gain, McEvoy believes the club is still in a strong position.

“I love first-round draft picks, but we have a first-round draft pick in a defensive lineman that just got cut from Buffalo [Daniel Joseph]. We have a young man playing for the University of Regina [Ryder Varga]. We have draft picks that we had drafted in the previous years that we’re going to welcome back,” he said.

“You need to have top-notch quarterbacks to play professional football and so we felt that giving up a first-round draft pick, especially since we feel we’re going to have some guys come to us in the future that we had drafted in previous years, we were able to relieve ourselves of that asset and get a good asset in exchange.”

Adams has been known for flashes of brilliance throughout his career, breaking out with Montreal in 2019 after it seemed his window of opportunity had already crashed close. His follow-up campaign in 2021 came to an early end due to injury and it took just six quarters for Adams to be replaced by veteran backup Trevor Harris this year.

Despite his struggles of late, McEvoy has no doubt that VA will be able to push the Lions over the top.

“Everywhere he’s been, he’s been a winner. Eastern Washington, Oregon, and even with his limited time playing in the Canadian Football League, he’s won football games,” he insisted. “I’m hoping that we’re going to be able to help him out, he’s going to be able to help us out and we can continue on this winning way.”

What remains to be seen is how long Adams’ tenure will last with the club, as he remains under contract through 2023. The 29-year-old has no hope of unseating Rourke as the club’s full-time starter, however, it remains to be seen how much the surgery for his Lisfranc sprain will affect the opportunities south of the border that the young Canadian was likely to receive thanks to his record-setting pace.

McEvoy didn’t shy away from the harsh truth facing the organization.

“If the NFL wants him, they’re going to take him — that’s just the reality of the National Football League,” he admitted, before giving his best attempt at a sales job.

“But there are a lot of things that Nathan has playing in Vancouver, playing in front of his family and friends every day — the other day his dad dropped him off at practice because he can’t drive because of his injury — a lot of that stuff, he’s not going to get anywhere else. We’re going to do the best we can to retain him as our quarterback and hopefully, he will be a B.C. Lion for a couple more years.”

Should that not work out, Adams could be a ready-made proven replacement and he’ll have the rest of this season to prove himself up to the task.