Traditionally Wally Buono has never been big on building his team through free agency. But after four years of a declining on field product and with the man himself returning to the sidelines, Buono signed three players on day one of CFL free agency. There is also the change of landscape that Buono has spoken of, where turnover of players is much greater with the elimination of option years for veteran players, meaning free agency has become a more valid route for the Lions GM.
The Lions day began with speculation that the club had signed Edmonton running back John White, thanks to tweets by News 1130 sports that White was on the way to Vancouver to take a physical. This tweet made no sense since White had tweeted weeks ago that he would be back in Edmonton. Yours truly questioned that report, but when Dave Campbell of 650 CHED in Edmonton seemed to confirm that White was signing with the Lions, myself and other Lions fans got pretty excited.
Hearing #BCLions are flying EDM running back John White into Vancouver for a physical.
— NEWS 1130 Sports (@NEWS1130Sports) February 9, 2016
— Dave Campbell (@Dave_CHED) February 9, 2016
Alas, it wasn’t to be and the Eskimos officially announced he had re-signed later in the day.
The Lions also made an offer to offensive lineman Corey Watman, but lost out to the Argos for his services who also plucked Josh Bourke out of Montreal to beef up their offensive line.
It’s also been reported that BC has made an offer to Canadian defensive lineman Justin Capiciotti but with Ted Laurent re-signing later in the day in Hamilton and setting the bar, the Lions will have to wait and see what it will take to get him and whether their offer can lure the Simon Fraser product out West.
Now for the players the Lions did snag on day one.
Nick Moore – Wide Receiver – International (Winnipeg)
This one came out of the blue, but I guess it’s true that you can come home again. After a two-year stint with the Bombers in Winnipeg, Nick Moore returns to the Lions on a one year deal that will pay him considerably less than the $185,000 he left BC for when he was last a free agent.
Wally Buono said that both Khari Jones and new addition Marcel Bellefeuille pushed hard to bring the former Leo in. Moore is of course familiar with BC and Wally Buono and should give another deep threat for the Lions offence. He runs excellent routes and has a penchant for making the big catch.
The knock on Moore is his ability to stay healthy, but even with missing considerable time last season, he still finished with 889 yards of receiving.
Mike Edem – Defensive Back – National (Hamilton)
During the 2013 draft the Lions tried to move up to select Mike Edem, but were unable to do so. He was an all-star in his first CFL season and the Lions are thrilled to get him into the den. Edem is big, physical and a solid contributor on special teams as well. He should plug a hole in the secondary after the departures of Steven Clarke and Josh Johnson to the NFL and has the right amount of youth, experience and potential growth to make Lions fans excited about this signing.
The Lions now have two possible Canadian starters in the secondary after re-signing safety Eric Fraser earlier this off-season.
Brandon Stewart – Defensive Back – International (Hamilton)
The Lions added some solid CFL experience to their secondary when they inked Brandon Stewart. The veteran defensive back will be entering his 10th CFL season when he suits up for the Lions. A versatile player, Stewart has played for Calgary, Winnipeg and Hamilton over his nine CFL seasons. The Lion feel he can play corner or nickleback and will try to use his experience and big play ability to solidify their secondary.
Who the Lions Lost
The club announced prior to the start of free agency that several players would either not be offered contracts or would be free to test the market and three players found new homes on day one.
It was no surprise that Andrew Harris landed with the Bombers, who were throwing out money like they printed it. Pascal Lochard followed Harris to the Bombers, while Alex Hoffman-Ellis found a home in Hamilton with the Ticats.