Free agency is just around the corner, and thanks to a Family Day holiday weekend in most of the country, the league and players association agreed to move the date from Saturday, February 15th, to Tuesday February 11th at 12:00pm Eastern, 9:00am Pacific. The speculation and guessing will begin about what players will sign where, so we throw on our thinking caps ahead of Tuesday’s open market.
This forecast is nothing more than a guess based on what areas I feel the Lions need to address. After the dust has settled, we’ll see how close I came, or more than likely, how far off I was.
For their part the Lions have six free agents on their 2014 list, so let’s start by going through those. Two of the six are out of the picture, as Stu Foord is still rehabbing a serious knee and long snapper Dan McCullough retired last season.
Josh Bell – Defensive Back – Import
Bell emerged as a starter at corner last season and while there are changes coming in the secondary as evidenced by the decision to part ways with Korey Banks, the Lions like what Bell brings to the table and have already offered him a new deal. Bell is a crafty and physical defender and should be a big part of this year’s defence if he re-signs with BC. The question is how much it will take to get him to re-sign and judging by the fact nothing has been done yet, despite an offer it appears Bell will see what’s out there.
Nick Moore – Receiver – Import
Moore led the Lions in receiving last season and they club would love to have him back. Reports have the Lions initial pitch in the $140-150,000 range, but Moore has decided to see what the market will bear before considering the Lions offer. You can’t blame him for wanting to wait and see what the going rate will be; he was the understudy to Geroy Simon for a couple seasons before getting his chance, and he’s looking at his first major contract after a few NFL auditions earlier this off-season.
You would have to think the the Lions would hate to lose Moore who they have invested a lot of time in. I have a feeling he will eventually resign with the Lions once he sees what the market pans out like. Then again, Wally Buono isn’t someone who will be swayed from his plan very easily and may just let him walk if the money isn’t right and if another team swoops in and wants to overpay, the Lions may decide to let Moore go.
Keron Williams – Defensive Line – Import
The Lions don’t appear to have offered Keron Williams a new contract to date and will instead let him see what his value is once free agency begins. It was an off year for Williams whose stats took a hit as he was asked to play multiple roles on a defensive line that took a long time to get settled in 2013. If Williams does return, I think he would be hoping for a more defined role and ideally a return to his rush end position, full-time. He’s also expressed interest in giving the NFL one last shot, but to date hasn’t had any reported workouts. Williams stated in the off-season that he wants to return to BC, and did meet with coaches in the off-season. I still think the Lions would like to have him back once he determines his value on the open market.
Steve Myddleton – Offensive Line – Non-Import
Acquired via trade with the Calgary Stampeders last season, Myddleton filled in on an injury riddled offensive line last season. The expansion draft saw them lose 2013 draft pick Matt Albright to the Redblacks. Kirby Fabian is coming off a horrific knee/leg injury, the role of tackle Ben Archibald and Angus Reid is up in the air. All of this means the Lions need non-import depth on the offensive line and as such offered Myddleton an extension. Like the other Lions contracts nothing has been announced as far as acceptance, so its likely Myddleton will explore his options on Tuesday.
Who will the Lions target?
Again, this is all speculation on my part, but as a fan these are the areas I think the Lions need to improve at and the players I would target to fill them. Some are realistic, some maybe a bit of a dream, but hey that’s what makes being a fan so great, right?
Craig Butler – Linebacker/Safety – Non-import
The Lions have been looking for an answer at safety for a few years now and if there is one player that might have their attention it could be Craig Butler of the Grey Cup Champion Saskatchewan Roughriders. Butler can play linebacker and safety and is a physical hard-hitting defender. He racked up 60 tackles, 11 special teams tackles and 4 interceptions in 2013. His non-import status and skill make him a prize catch, and I would be shocked if the Lions don’t go hard after him, unless of course the Riders sign him before Tuesday which is always a possibility.
Josh Bourke – Offensive Line – Non-Import
The seven-year pro of the Montreal Alouettes could be about to hit the market and would be a great addition for the Lions. He can play the left tackle spot and if the Lions want to go in a different direction in regards to Archibald, Bourke would be a prime replacement. Montreal is still trying to sign the 2011 CFL top offensive lineman, but it’s sounding as if Jim Popp doesn’t know how it will go saying, “I don’t know. There’s a couple things with Josh, but I think deep down he’d rather be in Montreal.”
Luca Congi/Sean Whyte – Kicker – Non-Import
How long can Paul McCallum go? That’s the question the Lions have had to deal with the last couple of seasons and once again it will be a topic this year. The Lions only have the former Okanagan Sun kicker Steven Schott who has promise, but not experience. Congi asked for his release from the Ticats after they signed Justin Medlock who returns from the NFL.
Whyte is of course no stranger to the Lions and he’s a BC boy. He struggled at times in 2013, but if the Lions are looking for insurance or depth at the kicker position Whyte may be an option to consider.
Alex Hall – Defensive Lineman – Import
A bit of a long shot here for a couple of reasons. Hall is intent on trying the NFL, but if he doesn’t catch on he will likely hit the open market. Hall was acquired by Saskatchewan for their stretch run to the Grey Cup after tearing up the league in the first half of the season on the defensive line of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Hall would be a solid addition to a Lions defensive line that wants to return to being a dominant force in 2014 after taking a step backwards last season.
Traditionally the Lions aren’t really big players in free agency, but in a year when they are hosting the Grey Cup and with holes to fill it seems this time around they will very active. How much salary room do they have? What will the new SMS figure be under the new CBA? How will they be able to compete with teams like Ottawa who have a ton of room to spend on free agents?
It all starts Tuesday at 9:00am pacific time. Stay tuned!