After a whirlwind Friday of activity in the CFL, the BC Lions find themselves with a new veteran defensive lineman in Odell Willis. Some thoughts on the latest developments not only in the Lions’ Den, but around the CFL.
The Mayor of BC Place?
The acquisition of veteran pass rusher Odell Willis is another example of Ed Hervey doing what he said he was going to do. When Hervey was hired by the Lions, he made it clear he wanted a certain type of player and style along the line of scrimmage, and on the defensive side of the ball that is well underway with the off-season additions of Gabe Knapton and Odell Willis.
Everyone knows what Willis brings to the table. He’s loud, he’s charismatic, and oh yeah, he’s a pretty damn good player as well. Yes, he’s 33 and had a drop off in the second half last season, but he still finished with 8 sacks, which was 3rd best the CFL. His leadership will be clear in the locker room, and he will instantly become one of the leaders of the defence. With the Lions recent trend of having a defensive line rotation, they have a good chance to keep Willis fresh for 18 games.
When asked for his thoughts on the trade, Dave Campbell, colour analyst for the Eskimos radio broadcast, indicated the deal was good for both sides.
“Trading a star player and a popular player at that, is never an easy decision for any G.M. Brock Sunderland traded a 33-year-old player in Willis who carries a big-ticket for a player in Jake Ceresna, who is 10 years younger, is cheaper, and has some good upside.”, Campbell said.
“Willis re-joining Ed Hervey should give him a jolt and the Lions gain a good pass rusher. He should perform well but the question is can he give you consistency for 18 games and beyond? Playing three times against the Eskimos should light a fire under him.”
Both Alex Bazzie and Craig Roh are pending free agents. It’s not known if the Willis deal means one or both won’t be back with the Lions, but Willis will eat up some of that budget. If I was a betting man, I think the Lions will let Bazzie hit free agency.
Me guy? Says who?
Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun drew the ire of fans and former teammates with a strange tweet after the trade.
Not one bit surprised that Odell Willis is gone. Was never a big fan of the admittedly colourful and highly popular talented player. He was a “me, me, me” guy not a “we, we, we guy.’ Hit his “best before” date about mid-season last year.
— Terry Jones (@byterryjones) February 3, 2018
Obviously, Jones is entitled to his opinion, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone that shares it, including former Eskimos kicker, Grant Shaw.
One of the best teammates I ve ever had! Odell was the opposite of a me guy. Once again goes to show your lack knowledge and why 99 percent of players hated talking to you. #yourwashedup #facts @KuntryKane205 @EdmontonEsks https://t.co/qGk7j16spg
— Grant Shaw (@grantshaw11) February 3, 2018
No offence Mr. Jones, but we’ll go with the opinion of Willis’ peers here.
Much has been made of the current 2-year contract situation in the CFL, and once again the Lions are going to be fined by the league over the release of a player under contract who has an NFL opportunity.
The Lions were fined last year when they released Adam Bighill while announcing he would return if he was unable to find NFL work. This time around they simply released Micah Awe with the transparency that they were allowing him to sign with the NFL’s NY Jets, based on a promise made to him by someone no longer with the organization.
By the letter of the law, sure the BC Lions probably have to be fined. The league would love players to stick around and honour their contracts, the players want to chase their NFL dreams and have a short window to do so. The money an entry-level CFL contract pays isn’t great.
Whether we like it our not (or you want to admit it) the CFL is in essence, a feeder league for the NFL. More and more we are seeing U.S. players use the CFL to try to get noticed south of the border.
As you’ve no doubt read over the past week or so, the solution is to bring back the player option window after the first year of a CFL deal. This gives the player the chance to audition for NFL teams for a window of time. If he can’t find work south of the border he returns to complete his CFL deal.
Hervey has stated that the early release of players is not something that’s going to continue under his watch. His philosophy is to find players that are committed to completing their two years here. He thinks the team owes it to their fan base to not have a revolving door of players.
“It’s not anything we will do in the future or anything I’ve done at all. Typically I prefer when a player comes to our team he’s willing to do the minimum two years. I personally gear towards those players who are willing to give that commitment. Our fans deserve a good product.” – Ed Hervey
If the option window doesn’t return, hopefully the structure of these contracts can. Perhaps year two of the contracts can include some bonus clauses that trigger in year two if certain incentives are met in year one.
It’s an issue that needs to be discussed because it has the potential to keep players from coming north.
You didn’t just do this ????? now you basically scaring off anybody potentially wanting to come north https://t.co/M6AM5SWG4w
— Derek Dennis (@6BONECRUSHER3) February 1, 2018
Hopefully the next cba has a window for Americans to get a chance to tryout for the NFL after one year. The NFL stands for not for long. So yes waiting another year is that serious because you risk getting injured.
— Marquay McDaniel (@_McDaniel16) February 2, 2018
Let’s hope the next CBA resolves this situation and makes it something that everyone can live with.
The Other Side of the Ball
There was some twitter chatter this week when then the Lions re-signed offensive linemen Hunter Steward. Some fans are perplexed why Hervey has re-signed 3 of 5 starters from an offensive line that struggled last year. Hervey said he was going to evaluate which players he wanted to keep and which ones he didn’t. It doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be changes, and certainly doesn’t mean that more talent won’t be brought in to compete for jobs and push last year’s players.
Two of the three signings are Canadians, and as any CFL fan knows you need Canadian depth on your offensive line. Let’s just wait and see what the offensive line looks like following free agency, through training camp and opening day before we claim the sky is falling.