The ALSternative — 2015 Free Agency Thoughts

Two weeks ago today marked the official start of the CFL’s free agency period. Since then, this Montreal Alouettes team has taken on a slightly newer look. But perhaps the most important free agent signings for this franchise were completed well BEFORE the February 10th start time.

Of the 18 Alouettes players that were able to test the free agency waters, 14 of them have decided that it’s much better to stay put in La Belle Province. Most notable among those 14 players were Tyrell Sutton, Chip Cox, Eric Deslauriers, Bear Woods and the man who would have been the most highly sought-after free agent had he decided to try his luck elsewhere, S.J. Green.

It was a major coup for Alouettes general manager Jim Popp to secure the services of these players and the many more he did before February 10th. In doing so, Popp ensured that the core of this Alouettes team, which came within one game of competing for the Grey Cup in 2014, would remain intact going into 2015. It would also mean that any new players signed in free agency would be done to compliment the pieces already in place, as opposed to filling a void in panic.

So with that in mind, surely Jim Popp would just sit on his hands and do nothing while everyone else in the Canadian Football League throws money around like drunken sailors on shore leave, right? Well good readers…..let’s take a look, shall we?

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Our fearless GM did make a crucial signing on the first official day of free agency, re-upping Geoff Tisdale just before the noon hour. Since joining Montreal, Tisdale has been a force in the secondary, able to read opposing quarterbacks like a pamphlet and picking them off at just the right time.

Along with Billy Parker and Jerald Brown, Tisdale will be expected to help groom the future defensive players waiting in the wings such as Mitchell White, Andrew Lue and Jamaan Webb. Locking up Tisdale was key, as the idea of him wearing another team’s colours would have been a nightmare.

But aside from Tis staying put, the Montreal Alouettes were pretty quiet on that first day of free agency. As I said, there was no major voids to fill so there was no need to sign just any player for the sake of it. Any move that Popp would be making from that point on would be strictly for depth.

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The Alouettes did manage to convince a few players to switch sides and join the good guys. Here’s a look at the more notable moves to date:

Samuel Giguere: When the 2014 CFL season ended and the list of free agents was made available, there were two moves that CFL fans figured were a foregone conclusion come February 2015; Calgary’s Brad Sinopoli would sign with the Ottawa RedBlacks and Hamilton’s Sam Giguere would sign with the Montreal Alouettes.

Sure enough, the former U of Ottawa quarterback turned wide receiver has made a homecoming of sorts by signing with the RedBlacks and the Quebec-born Giguere inked a deal with the Birds of Prey. With the Alouettes losing Duron Carter to the NFL, there was a need for another playmaker with a steady pair of hands and Montreal is banking on the former Universite de Sherbooke star.

In my year-in-review blog, I said that if the Alouettes were going to sign a Ti-Cat receiver that I would have preferred it be Greg Ellingson over Giguere. I see Ellingson as more of a playmaker than Giguere, but Sam does have a great track record of consistency and that’s something you can’t teach.

I’m also not a fan of the Alouettes signing Quebec-born players for the sake of signing them and Giguere’s signing reeks of that. This idea that, “He’s a french guy, of course he’ll sign with the Als” is the very definition of low-hanging fruit.  It’s a one-year deal so maybe even Jim Popp isn’t completely sold on Giguere’s overall talent yet.

To be clear, I like the signing and am looking forward to seeing what Sam can do for the Alouettes. I just hope it wasn’t for the wrong reasons.

Carl Volny: Another possible example of the Alouettes signing a Quebec-born player just because he’s a Quebec-born player. Coming over from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Volny is an asset on special teams and with newly-hired special teams co-ordinator Kavis Reed running things, this Montreal-born talent could be a nice compliment to a squad still searching for its identity.

Montreal is stacked at running back, so barring a rash of injuries I don’t expect Volny to get very many handoffs. Another depth move and perhaps this homecoming will rekindle the fire in this young veteran.

Khalif Mitchell: Now this is an intriguing move. The former BC Lion and Toronto Argonaut comes in with the championship credentials and a mean streak on the field, which defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe will use to his advantage. Khalif will add swagger and grit to a defensive unit that is already loaded with talent.

Off the field, my BC Lions friends tell me he’s an absolute gem of a human being, always there for the fans. A team can never have too many character guys and all accounts say that Mitchell will be a welcome addition to this Montreal team. And if his Twitter feed is any indication, this will be a very happy union.

Fred Stamps: Okay, this isn’t actually a free agent move. But again with Duron Carter heading south and the uncertainty at the time of whether SJ Green was going to re-sign with the Alouettes, Jim Popp wanted to be sure of having another top-notch receiver for Jonathan Crompton to throw to. So on January 16th, Popp acquired Fred Stamps from the Edmonton Eskimos in exchange for WR Kenny Stafford.

I wasn’t too keen on the idea of Montreal giving up a young talent like Stafford, as he is cut from the same cloth as his cousin Duron Carter and I had expected Kenny to step into Duron’s now vacant spot in Montreal’s receiving corps. But as the saying goes, you have to give up something to get something. And getting a savvy veteran like Stamps is a move that will pay off huge.

When I look at Stamps, I see the CFL’s version of Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald; a smart, talented receiver that is consistently productive year after year. For years on a dismal Edmonton team his star shined brightly, being named to four CFL All-Star teams. Last year saw the emergence of Adarius Bowman as a premier receiver in the league and the shift to him on offense from Stamps, who was felled by injuries the year before.

This trade will be a win for both teams; The Eskimos get a burgeoning talent in Stafford and the Alouettes will get a veteran leader in Stamps. With neophyte WRs like Andrew Smith, Brandan Green and James Rodgers lying in wait, Stamps can be an on-field mentor for these young bucks.

And no one is happier to see Fred Stamps in blue/red/silver than former Eskimo teammate Jonathan Crompton, who will now be throwing to Stamps, Green, Giguere and Brandon London. Once again, Jim Popp loads up this Alouettes team with talent and does it with style.

Between now and training camp, more moves will be made as several free agents are still available. Also, the 2015 CFL Draft will hopefully unearth some new Canadian talent for this Alouettes franchise. As tiresome as the whole “Is It June Yet?” online movement is to many, the new CFL season will indeed be upon us before we know it.

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A quick note: This Friday evening and all day Saturday is the Montreal Alouettes’ warehouse sale, with all sorts of team merchandise available to purchase at discounted prices. So if you’re in need of some new gear, this is a great opportunity to stock up without breaking the bank!

In addition to the deals, the Alouettes’ cheerleaders and many of the players will be stopping by as well to greet the fans. And yes, this event is open to the ENTIRE public, not just season ticket holders.

For more info, check out the Zone Rouge web site or follow them on Twitter.

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I’ll be back soon enough with some more thoughts, especially on what this Montreal Alouettes franchise needs to do from a fan’s perspective. As always, be sure to follow along on Twitter for all the latest news and notes.

GO ALS GO!!!~