An ALSternative look at 2017 CFL Free Agency, Part Two

In Part One, we looked at the Montreal Alouettes free agents that deserved to be signed before the CFL free agency period kicks off on February 14th at noon. In case you missed it, click here.

There’s nothing quite like the Canadian Football League for exciting, hard-hitting action. But what do you do in the time between the last whistle of the Grey Cup until training camp opens on the last weekend of May? It can be a long, arduous time for fans of this league.

The simplest and most entertaining way to pass the time is by speculating which pending free agents from other teams would be best to add to your squad. In a perfect world, your favourite player would stay put for a meager sum or there would be no such thing as a salary management system. But alas, all nine teams must abide by this and if free agents want to pad their wallets, they may have to wear new colours in order to do so.

In addition to trying to convince some players to forego the free agency route and stay put, Montreal Alouettes general manager Kavis Reed is preparing for his first go-around at the opportunity to ink some new blood for this Alouettes franchise. As of this post going viral, he’s gone on record saying that he is trying to secure as many current players as possible. Reed has already nabbed a couple of names and even swung a trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, which may have implications on whether certain players stay or go in Montreal.

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It’s been a productive 72 hours for Kavis & Co., as he shipped Nick Shortill to the Tabbies in exchange for Frederic Plesius. This is a fairly lateral move and also allow both players to return home, so to speak. Shortill was a standout player for McMaster University while Plesius was a star for the Laval Rouge et Or. Both were solid defensive players for their respective CFL teams and they were also a force on special teams.

But this is about the free agents. In one of their wisest moves in 2017 thus far, the Alouettes convinced fearsome pass-rusher Gabriel Knapton to stay put with a new contract. Today also saw both Kyries Hebert and Nicolas Boulay signing new deals with the Birds of Prey. A major concern from Als fans was that keeping the defense together was being put on the backburner while the team sought after a new QB in Darian Durant.

Now with just over 12 hours before free agency starts, some key defensive pieces are now firmly in place. There’s still more work to be done, but I have no doubt that Kavis is going back and forth with CFL agents as we speak in order to beat the noon deadline.

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With that in mind, it’s time to have some fun. Let’s take a look at some names that Montreal would be wise to consider when 12:01pm hits on Valentine’s Day. Please note that these choices are pure speculation and it’s with the understanding that somehow these players could be signed without going over the salary cap:

Dan Federkeil, OL: Without question, Montreal’s biggest issue is with the offensive line. Last year, the line struggled as new faces were brought in to protect the quarterback and it wasn’t until the final game where they felt like a cohesive unit. With the release of Jeff Perrett, the need for another veteran to join Luc Brodeur-Jourdoin is there. This former Grey Cup and Super Bowl champion can fill that void.

At 33 years old, this would not be a long-term signing nor one that would command a lot of money. But having Federkeil on board to provide that championship experience to youngsters like Phillipe Gagnon and Jacob Ruby would be a major coup for Montreal

Derek Dennis, OL: I throw his name out there purely as a pie-in-the-sky hope, as his talent is one where you don’t mind the general manager blowing his brains out for, financially speaking. The 2016 CFL Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, Dennis had an incredible year and nearly captured the Grey Cup in his first full season as a Stampeder.

Someone is going to grossly overpay for Dennis’ services and while I would be leery of Montreal being that team, they did just go out and land an All-Star quarterback. One who will need some serious protection. Shelling out for an award-winning talent like Derek Dennis wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea, even if that means starting an International player on the offensive line and revamping the ratio.

Rory Kolhert, WR: The next concern for Montreal is their depth at National REC. Yes, the team does have Quebecois Samuel Giguere as the featured Canadian receiver in Montreal and barring injury, that’s not likely to change. But after that, there is only Alex Charette and S.J. Haidara for Canadians that are currently under contract.

In that vein, adding a solid Canuck receiver would be an ideal move for Montreal. Kolhert has been mostly overshadowed in Winnipeg and with the addition of names like Weston Dressler and Ryan Smith, any receptions would have felt more like they were done out of pity. I see a lot of Eric Deslauriers in Kolhert, even if he is a few inches shorter.

Devon Bailey, WR: Another intriguing name out there is the Mississauga native that was greatly underused in Edmonton. Mind you, when you have a Derel Walker and Adarius Bowman lining up, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.

This 6’5″ tall drink of water has a decent pair of hands and would only be too happy to help Darian Durant air it out. Alouettes head coach Jacques Chapdelaine knows how to get the most out of a receiver and a project like Bailey would be a low-risk, high reward gamble that would well be worth looking at.

Drake Nevis, DL: In the unlikely event that both Alan-Michael Cash and Michael Klassen are not retained by Montreal, the defensive line will need some youthful energy that can go hard and disrupt the opposing QB. This Hamilton Tiger-Cat played alongside of Ted Laurent and showed very well in his first full season in the Hammer.

With 29 defensive tackles and 5 QB sacks, Nevis would not look out-of-place lining up with John Bowman, Gabe Knapton and Keith Shologan. Only 27 years old, this beast of a man can be a mainstay for years to come with the Alouettes if the price is right.

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Ideally, Kavis Reed will focus internally as he has seen a lot of the still unsigned talent up close when he was special teams coach and knows who he needs to get inked. But if he were to reach out to any of the aforementioned players, I would not be upset at all.

As Montreal reinvents itself yet again, a lot of the young and unproven talent will be given a chance to shine. Always a risky proposition, but take a look at the Alouettes secondary last year. The names Jonathon Mincy, Ramon Taylor and Greg Henderson didn’t exactly jump off the page when training camp ended in 2016. Being rookies, they had their lunch eaten for them a few times by skilled veterans.

But they persevered and by year’s end, they looked like they had been playing for years and provided some highlight worthy play on a very strong defensive corps. Perhaps best of all, those young guys are all under contract and without paying top dollar.

So quite possibly, the best possible move that Kavis Reed could make in free agency is none. Sign players who want to be in La Belle Province and that want to prove themselves on the field. In the end, true talent will show itself regardless of the cost.

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We are now just over 12 hours away from the official start of CFL Free Agency. The league is providing a good bit of coverage online and on the TSN networks. Be sure to tune into CFL.ca starting at high noon to get the latest updates on all the moves being made.

I’ll be back when the dust settles a bit and we have a better idea of who will be making their bones here in Montreal. As always, you can follow me on Twitter for the latest on who joins (or leaves) the Alouettes.

In the end, all fans can hope for is that their team’s GM makes the best possible moves. This is Kavis Reed’s chance to make an impact, let’s hope for his sake that he doesn’t miss.

GO ALS GO!!!

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