The ALSternative: 2019 CFL Free Agency

CFL Free Agency gets underway tomorrow at noon ET. Every year brings fans major interest and potential hope that this is the year that their team lands that missing puzzle piece to the Grey Cup championship. Or the hope that your favourite player doesn’t jump ship and wear the colours of your hated rival.

It’s also that time of year where the armchair GMs come out of the woodwork with the belief that they are smarter than the nine current general managers of the Canadian Football League.

This year’s free agency period is unlike any other. For the first time in a long time, there are some major players who will be available to the highest bidder on February 12th. Add to that the current uncertainty of a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players. There are a ton of questions that are begging to be answered.

All nine CFL GMs are putting in extra time going over film, working the phones and drawing up plans in pencil, knowing that they can be all scrapped at a moment’s notice.

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The Montreal Alouettes are no different in this regard. After posting yet another dismal season in 2018, this administration finds itself at yet another crossroads. They need stability but cannot remain at their status quo. Changes are inevitable, but the Alouettes need to ensure that any pieces they add will mesh with their current core.

The ability to make splashy moves is awesome and they get people talking, but if these moves don’t translate to wins then it’s all for naught. Especially when Alouettes ownership has claimed that they will not tolerate yet another losing season.

If Alouettes general manager Kavis Reed doesn’t field a playoff team in 2019, expect this team to once again hit the reset button and bring in another football mind to right this ship.

So the time has come to take a look at what the Alouettes have done thus far and what to potentially expect when high noon comes this Tuesday.

We’re going to do things a bit differently this year here at The ALSternative; We’re going to take a look at each position and determine which pending free agents the Alouettes have/signed so far, who they need to retain and who they should be focusing their sights on in 2019.

As always, these thoughts are by no means a guarantee and are purely speculative at best. The minute I hit Send and get this column viral, the landscape could change and completely throw these thoughts into a blender.

That’s part of the fun of this experiment; let’s see what we can come up with for the 2019 Montreal Alouettes!

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* = These exceptional players are currently determining if they should continue their playing career and should be granted the courtesy to decide their future on their own terms.

Offensive Line

Who the Alouettes have so far: Tony Washington, Kristian Matte, Tyler Johnstone, Trey Rutherford, Na’ty Rodgers, Sean Jamieson

Who the Alouettes should keep: Philippe Gagnon, Luc Brodeur-Jourdain*

Who the Alouettes should acquire: Mike Filer, Cody Husband

Thoughts: The Alouettes desperately need a centre as LBJ is not a young man anymore. Attempts to replace him with Matte have met with less than stellar results. The Alouettes do have some formidable talent waiting in the wings but still need time to develop. Bringing in a young veteran like Filer or Husband would buy the Als time to develop their replacement for the Hall of Fame-bound Brodeur-Jourdain.

Receiver

Who the Alouettes have so far: Eugene Lewis, Ernest Jackson, Malcolm Carter, Etienne Moisan, Richmond Nketiah

Who the Alouettes should keep: B.J Cunningham, Steven Adekolu

Who the Alouettes should acquire: DaVaris Daniels, Shaquille Johnson

Thoughts: One of the biggest knocks on the Alouettes is the supposed lack of talent at the receiver position. While Jackson has been suspect since first putting on an Als jersey in 2017, he and Lewis played very well towards the end of 2018. These two will benefit greatly once this team determines who really is the full-time quarterback. If the Alouettes were to retain Cunningham and add an explosive element in either Daniels or Johnson, this receiving corps would become a force to be reckoned with once again.

Quarterback

Who the Alouettes have so far: Johnny Manziel, Vernon Adams Jr., Antonio Pipkin, Matthew Shiltz, Jeff Mathews, Hugo Richard.

Who the Alouettes should keep: Not applicable

Who the Alouettes should acquire: Not applicable

Thoughts: The Alouettes once again find themselves in a position of uncertainty with quarterback, but they are in a relatively good place to make a long-term decision. Among these 6 aforementioned players, there will be a true battle to see who will be behind centre full-time in 2019. There is also the possibility of the Alouettes moving one of these pivots to a team that will be needing to add an able arm.

Running Back

Who the Alouettes have so far: William Stanback, Ryder Stone, Spencer Moore

Who the Alouettes should keep: Not applicable

Who the Alouettes should acquire: Not applicable

Thoughts: Much like the quarterback situation, I wouldn’t go out of my way to upset the apple cart if I were Kavis Reed. The discovery of Stanback was a pleasant surprise and the selection of Stone in the 2018 CFL draft paid some solid dividends for Montreal. Adding Moore also gives the Alouettes a fullback option, which they have done nothing of note with in the past. The team will invite some tailbacks to camp to compete, but this position looks to be set and nothing in free agency appears feasible at this juncture.

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Defensive Line

Who the Alouettes have so far: Jabar Westerman, Fabian Foote, Woody Baron, Ryan Brown, Jean-Samuel Blanc

Who the Alouettes should keep: John Bowman*, Gabriel Knapton, Jesse Joseph

Who the Alouettes should acquire: Drake Nevis

Thoughts: The Alouettes will reach a crossroads of sorts with this area of the field in 2019. Bowman is a legend who deserves to leave on his own terms and had stated that he was “98% done”. Should John actually call it a career, there is a young stud named Bo Banner waiting in the wings to take Bowman’s place. Baron and Brown also performed well in a forgettable season. Adding Nevis to the mix and re-upping Knapton would give this Alouettes D-Line instant credibility.

Linebacker

Who the Alouettes have so far: Henoc Muamba, Glenn Love, Jean-Gabriel Poulin, Khadim Mbaye

Who the Alouettes should keep: Not applicable

Who the Alouettes should acquire: Bo Lokombo, Jovan Santos-Knox

Thoughts: Without question, Muamba has become the true leader on this Alouettes defense with his outstanding play. Love was a strong contributor towards the end of the 2018 season while the youngsters Poulin and Mbaye will be bonafide studs in this league for years to come. That being said, depth is crucial at this position. Adding a playmaker like Lokombo or Santos-Knox would allow the sophomore class to continue their development unabated.

Secondary

Who the Alouettes have so far: Tommie Campbell, Greg Reid, Branden Dozier, Dondre Wright, Chris Lyles

Who the Alouettes should keep: T.J. Heath, Jermaine Robinson

Who the Alouettes should acquire: Ciante Evans, Brandyn Thompson

Thoughts: There was a time when Montreal wielded some powerful weapons on this side of the ball. Last year saw Montreal’s top ballhawks Dominique Ellis & Mitchell White go down to major injury and it took time for the rest of this unit to find itself in 2018. Campbell is still dangerous and Reid is a diamond in the rough who will improve with more playing time. That said, the Alouettes would do well to spend some money to add a threat like Evans along with a great depth player like Thompson.

Special Teams

Who the Alouettes have so far: Boris Bede, Martin Bedard

Who the Alouettes should keep: T.J. Graham

Who the Alouettes should acquire: Nic Demski, Ryan Lankford

Thoughts: Simply put, Montreal cannot let Bede go unchallenged in training camp. The Alouettes selected a kicker in Enrique Yenny in Mexico’s LFA draft and the CFL will ensure that any players selected in that draft will get their chance to shine. Given his age and recent legal troubles, I don’t see the Alouettes bringing back Stefan Logan as returner. Re-upping Graham and his blistering speed can only be good news for this often beleagured area for the Alouettes. Should that not work, adding Demski or Lankford gives Montreal that speedster that can break one open and take it to the house.

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There are a number of other pending free agents on this team that will also be considered such as Nicolas Boulay, Chip Cox and George Johnson. While these players have be able to contribute, they may not be given the same regard as in years past. Other teams will be looking to shore up their depth charts and these men will not look out of place on any CFL roster.

Montreal has to tread lightly when it comes to free agency. Already, many have seen what this team has done these past few years and likely have no confidence in this team’s direction. Thus, any potential player may be seen as coming here literally for a paycheque and nothing more.

Much like this new MontreALS identity, any moves made in free agency by Reed and company have to be done to re-establish this tarnished Alouettes brand in the eyes of the fans. With many of the league’s stars potentially becoming free agents on Tuesday, there is potential for all nine teams to have a new look when training camp opens in late May.

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Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll have a look at what the Alouettes do when free agency is in full force. Be sure to return as we evaluate the moves made by this team and see how it all shapes up in preparation for the 2019 CFL season.

This promises to be a very intriguing time of year and the only guarantee is that there are no guarantees. The best advice I can give you is to maybe wait until the dust truly settles before ordering that snazzy new Alouettes jersey.

Enjoy the ride, folks. As always, you can follow me on Twitter to get up-to-date reactions on all of the Alouettes’ free agency moves as they happen. Thanks for reading.

GO ALS GO!!!


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