An ALSternative look at Day One of 2021 CFL Free Agency

Oh, you want news? You want signings? The Montreal Alouettes have got you covered!

Today at noon, the floodgates opened up and the Canadian Football League declared itself open for business. All nine teams were now free to sign any and all free agents for the 2021 season. For fans, this can be a very stressful time as their favourite unsigned players could very well be heading elsewhere to ply their trade. For youngsters and grizzled veterans alike, there’s a lot of stress and anticipation until their signature is on a contract.

For the Alouettes, it’s the opportunity to build back the momentum that was raging at a fever pitch by the end of the 2019 season. Free agency moves were made last year but due to the cancellation of the 2020 CFL season, we never got to see these new names in action. And as some of them only signed a one-year deal last winter, they became free agents yet again! Here’s hoping that you didn’t rush out and buy that James Wilder Jr. Alouettes jersey last spring!

It should be noted that while a 2021 schedule has been released, there still remains a lot of uncertainty in regards to a CFL season actually being played. The league and the players’ association are scheduled to start talks this week regarding a plan to return to the field. And with the fury of activity this past week from all nine CFL teams making their moves before free agency hits, there certainly is a lot of hope from all involved that this 2021 CFL season will be full steam ahead.

In media pressers leading up to today’s free agency start, Alouettes GM Danny Maciocia stated that he planned on being very aggressive in revamping this team’s defense. He’s allowed veterans like John Bowman and Henoc Muamba to explore the open market while retaining younger pieces like Greg Reid and D.J. Lalama. The ultimate goal is to make this defensive corps a fearsome unit for new defensive coordinator Barron Miles. And between the moves already made along with today’s additions, I’d say things are looking very promising.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at today’s free agent signings by the Montreal Alouettes.

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What’s interesting with this sextet of superstars is that they are technically new, yet for three of these members, it’s a bit of a homecoming back to the nest!

When free agency kicked off at noon and throughout the day, the Montreal Alouettes announced the signing of the following players:

Chris Ackie

This will actually be the THIRD tour of duty with the Alouettes for this talented National player. Ackie was drafted here in 2016 and has displayed incredible athleticsm along with the skills that makes him such a threat on the defensive side of the ball. He left to pursue NFL opportunities and then joined the Ottawa RedBlacks for their 2018 Grey Cup run. Ackie then came back to Montreal and contributed to a dominant defense with 38 defensive tackles and valuable leadership. In 2020, Chris signed with the Toronto Argonauts but never played a down with the team. He was released a few days ago and Danny Maciocia wasted no time bringing this superstar back where he belonged.

Patrick Levels

When Patrick signed with the Als in 2019 it was a bold move, having come from a championship Stampeders team into an uncertain place within Montreal. But Levels was simply a force in Montreal, posting incredible numbers and earning his first Eastern All-Star nod. Levels was simply on another level, with 86 defensive tackles, two forced fumble and sacking the QB five times. Despite that, the Alouettes let him leave and sign with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2020. The one positive of a cancelled 2020 season was that the Alouettes never got to experience the punishing style of Patrick in black & gold. Another mistake was corrected today with Maciocia bringing this bonafide star back in blue & red.

Woody Baron

Safe to say that the 2019 season was the coming out party for young Woody, as he made his presence felt on the Alouettes’ defensive line. Baron played in all 18 games and turned in 27 defensive tackles, one sack and one knockdown while recovering one fumble. Someone was going to have to step up big on this line starting this season and long with the earlier re-signed Antonio Simmons, the Alouettes have got themselves a lot of muscle and grit to line up with every week.

Almondo Sewell

This veteran presence has already had a very successful career out in Edmonton, helping them win a Grey Cup in 2015. Almondo will be expected to help lead this young defensive line with the departure of John Bowman. At 34 years of age Sewell is no slouch, having caused multiple turnovers and notching 35 defensive tackles with 8 QB sacks in 2019. This seven-time Western All-Star is banking on a new challenge by coming east to the 514. I’m intrigued to see what impact Mondo will have with the Alouettes.

Nick Usher

Now this…..this is a VERY interesting move!!

Montreal desperately needed a young, powerful EDGE rusher and they went out and got one with Usher. In two seasons with Edmonton, Nick notched 43 defensive tackles, 7 QB sacks and forced 4 fumbles. He was able to parlay that into an NFL contract in 2020 with the Las Vegas Raiders. But now he’s a part of an Alouettes D-Line that will make life very miserable for the opposing quarterback. How happy is defensive line coach Todd Howard with this addition? I’d say very!

Michael Wakefield

Adding to the depth of this D-Line is this former RedBlack, who spent three seasons in the nation’s capital. Wakefield has put together a solid statline with 54 defensive tackles, seven sacks, and one interception. While not a flashy signing compared to the aforementioned players, Michael will provide some relief while holding his own on the D-Line. I expect we’ll see him put some time in on special teams as well.

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Bonus coverage!

Technically, these signings came in before free agency started at noon. But they are certainly names of interest to Alouettes and Quebec football fans alike.

The Alouettes signed former Universite de Montreal Carabins David Foucault and Regis Cibasu. Both were released by their respective CFL clubs and thus didn’t have to wait until noon today to join the team. The obvious connection that these two players have is with their former head coach and now general manager in Danny Maciocia.

Foucault was actually drafted by Montreal in 2014 with the fifth overall selection but opted to play in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers. After two seasons with Carolina, he headed north to continue his career in football. However, Montreal decided to ship Foucault’s rights to the BC Lions as part of the trade for lineman Jovon Olafioye. After three seasons out on the West Coast, this massive Quebecer is back home and ready to help contribute to this Alouettes’ O-Line.

Cibasu had a brilliant career in the RESQ but failed to truly catch on with the Double Blue. He will certainly offer some versatility to the Alouettes as a receiver. But there are already some solid National receivers waiting in the wings, so Regis will have his work cut out for him if training camp does happen in May 2021.

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So that’s Day One of Free Agency in the books for Montreal. I’m certainly encouraged with a lot of these moves and remain optimistic that these will all pan out for the Alouettes. Danny Maciocia wanted to make an impact and in a mere few hours, I’d say he certainly swung for the fences with some of these signings.

There are still a few pieces from 2019 that haven’t been signed and I sincerely hope they will be. But these first few days are all about seeing what is out there and kicking some tires. The Alouettes have stability in a lot of areas for the first time in a long time and that has to be appealing to several of the free agents still out there.

As the Alouettes make more moves, we here at The ALSternative will be back to discuss them as they happen. I think there’s still another major move or two to be made out there. Perhaps it’s all a matter of timing; not every masterful move is made on Day One. Every once in a while, there’s that under-the-radar move that a team will make that will certainly get people hopping.

When the Alouettes swooped in and signed Taylor Loffler in the dead of night back in 2019, absolutely no one saw that move coming. And until he tore his ACL, Loffler was a beast in the middle for Montreal. If there is a major stud signing to be made, it could possibly happen while we’re all catching some Z’s. That’s why you have to stay ready no matter what.

So we’ll be back at this before you know it. Be sure to follow along on Twitter for any and all immediate reaction to moves made by this Alouettes organization. It’s going to be a fun ride and hopefully we’ll actually get to see these players take the field this coming May.

As always, thanks for reading.

GO ALS GO!!!