The ALSternative: 2022 CFL Free Agency

A new year, a new opportunity to get better. CFL Free Agency is upon us!

This Tuesday at noon ET, the Canadian Football League will be officially open for business. All nine teams have been preparing for this day to not only secure the services of their preferred players, but also add what will potentially be the missing ingredient(s) to a successful run at this year’s Grey Cup.

The Montreal Alouettes find themselves in a familiar position; they were a part of the playoff picture in 2021 but got bounced right away. General Manager Danny Maciocia is once again tasked with trying to assemble a team that will get over that particular hump and hopefully find themselves in Regina this coming November.

Maciocia did some of his free agent work right after the Cup was handed out. He managed to re-up starting QB Vernon Adams Jr. and leading receiver Eugene Lewis. Along with notables such as Najee Murray, Nick Usher, Mario Alford and Jake Wieneke, it was clear which core elements Maciocia knew had to stay in place for 2022.

But many of Montreal’s pending free agents wanted to see what else may have been out there for them. Hence, the CFL’s Free Agent Negotiation Window a.k.a the Legal Tampering period. From January 30th to February 6th, teams were allowed to make offers to would-be free agents, with incumbent teams being allowed to match/beat said offers.

This off-season saw a number of CFL players released in order for them to sign these offers, making Tuesday’s free agency frenzy almost anti-climatic. The biggest name moving on from Montreal via this window is backup QB Matthew Shiltz, who is now a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. There will still be more potential moves made, but nothing becomes officially official until Tuesday at noon ET.

For fans, this is an equally stressful and exciting time of year as they see what moves their team makes in order to get better and contend for the Grey Cup. Undoubtedly lots of favourite players will move on. Players you may have despised in the past could become a part of the team you cheer for.

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Just like we’ve done in the past, we’re going to take a look at each player position here at The ALSternative. We’ll determine who the Alouettes have under contract so far, whose services they should look to retain and which free agents the Alouettes should be focusing their sights on acquiring for this season.

As always, these potential thoughts are by no means a guarantee and are purely speculative at best. The minute I hit Send and this column goes viral, the football landscape could change drastically and completely throw these hypothetical scenarios out the window.

But honestly, that’s part of the fun of this annual social experiment! Without further ado, let’s see what we can come up with for the 2022 Montreal Alouettes!

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Quarterback

Who the Alouettes have so far: Vernon Adams Jr., Shea Patterson, Dominique Davis.

Who the Alouettes should try to keep: Not applicable

Who the Alouettes should try to acquire: Nick Arbuckle

Thoughts: One can make the argument that when Vernon Adams went down to injury last Thanksgiving, so did the Alouettes’ chances of winning the Grey Cup. Matthew Shiltz did an admirable job in relief before also conceding the starting role due to injury. Montreal brought in Trevor Harris via trade to finish the 2021 season and he was less than stellar wearing Alouettes blue/red. This remains Adams’ team and with Shiltz signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, it will now be up to Patterson and Davis to compete for that coveted backup role. I’d personally like to see the Alouettes bring in Arbuckle as a possible 1a-1b solution alongside Adams. Given the chance, these two would be a very dangerous QB duo to contend with.

Running Back

Who the Alouettes have so far: William Stanback, Cameron Artis-Payne, Jeshrun Antwi

Who the Alouettes should try to keep: Not applicable

Who the Alouettes should try to acquire: Not applicable

Thoughts: The Alouettes have the league’s leading rusher under contract (Stanback) as well as a punishing tailback cut from the same cloth (Artis-Payne). Add in a National youngster like Antwi and Montreal’s backfield is looking more than fine. Moving on…

Offensive Line

Who the Alouettes have so far: Kristian Matte, Philippe Gagnon, Sean Jamieson, Landon Rice, Samuel Thomassin, David Brown, Nick Callender, Patrick Davis

Who the Alouettes should try to keep: Not Applicable

Who the Alouettes should try to acquire: Brett Boyko

Thoughts: A few weeks ago, the Alouettes traded Tony Washington to the Edmonton Elks to acquire DL Mike Moore. Replacing a talent at left tackle like Washington will not be easy, even if he is likely in his twilight years. In order to protect Vernon Adams’ blindside, the Alouettes should be looking for actual CFL experience and Boyko would fit the bill nicely. There are some exciting young O-Lineman in the Alouettes pipeline, but entrusting a raw rookie at this crucial position can be a potential recipe for disaster.

Receiver

Who the Alouettes have so far: Eugene Lewis, Quan Bray, Jake Wieneke, Reggie White Jr., Kaion Julien-Grant, Rashaun Simonise, Dante Absher, Fabian Guerra

Who the Alouettes should try to keep: Not Applicable

Who the Alouettes should try to acquire: Not Applicable

Thoughts: Montreal is stacked at the receiver position with vets and youngsters alike. Lewis, Bray and Wieneke added to their illustrious stats in 2021 and will be the focal points of the offense yet again. The other listed receivers can be impact players if given the opportunity to slot in on every down. There’s been a lot of talk of adding Stampeders REC (and Montreal native!) Hergy Mayala to the group and that would certainly shake up the ratio considerably. Montreal typically doesn’t feature National talent heavily at receiver but could theoretically do so by fielding Mayala, Julien-Grant and Simonise.

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Defensive Line

Who the Alouettes have so far: Nick Usher, Almondo Sewell, Mike Moore, Cameron Lawson, Brock Gowanlock

Who the Alouettes should try to keep: Woody Baron, David Menard, Michael Wakefield

Who the Alouettes should try to acquire: Thiadric Hansen, Steven Richardson

Thoughts: At times, this was the biggest strength of this Montreal Alouettes defense. This group was a menace to nearly every quarterback they faced. And when starting DT Antonio Simmons went down, in came Jamal Davis with unheralded success. The Als traded for Moore this off-season to off-set the departure of Davis to the NFL. Should they not retain either Baron or Menard (the Eastern Division candidate for Most Outstanding Canadian!), they’d do well to consider a pair of bruisers from the prairies like Hansen and Richardson. Both played for the Grey Cup-winning Winnipeg Blue Bombers and both can be absolute game-changers in Montreal.

Linebacker

Who the Alouettes have so far: Chris Ackie, Ahmad Thomas, Brian Harelimana, Ethan Makonzo

Who the Alouettes should try to keep: Paul Kozachuk, Patrick Levels, D.J. Lalama

Who the Alouettes should try to acquire: Darnell Sankey, Derrick Moncrief

Thoughts: I really like what I see in Ackie, Thomas and Harelimana. All three are highly physical players that move the needle. Adding Kozachuk back to the lineup in 2021 was also a boon for special teams and that alone would make it worthwhile to re-up the talented Canadian. But adding some experienced muscle like Sankey (the 2021 league leader in tackles) and Moncrief would make this linebacking corps easily the best of the league.

Secondary

Who the Alouettes have so far: Najee Murray, Greg Reid, Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Rodney Randle Jr., Adarius Pickett, Wesley Sutton

Who the Alouettes should try to keep: Money Hunter, Ty Cranston, Dominique Termansen

Who the Alouettes should try to acquire: Ciante Evans, Brandon Alexander

Thoughts: The Alouettes have always done a solid job in finding diamonds in the rough for the secondary, as evidenced with the emergence of players like Murray and Reid. Hunter has been working out for a few NFL teams and may want to explore that avenue further while he is still young. With that in mind, the Alouettes would do well to bring back a proven former Alouette in Evans or dip into the Winnipeg championship pool and land Alexander. This would allow youngsters like Dequoy and Pickett to learn and develop further into superstars for the future.

Special Teams

Who the Alouettes have so far: David Cote, Joseph Zema, Mario Alford, Fabian Guerra, Manasseh Bailey, Alexandre Gagne, Pierre-Luc Caron

Who the Alouettes should try to keep: Not Applicable

Who the Alouettes should try to acquire: Not Applicable

Thoughts: Both David Cote and Joseph Zema have this kicking game sewn up nicely. When starting long snapper Pierre-Luc Caron went down to injury, Alexandre Gagne stepped up in a major way and didn’t miss a beat. Mario Alford is back and healthy, ready to torch opponents again with his speed. Also expect Fabian Guerra and Manasseh Bailey to be given plenty of reps at returner to help Alford and new special teams coach Jeff Reinebold restore this much-maligned side of Alouettes football.

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As the next few days and weeks unfold, we’ll take a detailed look at what the Alouettes end up doing in free agency. Be sure to return here to The ALSternative as we evaluate the moves made by this team and see how it all shapes up in preparation for the 2022 CFL campaign. Free agency promises to be quite the thrill ride for fans, regardless of the team you support.

Be sure to check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast as well. Tim Capper and myself will soon be starting up season SEVEN of the show and we are beyond excited to take things to the next level! You can find the podcast here and on your favourite platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio and even on Youtube! Search using the key words “Alouettes Flightdeck” just about anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter to get up-to-date reactions on all of the Alouettes’ free agency moves as they happen. Feel free to tweet me on who YOU’D like to see wearing Alouettes blue and red. And if you’re one of those armchair GMs with a big ol’ wish list for the Alouettes, may the odds be ever in your favour.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks leading up to the start of this off-season feeding frenzy. And there’s no signs of stopping. As always, thanks for reading.

GO ALS GO!!!