B.C. Lions receiver Shawn Gore speaks with media at the team's practice facility in Surrey January 31, 2013.
Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG
VANCOUVER — It’s still a couple of weeks before free agency begins for real in the CFL but Wally Buono did what he could to drop the green flag early Thursday.
In signing Shawn Gore to a deal that could keep him with the B.C. Lions through the 2015 season, plus dealing backup quarterback Mike Reilly to the Edmonton Eskimos for two draft picks, the Lions general manager again proved there are deadlines of the real and imagined variety.
Gore could have waited until the official start of CFL free agency Feb. 15 to test his market worth, but having established a second time in his young career that his NFL options were slim, recommitted to the team which made him a high 2010 Canadian college draft selection.
Reilly also was not far away from being able to explore free agency on his own, but having determined that the Eskimos and at least two other clubs were going to make him an offer, was dealt to Edmonton.
As he did obtaining a player and a draft pick from the Saskatchewan Roughriders for Geroy Simon last week, Buono made out nicely when faced with the prospect of getting nothing for Reilly. B.C. moved up three spots in the second round of this year’s Canadian college draft as a result of the deal, also picking up a second-rounder from Edmonton next year.
“Not a bad day,” Buono said, offering an unsolicited self-assessment.
In less than a month since dumping Simon and Arland Bruce, the 25-year-old Gore had elevated to a point where the Lions had no choice but to sign him. An agreement to take a look at NFL options was granted by Buono last month, and it was parlayed into Thursday’s deal.
“I know I can play at that level,” said Gore, who is not the oldest starting receiver with the Lions but the one who will be asked to produce more than his team-leading 722 yards last year.
“A lot of players in the CFL can play in that league. But it’s not always about your ability. It’s about opportunity. I have this opportunity now and I believe we can win a lot of Grey Cups.”
The fact Gore didn’t get so much as a training camp offer from the three teams which worked him out made it easier to close the door on the NFL, not unlike how Reilly once did when he ventured north and signed with the Lions three seasons ago.
He too was a lot more realistic about his place in the CFL eco-system now than upon his arrival as a backup to Travis Lulay.
“Outwardly, I may have said I was ready to go but deep down I knew it was a whole different game. It may not have been exactly what I wanted but it was valuable and now I’m ready to go,” Reilly said Thursday.
Edmonton general manager Ed Hervey quickly struck a two-year contract to make something out of the rights he had acquired, much to the undoubted chagrin of Winnipeg Blue Bombers counterpart Joe Mack, who lost Jabar Westerman of the Lions in last year’s Canadian draft under similar circumstances thanks to a Buono deal. According to reports, Winnipeg also was involved in trade talks but may not have been willing to take Reilly without signing him first.
Buono often has secured first round picks for trading off developed quarterbacks, as he did with Spergon Wynn and Jason Gesser, but hardly lamented the deal he made for Reilly.
“We lost a player, but we’re better off; on Feb. 16, we’d have lost a player and got nothing for it,” said Buono, who went out of his way to commend the rookie savvy of Hervey. Free agency had begun two weeks early, and the Lions made out like it was Christmas.
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