Lions take care of business early

 

Buono add three new players, in addition inking Chris Rainey to a new deal

 
 
 
 
Former Montreal Alouettes safety Mike Edem has signed a two-year deal with the B.C. Lions on the first day of CFL free agency.
 

Former Montreal Alouettes safety Mike Edem has signed a two-year deal with the B.C. Lions on the first day of CFL free agency.

Photograph by: John Mahoney, The Gazette

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Sometimes things just fall into your lap. Sometimes you have to give things a little push before they do.

B.C. Lions defensive coordinator Mark Washington was a big promoter of University of Calgary safety Mike Edem in the 2013 Canadian Football League draft. He never got a chance to coach Edem, however, when the Montreal Alouettes selected the now 26-year-old from Brampton, Ont., third overall, three spots ahead of the Lions.

But Washington’s faith never wavered in Edem, even though his career did. An East Division all-star in his rookie season in Montreal, Edem’s play slipped with the Alouettes and he was traded to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last October.

On Tuesday, the first day of Canadian Football League free agency, Edem came to terms with the Lions, who also added receiver Nick Moore from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and cornerback Brandon Stewart, another Tiger-Cat. Both Edem and Stewart signed two-year deals. Moore, who started his CFL career in 2011 with the Lions, signed for a single season.

“I remember preparing for that draft (2013) and knowing that Mike was a really good athlete,” Washington said. “I thought he could be a star in this league. You try to forecast what they can do. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But sometimes it’s all about being in the right environment. It’s amazing sometimes how things fall back into your lap.”

“If Mark Washington pushed for me, I’d like to say, ‘Thank you,’ “ Edem said. “I’m looking forward to working with him.”

Lions GM Wally Buono, not normally a big player in free agency, broke from his customary pattern and signed three players from a deep and wide pool. He also lost three. Running back Andrew Harris, as expected, signed with his hometown Blue Bombers. He was joined by fullback Pascal Lochard, a second-round draft pick of the Lions in 2014, who was part of Winnipeg’s signing spree. A third Lion, linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, reached agreement on a new deal with Hamilton.

“We’ve improved our team,” Buono said. “Have we made a big splash? That’s not the issue. We made a splash earlier by signing Travis (Lulay) and Chris Rainey. Today was about making our team better and stronger. We had bigger needs than in years past. Because of the loss of (nickelback) Josh Johnson and (cornerback) Steven Clarke (both to the NFL), that resulted in more openings. Trying to improve your Canadian content, with Mike Edem, is another part of it. I still believe his best is yet to come.”

The Lions announced a two-year deal for Lulay, the veteran quarterback, a day before free agency began. An agreement with Rainey, a dynamic returner, was announced on Tuesday morning.

Moore, 29, had his only 1,000-yard season with the Lions in 2013, when he had 73 catches, 1,105 yards and six touchdowns before he bolted for Winnipeg in free agency. He is back — at a reduced ticket from the $185,000-a-year deal he signed with the Blue Bombers.

“The thing I was sensitive to is the coaches went to bat for Nick,” Buono said. “It wasn’t strictly me. When we sat down, we talked about what we wanted to do in free agency, and see how we were going to build our team. The consensus was, over and over again, if we had this kind of receiver, he would definitely help us.”

Moore’s signing received a push from Marcel Bellefeuille, the Lions’ new receivers coach, who was the offensive coordinator last season in Winnipeg.

Sensitive to the salary cap, the Lions didn’t make a big push to retain Hoffman-Ellis, even though he filled in ably for Solomon Elimimian, the CFL’s most outstanding player in 2014, after the latter tore his Achilles tendon last August. “This is free agency. If a team offers you a starting role and more money, you’re gonna go,” Elimimian said of Hoffman-Ellis.

In town to be checked out by the Lions’ medical staff (Elimimian is rehabbing in Los Angeles), the relentless linebacker said he expects to be ready for training camp.

“An injury, like mine, tests your love for the game, whether you want to play or not,” Elimimian explained. “ When I’m fully healthy, I’m the best player in the CFL. I honestly believe that. I’m confident I can be back to where I was before.”

mbeamish@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/sixbeamers

In with the new, out with the old

ADDITIONS:

Nick Moore, SB, from Winnipeg: Moore and QB Jon Jennings share same hometown.

Mike Edem, S, from Hamilton: East Division all-star in rookie season (2013, Montreal).

Brandon Stewart, DB, from Hamilton: Seattle native had four INTs last year with Ticats.

LOSSES:

Andrew Harris, RB, to Winnipeg: Homecoming for Blue Bombers’ prize catch.

Pascal Lochard, RB, to Winnipeg: Montreal native gets chance to back up Harris.

Alex Hoffman-Ellis, LB, to Hamilton: Could become Tiger-Cats’ starting MLB.

 
 
 
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Former Montreal Alouettes safety Mike Edem has signed a two-year deal with the B.C. Lions on the first day of CFL free agency.
 

Former Montreal Alouettes safety Mike Edem has signed a two-year deal with the B.C. Lions on the first day of CFL free agency.

Photograph by: John Mahoney, The Gazette

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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