Kavis Reed, the Alouettes’ new general manager, has a simple philosophy when it comes to building a football team — you can never have enough quarterbacks or Canadians.
He displayed that Wednesday night, when the team announced the addition of former B.C. Lions non-import, nose-tackle Jabar Westerman to a three-year contract. The 6-foot-2, 280-pounder has spent five seasons with the Lions, who selected him second overall in 2012. He had five sacks in 16 games last season — including three in two games against Montreal — increasing his career total to 17.
Westerman, 27, would likely still be with B.C., but became a victim of the salary cap. He earned approximately $140,000 with the Lions, who want to go to an all-import defensive line.
“He works hard. He’s a good football player. But his salary, for us, was just too high,” said Wally Buono, the Lions’ general manager and head coach, who always seems to know the opportune time to jettison a player. “He’s a solid player. He can play inside and outside.
“If he and Keith Shologan split, you’ll get good production out of both. We went with six defensive linemen and kept him fresh. He played maybe 40 snaps a game and it worked out well.”
Westerman’s arrival reunites him with veteran B.C. defensive-back Ryan Phillips, who signed a one-year deal with Montreal on Tuesday, the opening-day of CFL free agency.
Earlier Wednesday, the Als announced the signing of yet another quarterback, Jacory Harris, who played only one game over two seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It was also reported special-teams player Daryl Townsend has re-signed. Harris signed for two years.
But the Als also suffered some significant losses to their defence, which had been expected, losing weak-side linebacker Winston Venable to Toronto and safety Marc-Olivier Brouillette to Saskatchewan. As well Ryan White, a backup offensive lineman, signed with the Roughriders.
Both Venable and Brouillette took significant pay cuts with their new teams. Venable, who earned $200,000 with Montreal, will receive $140,000 from the Argonauts in 2017. Brouillette earned $140,000 last season, but will be paid about $110,000 by Saskatchewan. Both players signed for two years.
“I’m just happy to be playing football. I wasn’t quite ready for the real world yet,” Brouillette said. “It’s always tough leaving your home town and the only professional organization I’ve ever known, but I’m excited for the future and the opportunity the Riders have given me.
“The Riders’ organization is moving in the right direction, and I’m looking forward to being a part of that.”
Harris, a 6-foot-4, 214-pounder, becomes the sixth quarterback under contract to Montreal. He’s expected to battle Vernon Adams and Jonathan Crompton for the backup position behind starter Darian Durant. All six, and perhaps even a seventh, will go to Vero Beach, Fla., for three days of mini-camp workouts beginning April 10, according to Reed.
“We know it takes a pool of quarterbacks to have a chance at winning a lot of games,” Reed said. “Injuries are going to occur. If it occurs at quarterback, you need veteran guys, guys that come out of great systems. He’s been getting great tutelage the last few years.”
Harris missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, but was cleared to play in November, Reed said. The GM had access to the player’s medical history on Tuesday, examined it thoroughly, and maintained there are no issues.
Although Harris produced impressive statistics at the University of Miami, he went undrafted in the NFL and failed to catch on with the Dolphins or Philadelphia. He was on Edmonton’s practice roster in 2013, when Reed was the Eskimos’ head coach. In one 2015 game with the Ticats, Harris completed 13 of 25 passes for 160 yards.
“There are a lot of quarterbacks with the New England Patriots that have one game. Then they come up and are very good,” Reed said. “That doesn’t speak volumes to who (Harris) is and what talent he has.
“Quarterbacks who have backed up, look at their pedigree and how they’ve been groomed. I know the interest that has been around the league in him. He provides us with tremendous depth and competition in the backup role.”
The Als have been linked to other potential signings, including B.C. running-back Anthony Allen and Edmonton defensive-back Cauchy Muamba. Reed won’t discuss specific players, but vowed he’s working hard to improve a team that has missed the playoffs the last two seasons.
“I really feel we’re trying to make some moves to put ourselves in a situation to win games and give our coaches more options,” he said.
While some around the league have scoffed at the addition of Phillips, 34, especially after his production slipped last season, Reed said the veteran has a “lot of quality play left.”
Phillips earned $125,000 with B.C. and Buono wanted him to take a $50,000 pay cut and become a backup. He’ll receive about $100,000 from Montreal.