TORONTO -- As training camp draws near, CFL.ca takes a team-by-team look back at an off-season filled with trades, personnel changes and key signings.
After coming up short in the race for the 100th Grey Cup, the BC Lions knew that changes were likely ahead. Never one to rest on his laurels, GM Wally Buono went to work on what would ultimately be a busy off-season in Vancouver.
Before the new year even hit, the Lions went to work on extending the contracts of Jason Arakgi, J.R LaRose and Joash Gesse.
Shortly thereafter, Lions announced one of their most important extensions of the off-season, as All-Star LB Adam Bighill agreed to a new deal. After making his debut with the Leos in 2011, the Central Washington product now knows that he can continue to build on a stellar sophomore year without having to worry about potentially entering free agency a few years down the road.
To end off a month filled with extentions, the Lions came to an agreement with the speedy Tim Brown. The West Division All-Star registered a total of 2,382 kick return yards, entering his name into the record books with the ninth-best performance in league history.
To kick off the new year in stong fashion, the Lions signed their franchise QB Travis Lulay through the 2015 season.
Lulay enjoyed another impressive campaign in 2012, throwing for 4,231 yards and 27 touchdowns in 16 games, leading the Lions to a 13-5 record along with the top spot in the West Division.
His 2012 season was the follow up to what was a stellar breakout campaign in 2011, one that saw him rack up 4,815 yards and 32 touchdowns. He capped off his first year as the Lions' undisputed starter by earning Most Outstanding Player honours and by winning the 99th Grey Cup on home soil.
The Lions later announced the extentions of centre Angus Reid and Defensive Back Ryan Philips. Reid passed the 200-game mark (197 being with the Lions) last year and will enter his 13th season in the CFL, playing on an offensive line that surrendered a league-low 30 sacks in 2012.
Philips on the other hand extended his contract with the Lions after re-signing with the team last February. Philips is set to enter his 9th season in 2013 and holds the title for the longest active streak of played games in the CFL heading into the next season (144 consecutive gamples played).
Arguably the biggest move made by the Lions this season was the trade that saw future Hall of Famer Geroy Simon be dealt to Saskatchewan. In exchange for Simon, BC aquired WR Justin Harper and a third-round pick in 2014.
The silver lining to Simon's departure was that Buono and his staff were now able to focus on restructuring their receiving corps. Their first step was to make sure that 26-year-old receiver Shawn Gore remained in the Lions Den for years to come, and signed their new marquee pass catcher to an extension on January 31. Gore posted 722 receiving yards and was second on the Lions with 62 catches in 18 games.
That same day, the Lions opted to trade backup pivot Mike Reilly and their second-round pick in the 2013 Draft to the Edmonton Eskimos, acquiring the Esks' second round selection in both the 2013 and 2014 in return.
As busy as January was for BC, February wasn't a quiet month in the slightest bit. Kicker Paul McCallum signed a contract extention just four days into the month, ensuring that the 2013 season will be his 21st in the CFL.
Later that day, the Lions welcomed one of their own back into the fold, as they announced that Jarious Jackson signed a one-day contract contract with the team in order to retire as a Leo and join the coaching staff as a quarterbacks coach.
After a relatively quiet two weeks by Buono's standards, the veteran GM handed an extension to DB Korey Banks. Banks accumulated 50 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in 2012. He also led the league with most kockdowns with 10 and was on both the West Division and CFL All Star squads.
Once free agency period arrived, Buono pulled another rabbit out of his hat, as he managed to keep 2012 Most Outstanding lineman Jovan Olafioye and middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian from hitting the open market, signing the two to new deals. That same day, the Leos inked defensive end Julius Williams to a free agent contract.
On the final day of the month, BC signed defensive Lineman Khreem Smith to an extension. Since originally signing with the Lions in July 2011, Smith has accumulated 12 sacks and five forced fumbled in only 32 games over the past two seasons.
Once March rolled around, BC went to work on tackling an extension for veteran DB Dante Marsh. Marsh, who is set to enter his 10th season with the Lions, became the club's all-time leader in total tackles last year with 484.
Buono continued to tinker with his roster before the month expired, releasing Anthony Reddick and signing a trio of offensive linemen in Levi Horn, Aldre Ramsey and Johan Asiata.
On April 18, the Lions inked veteran offensive lineman Ben Archibald to an extension.
BC then kept their Canadian shelves stocked, signing fullback Rolly Lumbala to a contract extension. Lumbala was drafted 9th overall in the 2008 CFL Draft and has appeared in 81 games over the past five seasons.
With training camp just around the corner, the Lions added some veteran presence to their receiving corps, as they managed to lure Emmanuel Arceneaux back from down south after two years of playing in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and more recently the New York Jets.
BC Lions 2013 CFL Draft Class:
Hunter Steward (Offensive Lineman) - Round 1 / 6th Overall
Seydou Junior Haidara (Wide Receiver) - Round 2 / 12th Overall
Boseko Lokombo (Linebacker) - Round 3 / 21st Overall
Matt McGarva (Defensive Back) - Round 4 / 33rd Overall
Matthew Albright (Offensive Lineman) Round 5 / 42nd Overall
Matt Walker (Defensive Back) Round 6 / 50th Overall
Cameron Thorn (Offensive Lineman) Round 7 / 58th Overall
|November 1, 2014||@||Edmonton||4:00 pm PDT|
|November 7, 2014||.||vs.||Calgary||7:00 pm PST|