It took nearly a month into the regular season but the B.C. Lions have decided on their kicker and it isn’t the veteran free agent who was a splashy off-season signing, Swayze Waters.
Waters was released by the CFL team Wednesday in a move likely to turn heads, when in fact the player who has been doing the same thing for a different reason is rookie import Ty Long.
Long, a field-goal and kickoff specialist at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, clearly was the best kicker in training camp, when the 30-year-old Waters battled a quad issue.
Long had a few issues in his CFL debut but has steadily improved to the point where Lions coach/GM Wally Buono was comfortable. He hasn’t missed a field goal attempt since the season opener and against Montreal last week had a 50.2-yard punting average.
Long played on the same high school team in Roswell, Ga., with Richie Leone and will now formally replace the punter who went on to sign with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals after last season.
“The crazy dynamic about me and Richie to this day is that I’m helping him and he’s helping me. There are a lot of things I’m wondering. I call Richie without hesitation. I’m just trying to get better with every rep,” Long said.
Buono signed Waters to a contract reportedly worth six figures seeking stability after Leone gave way to Paul McCallum at the end of last season when his field goal work cost the Lions offence.
The injury in camp meant Waters couldn’t compete properly, however, and concerns about his medical past began to grow with the Lions. Waters was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player in 2014, but injuries played a factor when he was ultimately released a year later by the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
Waters was given a clean bill of health by the Lions but struggled to maintain consistency. At practice Wednesday his frustration was palpable. Another factor involved in the decision is that Waters only signed through the current season, while Long is under contract with the Lions through 2018.
The move leaves the Lions without a safety net at his position for the time being however Buono also now has some salary cap flexibility in advance of any potential personnel movement from NFL training camps, which are due to open soon.
The Lions initially lost four players to NFL camps during the off-season in addition to Leone and would stand an excellent chance to re-sign linebacker Adam Bighill if he is unsuccessful in a bid to make the roster of the New Orleans Saints. The Lions were fined $2,500 by the CFL in the off-season after stating they had an option on his contract.
The Lions would also be interested in signing CFL free agent Bo Lokombo if he doesn’t stick with the Baltimore Ravens when they open camp later this month, and have a shot with 2015 draft pick Brett Boyko, who is still trying to crack the lineup on the offensive line of the Los Angeles Chargers.