The Canadian Football League off-season is on in full force with the shuffling of coaching staffs and negotiations with potential free agents already under way.
Here’s a look at the storylines to watch over the next several weeks and months.
The Halifax Stadium Vote
Halifax Regional Council is expected to vote Dec. 10 on a stadium proposal that was resubmitted by Schooners Sports and Entertainment in early November.
The amended proposal is intended to give taxpayers more protection in the event revenue projections aren’t reached.
A successful vote won’t necessarily mean shovels in the ground, but a no vote would appear to be the end of this round of hopes for a 10th team.
The NFL window
As part of its new collective agreement, the CFL and the CFLPA agreed that every player should have the opportunity to seek a job in the NFL during an off-season window. For players with years remaining on their contracts, however, it’s a case of “not so fast.”
The NFL and the NFLPA haven’t signed off on the matter, quibbling over things like whether a CFL team should be able to retain rights on a player who tries the NFL and is then cut.
It’s a matter the league has promised to resolve as quickly as possible. But for now, only CFL players with expiring deals can chase the NFL.
Montreal ownership and general manager search
The Alouettes have been owned by the CFL since before the start of the 2019 season, which is another way of saying the league’s other eight clubs have been paying the bills.
A group headed by ex-pat Montrealers Jeffrey and Peter Lenkov has been working for months to complete a deal that would see local businessman Stephen Bronfman as a minority partner. The league was certain a deal would be done by the end of the regular season but the target now appears to be the end of the calendar year.
Meanwhile, the Als are taking the advice of former B.C. general manager Wally Buono in their search for a new general manager. Among their shortlist are Blue Bombers assistant GM Danny McManus and director of college scouting Ryan Rigmaiden, Ottawa director of player personnel Jean-Marc Edme and Ticats senior director of personnel, Sean Burke.
Combines in Europe and Japan and Mexico
The months of January and February will be busy ones for Greg Quick, the CFL’s new director of international scouting, who will oversee the series of combine workouts scheduled across Europe as well as in Japan and Mexico.
The goal is to uncover the best football talent outside of Canada and the U.S. to fill 45 spots on CFL teams next season, 18 on active rosters and 27 on practice rosters.
The league’s CFL 2.0 initiative depends on being able to find players who can impact the game, and the league is going to look deep this off-season to ensure it finds the best.
The free-agent quarterback carousel
It’s not the same kind of star-studded class as last off-season, when so many of the CFL’s top quarterbacks were on the market, but there are more than a few intriguing names from who could be available come February.
All three Winnipeg quarterbacks – Zach Collaros, Chris Streveler and Matt Nichols – are currently unsigned. So are Hamilton’s Jeremiah Masoli, Calgary’s Nick Arbuckle and Toronto’s McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Jonathon Jennings and James Franklin have seen their stock plummet, but both will be on the market as well.
The sale of the BC Lions
It’s been the longest breakup in the history of the CFL.
BC Lions owner David Braley has been doing due diligence on potential buyers for months but apparently can’t find the right one or the one who will pay him the right price. As such, Braley continues to call the shots into this off-season, with the target still being a new owner for the 2020 season.
Players pursuing NFL jobs
It will be another busy off-season of CFL players trying to gain employment in the NFL, like Alex Singleton, Diontae Spencer and Duke Williams managed to do this season.
Two names are likely to receive the most attention – Calgary defensive back Tre Roberson and Montreal running back William Stanback.
Roberson, 27, has had two terrific seasons with the Stamps, including seven interceptions in 2019. He spent time on the Minnesota Vikings practice roster in 2016 and 2017. Stanback, 25, who spent time on the Green Bay Packers practice roster in 2017, was third in CFL rushing with 1,048 yards and had the league’s best yards-per-carry average.
Head coaching vacancies in Ottawa, B.C. and Edmonton
Not long after Rick Campbell resigned as head coach in Ottawa, he was linked to potential job openings in both B.C. and Edmonton, having ties to the general managers of both teams (B.C.’s Ed Hervey and Edmonton’s Brock Sunderland).
Campbell is a former Esks assistant coach and his father, Hugh, has legendary status within the organization.
There has been much speculation that the Lions would like to pair Campbell with former Edmonton head coach Jason Maas as offensive co-ordinator. Maas, of course, was head coach for three of the seasons in which Lions quarterback Mike Reilly was an Eskimo. The Lions will talk to others as well, including Paul LaPolice, the Winnipeg offensive co-ordinator who is also drawing interest from Ottawa and Edmonton.
Ottawa is also planning to talk to Stampeders assistant head coach Mark Kilam and quarterbacks coach Ryan Dinwiddie, among others.
Updated: Lions are expected to name Rick Campbell head coach later on Monday afternoon. Read more here.