If the CFL didn’t have a salary cap, chances are Jovan Olafioye would still be a B.C. Lion.
But Olafioye became a casualty of the league’s $5.15-million cap Monday. The Lions dealt the six-time CFL all-star and future considerations to the Montreal Alouettes for the rights to Canadian lineman David Foucault, a Montreal native, and American Vincent Brown.
With a reported salary around $200,000 annually, it seems the six-foot-six, 325-pound Olafioye had become too rich for the Lions’ blood.
“If we didn’t have to deal with the cap, would I have done this? Probably not,” said Wally Buono, the Lions head coach/GM. “But for us to sign our own players â€” the Jeremiah Johnsons, the Bryan Burnhams, the Mic’heal Brookses, the Ronnie Yells, the Solomon Elimimians â€” and then Chris Williams and Swayze Waters, you’ve got to find the coin somewhere.
“We were under the cap by using the kind of change I had in my pocket. That’s how tight we were to the cap and I’d think every other team is that way. So when you look at trying to sign all these guys, if you don’t sign them, somebody else will.”
Olafioye, 29, of Detroit, made 126 consecutive starts with B.C. He was the CFL’s top lineman in 2012 and helped the Lions win the 2011 Grey Cup.
In Montreal, he’s expected to play left tackle and protect new quarterback Darian Durant’s blind side.
“It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to acquire a player of Jovan’s calibre, one who has performed at such a high level day in and day out, without ever missing a start,” Alouettes GM Kavis Reed said in a statement. “With this transaction we are addressing a pressing need that we had on the offensive line.
“Unfortunately, we had to trade away a player that we were looking forward to see in an Alouettes uniform to do so. We are very excited to welcome Jovan in the nest and are anxious to see him out on the field to protect a veteran quarterback such as Darian Durant, all while creating holes for running back Tyrell Sutton.”
Olafioye becomes the second high-profile Lion to join the Alouettes. In February, veteran defensive back Ryan Phillips signed with Montreal upon being released after 12 seasons with B.C.
“(Shoutout) to my boy @jolafioye63 coming to the east side with your boy. Love how Kavis Reed is continuously getting his team better and better,” Phillips tweeted Monday.
Montreal selected the six-foot-eight, 305-pound Foucault fifth overall in the 2014 CFL draft. But the 28-year-old signed as a free agent with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, appearing in five games (one start) over two seasons before being released during training camp last year.
Darren Gill, Foucault’s agent, said his client was willing to sign with Montreal but it became apparent to them the Alouettes wanted American starters at the tackle position.
“Long before David had committed to looking at the CFL option, Montreal had a desire to go with two import tackles, which obviously affected their ability and desire to sign him,” Gill said. “As a result, this trade, frankly, makes sense for both parties.
“Wally is trying to increase his non-import depth and talent while Montreal was going in the reverse direction. As much as Montreal would’ve been a natural fit because David is from Montreal, football-wise it just didn’t seem like the fit was going to be there.”
Buono said trading Oliafoye is not an indication B.C. wants to play another Canadian on its offensive line. But it does offer the Lions more options.
“You’ve got to have the depth and quality to be able to back up the tackle, guard or centre and I believe by getting David, he gives us the ability to do that,” Buono said. “It also gives you the ability to change the ratio . . . to put another import starter in a position maybe you didn’t do last year.
“When you go to training camp and have all these pieces in place, then you’re not scrambling. Montreal is very fortunate to get Jovon. He’s a great guy and a very good football player but we’re fortunate to get someone of David Foucault’s skillset. He’ll determine his own fate but I’m happy we have a choice now and an option.”
Gill is confident he and Buono can work out a deal for Foucault.
“Wally and I have a good history of working together,” Gill said. “Speaking to Wally throughout this process before the trade was executed, I feel he understands where we feel our value is.”
Neither Gill not Buono were concerned about Foucault’s recent inactivity. Gill wouldn’t rule out Foucault giving the NFL another shot but said that’s definitely down the road.
“As Kavis knows and Wally will soon find out, David is serious about signing,” he said. “We haven’t’ written off the NFL . . . but David knows whatever opportunity is next needs to be a good one.
“If the interest level isn’t strong enough in the NFL then David isn’t going to go to be a camp body, so to speak. That’s why he’s ready to take the next step.”
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press