The Montreal Alouettes are hoping that they’ve uncovered a local gem in free agency.
The team announced the signing of receiver Hergy Mayala, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but moved to Montreal with his family when he was eight years old.
Mayala spent his first two CFL seasons with the Calgary Stampeders. He caught 38 passes for 562 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 16 games during his rookie season and he added 29 receptions and 284 yards in 13 games in 2021.
“It was tough (to leave Calgary) because they gave me the opportunity to start my (professional) career,” the 26-year-old said during a one-on-one interview on Tuesday evening. “Ultimately, home is where the heart is, and my heart never left Montreal.”
Als general manager Danny Maciocia told MontrealAlouettes.com on Sunday that the team will be looking to start two Canadian receivers this year. Last season, Kaion Julien-Grant was the only Canuck starting at that position.
Not only does using Julien-Grant and Mayala give the Alouettes two capable Canadian pass-catchers, it will also allow them to start an American elsewhere (likely on defence). Obviously, the Als still need to sort out their roster in training camp, but it looks like they’ll have six Canadians on offence (four offensive linemen and two receivers) and at least one on defence.
DEFENCE GETS A BOOST
The faces on the Alouettes offence won’t look much different in 2022, but the defence will undergo a little bit of a change.
Canadian defensive-end David Menard, defensive tackle Woody Baron, corner Money Hunter and linebacker Patrick Levels have all found new homes. But the Als have added defensive end Avery Ellis from Ottawa and defensive backs Mike Jones and Tyrice Beverette from Winnipeg and Hamilton respectively.
Jamal Davis II’s departure to the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers means there’s a starting spot open on the defensive line heading into training camp.
“There’s a little bit of old school in him,” Maciocia said of Ellis. “He practices hard and he doesn’t miss any practices. He’s a guy who is going to roll up his sleeves and get after it. That’s exactly what we have up and down our defensive line.”
Jones can play multiple positions in the secondary and he can also line up at SAM linebacker.
“He can play anywhere in the back-end and that’s worth a lot to us,” Maciocia said of Jones’ versatility. “We know he can play the boundary half (position), we know he can play corner, we know he can play SAM. That gives us flexibility as far as trying to line up our best five or six back there and letting them play.”
Beverette spent most of last season playing special teams for the Tiger-Cats, but he’ll compete for a starting job with the Als once training camp begins.
“We’ve seen him in the NFL at free safety,” the Als GM told MontrealAlouettes.com from his Olympic Stadium office on Tuesday. “He’s just a guy that’s going to go sideline-to-sideline at 100 miles-per-hour and he’ll impose himself on the opponent. There’s a certain amount of physicality that he brings to his game. He always happens to be around the ball.”
Beverette can also play multiple positions at the linebacker position.
LOOK WHO’S BACK!
On top of adding some new bodies, Maciocia also found a way to bring back a couple of familiar faces.
Defensive tackle Michael Wakefield inked a new deal right before the start of free agency and special-teams ace Frederic Chagnon re-joined the Als after spending some time in Ottawa in 2021.
Wakefield, who signed a free-agent contract with Montreal last off-season, made a significant impact in the middle of the defensive line last season. He figures to be a big part of the rotation at defensive tackle along with Almondo Sewell, Mike Moore and Canadian Cam Lawson.
Speaking of Sewell, the Als announced that he’s inked an extension that will keep him in Montreal through the 2023 season.
The 35-year-old is one of the key leaders on defence and he made an immediate impact on the field in his first year with the Als in 2021.
He finished the regular season with 19 tackles and five quarterback sacks in 14 games. Sewell also scored a touchdown on one goal-line carry against the Redblacks on Sep. 3.
Those impressive numbers don’t even do him justice. The veteran often commands double-teams from opposing offensive linemen and that helps free his teammates up to make big plays.
Lastly, the Als announced on Wednesday that they had re-signed quarterback Trevor Harris to a one-year contract.
Harris split last season with Edmonton and Montreal. He was acquired from the Elks via trade in mid-October.
The 35-year-old suited up in four regular season games and one playoff game for the Als in 2021. He threw eight touchdowns and two interceptions during that four-game stretch.
The addition of Harris gives the Alouettes six quarterbacks on their active roster right now. Vernon Adams Jr., Dominique Davis, Shea Patterson, Quinten Dormady and Davis Alexander were already under contract.
Avec l’ajout de Harris, les Alouettes ont maintenant six quarts sur leur effectif en ce moment. Vernon Adams Jr., Dominique Davis, Shea Patterson, Quinten Dormady et Davis Alexander étaient déjà sous contrat.