The Alouettes receiving corps may look a lot different in 2023 than it did last season, but they managed to finalize a deal with one of their foundational pieces on Monday. Kaion Julien-Grant decided to forego free agency to return to Montreal on a two-year deal. Don’t be surprised if his role continues to grow in 2023, especially with head coach Jason Maas at the helm.
Maas has already mentioned that his offence will feature a lot of movement. During his CFL career so far, Julien-Grant has primarily been used as a wide receiver on the wide side of the field. Typically, less passes are thrown in that direction because the ball needs to travel further to get to its intended target.
Now, the 26-year-old will have an opportunity to play in different spots, including in the slot which is where he was primarily used during his college days at StFx. He’ll have a great shot at beating his numbers from last season, which were impressive.
He went from having eight receptions for 133 yards and no touchdowns in 2021, to accumulating 36 receptions for 517 yards and three majors in 2022.
“(Maas) said everyone is going to be moving around and that it’s going to be a dynamic offence,” Julien-Grant said of his conversation with Maas. “We’re going to get people in a position where they’re comfortable and positions where they’re best.
“I don’t think I’ll be limited (to the wide side of the field). I feel like everyone is just going to be moving around. I’m happy about that. It just keeps the defence guessing as well.”
That’s just one of the reasons that Julien-Grant decided to re-sign with the Alouettes instead of hitting the open market on Feb. 14. Even though one other unnamed CFL team was very interested in his services, he just felt like Montreal was the right place for him to be.
“It wasn’t the easiest of decisions,” Julien-Grant, who had an offseason workout with the Denver Broncos, said. “But in my heart, I always knew where I wanted to be.
“(The phone) rang consistently with just one other team, and it honestly could have gone either way. At the end of the day, I just stuck with my gut.”
A lot can change between now and the start of free agency, but regardless of which receiver(s) the team signs or re-signs this winter, it looks like the group will be at least partially built around Julien-Grant and fellow Canadian Tyson Philpot. They are the only two starting receivers from last year under contract right now, and they showed that they are more than just dependable. They are players that can break games wide open.
Like every team, the Alouettes still have some key free agents they need to try to re-sign before next Tuesday at noon ET. Quarterback Trevor Harris, receiver Geno Lewis, defensive back Adarius Pickett and running back Walter Fletcher are among the players that are on expiring deals. In a salary cap world, the team won’t be able to bring everyone back.
“As much as I’d love my guys back, the business is the business,” he said of the receivers like Lewis, Jake Wieneke and Reggie White Jr. that can become free agents next week. “They’re going to do what they need to do for themselves, but I feel like Tyson and I will be good. I’d bet on us 10 times out of 10.
“I feel like we both bring speed. I guess I’m a little stronger and he’s twitchier and quicker. I would compare it to thunder and lightning (laughs).”
As much as the team may look different, Julien-Grant is confident that the organization is heading in the right direction on the field in 2023.
“I feel good about us,” he said. “The front office and everyone will take care of what they can take care. I can only control what I do on a daily basis, like the rest of the team does. Everyone has to be coming in to work. Nothing is going to be given. Everything is going to have to be earned.”