Alouettes roster breakdown: January 2024

The Montreal Alouettes are just two months removed from winning the 110th Grey Cup in Hamilton, but the team’s front office has already been busy this winter. Even though it’s impossible to bring back an entire team, general manager Danny Maciocia found a way to re-sign several key starters.

So, what does the roster look like right now? Keep in mind that things will change. The CFL free agent period will kick off on Feb. 13. More players will re-sign by then, but some will also hit the market on that day.

Let’s start with the defence:

The Als defence was outstanding in 2023. They were a big reason why this team was able to make it to the Grey Cup. In their East Final victory against the Toronto Argonauts, they managed to force an incredible nine turnovers. Keeping that in mind, it’s easy to see why Maciocia spent time bringing back many key starters from that unit.

Defensive linemen Shawn Lemon and Mustafa Johnson both inked new contracts in December, while linebackers Darnell Sankey and Tyrice Beverette, and cornerback Dionte Ruffin did the same. All five players were starters last year, and they will be again in 2024.

Other key figures like safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy, defensive back Wesley Sutton, cornerback Kabion Ento, strong-side linebacker Reggie Stubblefield, defensive tackle Almondo Sewell and defensive end Lwal Uguak are already under contract for 2024.

Former first overall pick Tyrell Richards also signed an extension with the team. Don’t be surprised if he has a bigger impact on the defence next season.

As of right now, the only defensive starter at the Grey Cup that isn’t under contract for next season is defensive back Ciante Evans. Avery Williams, who was also a starter for most of the year, and who played a key role at inside linebacker in Noel Thorpe’s 3-4 defence (three defensive linemen, four linebackers), is also set to become a free agent.

POTENTIAL DEFENSIVE FREE AGENTS ON FEB. 13: Vincent Desjardins, Avery Ellis, Ciante Evans, Nafees Lyon, Najee Murray, Avery Williams.

RETURNING STARTERS: Shawn Lemon, Lwal Uguak, Almondo Sewell, Mustafa Johnson, Darnell Sankey, Tyrice Beverette, Reggie Stubblefield, Kabion Ento, Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Wesley Sutton, Dionte Ruffin.

Key players on offence return:

The Alouettes’ first order of business this off-season was to take care of Grey Cup MVP Cody Fajardo, who signed a two-year extension with the team.

Starting right tackle Jamar McGloster also re-signed with the Alouettes, which means that McGloster, Pier-Olivier Lestage, Justin Lawrence, and Nick Callender will all be back. Starting right guard Kristian Matte doesn’t have a contract for next year. Neither does Philippe Gagnon, who replaced an injured Lestage as a starter in the playoffs, is also set to become a free agent. Landon Rice, who started the year as the starting right tackle, will be a free agent. Sean Jamieson, who suited up in the Grey Cup, but who missed most of the year with an injury, is also on an expiring contract. But as of right now, four of the team’s five starting offensive lineman are back.

The Als lost leading receiver Austin Mack to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. The 26-year-old was named a CFL All-Star in his first and he added over 100 yards receiving in the Grey Cup. Replacing him won’t be easy, but the Als will be getting a healthy Kaion Julien-Grant back for the start of 2024.

Julien-Grant, who was top 5 in receiving yards when he suffered his first of two injuries last season, will have a golden opportunity to help fill the void left by Mack.

Tyson Philpot, who was under contract for 2024 but who signed an extension for 2025, was named the Grey Cup’s Most Outstanding Canadian. His potential is through the roof, and he could see more targets with Mack no longer in the picture.

Grey Cup hero Cole Spieker and key contributor Tyler Snead will also be back. Reggie White Jr., who missed all of 2023 with a knee injury, returned to practice at the end of last year. He is still under contract for 2024.

Replacing Mack isn’t going to be easy, but replacing Geno Lewis last year was a daunting task as well. Most fans had no idea who Mack or Snead were heading into training camp, and both became fan-favourites.

The biggest question mark right now is at running back. The East Division’s Most Outstanding Player in 2021, William Stanback, is scheduled to become a free agent. Walter Fletcher and Canadian Jeshrun Antwi can also hit the open market on Feb. 13. During his media availability at the CFL’s winter meetings in Nashville last week, Maciocia mentioned that he’d like to get two of those three players back. It’ll be interesting to see which ones return.

It’s always important to remember that there will be newcomers to the CFL that will impress in training camp. We saw it last year, so expect to see it again in 2024. As the Als showed last year, you don’t need to make a splash in free agency to win a championship.

POTENTIAL OFFENSIVE FREE AGENTS: Jeshrun Antwi. Regis Cibasu, Greg Ellingson, Walter Fletcher, Philippe Gagnon, Jake Harty, Kristian Matte, Landon Rice, William Stanback, James Tuck.

RETURNING STARTERS: Nick Callender, Pier-Olivier Lestage, Justin Lawrence, Jamar McGloster, Tyler Snead, Cole Spieker, Tyson Philpot, Kaion Julien-Grant, Cody Fajardo.

Two dynamic returners on special teams:

Chandler Worthy didn’t finish the season due to injury, but rookie James Letcher Jr. did an incredible job of taking over the return game. Letcher Jr. scored a touchdown on a kickoff return in the East Final in Toronto, which basically put the game to bed.

Worthy and Letcher Jr. are both under contract for 2024. It’ll be interesting to see how that training camp battle shakes out, but both players are dynamic with the ball in their hands.

A pair of unsung heroes on special teams have also signed new contracts with the team. Players like Fred Chagnon and Alex Gagne are back. Beverette and Richards were also important to the team’s special teams success. Kicker David Cote, punter Joseph Zema and long-snapper Louis Philippe-Bourassa will all be back in 2024.

Other special teams aces that can become free agents are Cibasu, Harty, Antwi, and James Tuck.