Some people might say that you can have too much of a good thing, but Wally Buono and Ron Swanson would disagree. Thus far this offseason, Buono, the B.C. Lions' general manager, has signed not one, not two, not three, but four top defensive backs, giving him a secondary with four players who were divisional all-stars in 2011 and a fifth who was a league all-star in 2010. Buono started with 2011 league all-star Korey Banks still under contract, brought in surprising Argonauts' castoff Lin-J Shell (a 2011 divisional all-star) Tuesday, then extended the contracts of 2011 divisional all-star Dante Marsh and 2010 league all-star Ryan Phillips just before they hit free agency Wednesday and landed 2011 league all-star Byron Parker Thursday. Nabbing all of those philosophy right out of a playbook designed by Swanson, the fictional Parks and Recreation character known for his love of meats, capitalism, facial hair and breakfast foods, who once famously walked into a diner and ordered "all the bacon and eggs you have":
With those moves, the Lions' secondary looks to get even better. It was already a strength of the team last season, as evidenced by the honours nabbed by Banks and Marsh, and it played a crucial part of their run to the Grey Cup, but Parker and Shell will make it even stronger. When you add in B.C.'s ferocious defensive line, buoyed by the suprising return of Khalif Mitchell, that's a defence that's going to be very difficult for opposing quarterbacks to throw against from a personnel standpoint. You know they'll have a solid scheme too, between the defensive knowledge of new head coach Mike Benevides (the Lions' long-time defensive coordinator) and new defensive coordinator Rich Stubler. In a pass-oriented league like the CFL, that spells trouble for opposing offences.
How is B.C. going to play all those guys? Well, it might be easier than many think. Benevides' defence last season typically lined up in a 4-2-6 formation, which by the time of the West Final (depth chart PDF) was featuring a hybrid nickel back/linebacker (Anthony Reddick), two cornerbacks (Marsh and Phillips), two halfbacks (Banks and Tad Kornegay) and a safety (J.R. LaRose) in the secondary. As you can see from their regular-season finale depth chart PDF, Toronto typically lined up Parker at cornerback and Shell at the halfback slot next to him. One solution B.C. could pursue is moving one of the halfbacks to safety (LaRose is still under contract, but would be either cut or used as a backup in this scenario) and moving one of the cornerbacks inside; those would be adjustments, but ones that might not prove terribly difficult. An even better solution might be returning Banks to the nickel back role he'd played in previous years, though; he has tremendous blitzing and run-stopping abilities in addition to his cover skills, and could be an impressive threat at that position. If the Lions do that, Shell could slide into one of the halfback slots and one of the three corners can move into the other one, keeping LaRose at safety; that bumps Reddick, who isn't a bad player, but is more famous for his involvement in the Miami scandal than much of what he's done with the Lions so far.
Regardless of how they line up positionally, though, the Lions have previously demonstrated an impressive commitment to finding talent first and foremost and then figuring out ways to alter their schemes to utilize it. These moves fit right in with that pattern; many GMs would have declared their secondary as set after a move or two, but Buono saw talented players and grabbed them. This move would fit in several categories of Swanson's Pyramid of Greatness (at right, big version here), including teamwork ("Work together as if your life depended on it...It DOES!"), selfishness ("Take what's yours"), buffets ("Whenever available. Choose quantity over quality."), intensity ("Give 100%. 110% is impossible. Only idiots recommend that.") and greatness itself ("the best revenge"), and thus, it literally has to be pretty good.
Other notable moves Thursday:
—Winnipeg offensive guard Brendon LaBatte, one of the biggest names on the market, has signed with Saskatchewan following a pursuit from Edmonton. LaBatte has been a very impressive player over the last couple of seasons, and was a key part of the Blue Bombers' run to the Grey Cup game last year. He and Dominic Picard should upgrade the Roughriders' line. Interestingly enough, losing out on LaBatte appears to have been what prompted Edmonton GM Eric Tillman to up his offer to Greg Carr, leading to Wednesday's controversial move that saw
Carr head to the Eskimos after Winnipeg thought they'd already locked him up.
—Edmonton linebacker Rod Davis, a divisional all-star in 2011 with the Eskimos, has signed with Montreal. He should be an interesting addition to the Alouettes' linebacking corps, perhaps providing them with more of a pass rush this coming year.
—Calgary extended the contract of defensive end Charleston Hughes, who recorded a team-high seven sacks last year. Top pass rushers aren't easy to find, so this looks like a solid move for the Stampeders.
—B.C. also added Canadian running back/fullback Stu Foord from Saskatchewan. Foord has excelled as a blocker and on special teams thus far, and while he'll likely continue that in B.C., he may also receive some carries as the presumed primary backup to Andrew Harris now Jamall Lee has retired. Oddly enough, that would give B.C. not only an all-Canadian backfield, but an all-junior football one; Foord and Harris are two of the most prominent CFL players from the junior ranks.