CFL Offseason Review: Montreal Alouettes

After missing the playoffs for four consecutive years, the Alouettes finally were able to qualify for the postseason in 2019. Behind a breakout quarterback in Vernon Adams and backfield-mate William Stanback, the team was able to propel themselves to a 10-8 record to finish 2nd in the East Division. However, a loss to the Edmonton Eskimos in the first-round signalled that there was still more work to do to grow this roster into a playoff contender.

In this article, we explore how Montreal went about doing just that, as we break-down their offseason transactions and how they impact the team’s 2020 season!


Evans playing for the Alouettes in 2019
Credit: Scott Grant /


  • DB Ciante Evans
  • LS Martin Bedard*
  • DL Woody Baron
  • DL Lord Hyeamang
  • DL Bo Banner*
  • WR Eugene Lewis
  • WR Felix Faubert-Lussier*
  • DB Najee Murray
  • DB Dominique Termansen*
  • LB DJ Lalama*
  • OL Sean Jamieson*
  • OL Kristian Matte*
  • OL Landon Rice*
  • WR Spencer Moore*
  • WR Mario Alford

*Denotes National Player

Montreal was in a rare position entering this offseason, having a successful, resurgent 2019 while still having areas to improve, especially their pass-defense. So, it was fascinating to see who they brought back.

The team re-signed Evans, who was the best player in arguably the league’s worst secondary. He will likely still play the weak-side corner position.

Lewis was a must to re-sign after he developed a strong rapport with quarterback Vernon Adams last season, nabbing 72 passes for over 1100 yards in the process.

Lalama is an interesting national product at linebacker after he received a good chunk of playing-time for the first time in his career down the stretch last season, contributing a healthy amount of both defensive and special-teams tackles for Montreal.

Finally, we have Matte, a veteran who took over Montreal’s center position from long-time Alouette Luc Brodeur-Jourdain. Moving over from his usual post at guard, Matte had his moments but also struggled often at the point of attack after evaluating some games from 2019. Still, he is a veteran presence and was still arguably the team’s top-performing lineman overall last year.

Departures (2020 team)

Ackie playing alongside fellow Canadian Henoc Muamba (#10)
Credit: The Canadian Press
  • DL Ryan Brown (BC)
  • DL Fabion Foote (TOR)
  • DB/LB Patrick Levels (HAM)
  • WR Devier Posey (HAM)
  • LB Chris Ackie (TOR)
  • QB Antonio Pipkin (EDM)
  • LB Frederic Plesius* (FA)
  • WR Chris Matthews (FA)
  • LB Glenn Love (FA)
  • LB Paul Kozachuk* (TOR)
  • DL Gabriel Knapton (FA)
  • RB Jeremiah Johnson (FA)

Just a few players to hit on here, with the Als largely avoiding major losses in free agency.

Posey is one exception, given how big of a role he played late in games for Montreal last year. He heads to the division-rival Tiger-Cats after posting a career-high 780 receiving yards in 2019 in just 12 games.

For the defense, Ackie and Levels were starters for a linebacking core that was relatively productive. Levels even managed 5 sacks, while Ackie served as one of the team’s national starters. These are good players that Montreal may have trouble replacing in the short-term.

Johnson was highly productive in a backfield tandem with 2019 breakout star William Stanback. He has been in the CFL since 2014 but is now 33, and remains a free agent. Its clear the team wanted to get younger at this spot.

Free Agent Signings (2019 team)

Wilder (#32) playing for the Toronto Argonauts
Credit: Kayle Neis / The Canadian Press
  • OL Phillipe Gagnon* (OTT)
  • RB James Wilder Jr. (TOR)
  • WR Namaan Roosevelt (SSK)
  • RB Tyrell Sutton (HAM)
  • DB Kevin Fogg (TOR)
  • DL Adrian Tracy (HAM)
  • K Tyler Crapigna* (TOR) –Trade
  • DL Kingsley Opara (TOR)
  • DB Monshadrik Hunter (EDM)
  • DL Junior Luke* (BC)
  • LB Alexandre Gagne* (SSK)
  • LB Frederic Chagnon* (BC)
  • DL David Menard* (BC)
  • DB Tyquwan Glass (EDM)
  • DB Marloshawn Franklin (BC)
  • K Felix Briere* (SSK)
  • LS Mike Benson* (OTT)
  • OL Spencer Wilson* (CAL)

Montreal dove into the CFL’s free agent pool often during the 2020 offseason, bringing in established Nationals and Americans. One trend that some may notice is that the signings often had a local-feel, with several French-Canadians being brought home.

One of these cases is Gagnon, a Laval product who returns to Montreal after a season in Ottawa. He was selected by the team #2 overall in the 2016 CFL Draft, but has never truly established himself as an everyday starter, as was the case last season in Ottawa. He slides in as the team’s projected starter at right guard, a weakness for the group last season.

Wilder, one of the bigger names listed here, is an at-times dynamic running-back that spent his first three seasons in Toronto. At his best, he is one of the most efficient rushing and receiving threats in the CFL, and will help the Alouettes get over the loss of William Stanback to the NFL. I think his game has the potential to mesh well with quarterback Vernon Adams.

I love the signing of Roosevelt in this receiving core. His smart, instinctive route-running should pair well with the improvisational skills of Vernon Adams. He is coming off a season with Saskatchewan where he played an invaluable role as a security-blanket for first-year starter Cody Fajardo. He also brings a ton of CFL experience to the table.

The Alouettes finished last in the CFL in sacks in 2019, and the addition of Tracy, an underused pass-rusher last year in Hamilton, is a step in the right direction. He won’t make this a dynamic pass-rush, but he should provide the every-down pressure that the team lacked outside of veteran John Bowman last season.

The final player I want to talk about is Gagne, another of the French-Canadian signings. Though not a factor on defense, he deserves props for his superb performances on special-teams over the last two seasons in Saskatchewan, finishing with an incredible 42 tackles of that variety over that span. Kick-coverage is something that isn’t talked about enough when it comes to the CFL, and Gagne is one of the best in the game at flying down the field and tracking-down ball-carriers.

New CFL Arrivals

Via Dominick Bragalone on YouTube
  • WR Vincent Joseph Papale
  • DB Darius West
  • QB Darius James Peterson
  • DL Anthony Luke
  • DB Davante Davis
  • RB Dominick Bragalone
  • DL Ellijah Norris
  • DB Bryan Blunt
  • DB Devron Davis
  • P Ryan Santoso
  • DL Logan Tago

The Alouettes weren’t as busy in the newcomer market this offseason, focusing more so on filling their roster with CFL experience.

Bragalone is one guy to keep an eye on though, as a back who put up excellent numbers at Lehigh University. His collegiate efforts led him to being invited to NFL mini-camp’s of both the Houston Texans and New York Giants in 2019. The depth behind starter James Wilder Jr. and the aging Tyrell Sutton is questionable, and perhaps Bragalone can find a role.

The highlighting of Santoso is simple: projected place-kicker Tyler Crapigna has never taken a CFL punt over his four-year career. This signals that the Alouettes plan to fill kicking duties with two different players, the second of which I assume is Santoso, given he was with the team during the 2019 offseason and actually appeared in games for the Tennessee Titans last season.

2020 Alouettes’ Draft Class

Dequoy playing for the Montreal Carabins
  • 1st: None
  • 2nd: DB Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Montreal (#14); DL Cameron Lawson, Queen’s (#16)
  • 3rd: OL Carter O’Donnell, Alberta (#22); DL Marion Benoit, Montreal (#25)
  • 4th: LB Brian Herelimana, Montreal (#33)
  • 5th: None
  • 6th: OL Andrew Becker, Regina (#49); LB Jersey Henry, Concordia (#51)
  • 7th: WR Vincent Alessandrini, Concordia (#60)
  • 8th: DL Brock Gowanlock, Manitoba (#66); RB Colton Klassen, Saskatchewan (#69)

Montreal was without a 1st-round pick this year, but there’s little denying that the team got their hands on two top-quality prospects if things break-right.

Of course, I’m referring to the 2nd and 3rd-round selections of Dequoy and O’Donnell, respectively.

Dequoy, who was coached by Alouettes GM Danny Maciocia at the University of Montreal, is currently signed with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, but is one of the best athletes in the 2020 CFL Draft, possessing 4.3 speed in the 40-yard-dash.

O’Donnell, too, is on an NFL roster (Indianapolis Colts). Seen as the best offensive-line prospect in years, he slid in the draft due to his perceived relative chance to make the Colts’ roster, but should he return up North, he is a rare plug-and-play lineman at multiple positions. Offensive-line is one of Montreal’s biggest weakness, so this gamble makes sense.

The last thing here isn’t player specific, but rather a trend with Montreal’s draft-class. There are a noticeable amount of players drafted by the Als this year that played their university football in Quebec. Als’ GM Danny Maciocia, being a recent coach in the region at the University of Montreal, probably had a leg-up in the process when evaluating Quebec-based players, so don’t be surprised if one of the mid-to-late round guys emerge as a steal.

NFL Watch-List

  • RB William Stanback (Las Vegas Raiders)

Only one 2019 Alouette received an NFL contract this offseason, but its a big one.

Stanback was a standout rusher and a good receiver last season for Montreal, showcasing elite power for a CFL running-back. Aside from Adams, he was the engine of Montreal’s offense and won’t be easy to replace, though bringing in James Wilder jr. should help.

Projected Starters


*Denotes Canadian starter

When looking at the Alouettes’ projected 2020 offense, its a mix of strengths and weaknesses.

Upfront on the offensive-line is where this team often found itself in trouble last season. Injuries were a big part of the equation, though. If this group can maintain some continuity, it should be a solid 2020 unit.

It starts, first and foremost, with Washington at left-tackle. The massive lineman has had an excellent CFL career, but missed five games last season. He must play at his best for this team to have the blindside protection it needs to improve the passing efficiency for Vernon Adams.

At left-guard, Rutherford excels as a run-blocker but gets pushed around at times by the league’s quicker defensive-lineman when pass-protecting. Overall though, he’s still a decent starter who is still only 24.

At center, Matte was Montreal’s nominee for Most Outstanding Lineman last season, as the vet made the transition from guard to the pivot. He’s a solid player and this positional transition couldn’t have been easy, but it is still hard to say he’s an above-average starter given his limited athleticism and play-strength.

Starting at right-guard we have our first change from last season, with Gagnon, one of Montreal’s offseason signings. We talked about him a bit earlier, but his primary competition for this spot will be incumbent starter Sean Jamieson, who is also classified as a national. This is one key camp competition to look out for.

To his right is Johnstone, a player who is promising but just can’t stay off the injury report. He is one of the more athletic tackles you will find in the CFL, and if not for his injuries thus far, I believe he could have blossomed into Montreal’s finest lineman. For reference, Johnstone has a better athletic profile than Stampeders’ starting right-tackle Nila Kasitati, who entered the NFL Draft the same year in 2016 and has grew into a good everyday CFLer. We just have to hope for the best health-wise going forward for Johnstone.

Vernon Adams enters a season for really the first time in his career as the unquestioned starter after leading Montreal to its first playoff appearance in four years. He still has room to grow in the efficiency department–Montreal ranked last in completion % last season–but he truly grew into the dynamic playmaker that many long thought he could be when he entered the CFL four seasons ago. Montreal’s sack-allowed totals are misleading, as Adams often had to evade rushers and made several spectacular plays few quarterbacks are capable of making. He’s near the top of my list for Most Outstanding Player candidates going into this season.

Wilder Jr, who we talked about earlier, takes over at running-back from 2019 All-Star William Stanback. Those won’t be easy shoes to fill, but Wilder can be one of the best playmaking running-backs when used correctly. He’s best utilized as an outside-the-tackles runner while getting a hefty-dose of action in the receiving game. Though William Stanback had a good season as a receiver last season, he is more power, while, Wilder is more of a finesse, crafty runner. I think his fit with Vernon Adams as a passing-down safety-outlet will be important for the quarterback’s season.

The team’s receiving core is also impressive. There’s nothing really missing here from this group, aside from the omission of a quality Canadian.

Lewis is this offenses legit #1 target and is your all-around receiving threat. Over the past two seasons in Montreal, he has averaged 16.8 yards per catch across 116 receptions.

Cunningham is a rock-solid veteran target who missed most of last season with injury. He is a reliable target when on the field though and should have another productive season as a secondary target in this offense.

Roosevelt, another offseason addition, is a receiver that any team would love to have given the smoothness with which he runs routes and the smarts to make it easier on his quarterback. He isn’t an explosive athlete, but he will work perfectly as a 2nd-down conversion specialist when the play breaks-down for Adams.

Weineke led this team in touchdowns last season with 8, and had excellent chemistry with Adams. Like other guys in this group aside from Lewis, he doesn’t make many explosive plays, but he’s showed he can make plays in the redzone, which is always valued at a premium.

Faubert-Lussier is easily the shakiest starter in this group, and likely is only here for ratio-fulfilling purposes. He has 23 receptions across 43 career CFL games, and has averaged a lowly career 8.9 yards per catch.

Yet as a whole, this offense is potentially dynamic, led by their star second-year starter at quarterback.


*Denotes Canadian Starter

On the other side of the ball, there are more questions.

Aside from John Bowman, who is still performing at a high-level at the age of 37, this defensive-line group lacks punch. Tracy was a good signing from Hamilton, but he’s never been an overly productive defensive-end as a starter. Still, he offers a better floor than Montreal’s starters at the position last season. Baron is a one-dimensional defensive-tackle who has limited upside as a pass-rusher, while being a decent but not great run-defender. Menard is scheduled to be one of Montreal’s Canadian starters, but is he really about to breakout at the age of 29 after already spending six seasons in the league with BC? He has rarely been a starter, either, so I have my doubts.

The linebacker room also has a couple of new starters. Floyd, spent last season with the team, when he recorded 13 total tackles in 7 games. He is an unknown commodity at this level. Jones, who also spent last season in Montreal, played mostly a back-up role, and is scheduled to take over for the departing Patrick Levels at strong-side linebacker. Finally, 2019 Most Outstanding Canadian Award Winner, Henoc Muamba, returns to give the team an intimidating-force in the middle. We don’t have a good read on either Floyd or Jones, so Muamba might need to have a spectacular season to make this one of the better units in the league.

On the contrary, the team’s secondary should be one of the more improved positional-groups in the entire CFL next season. Despite the team’s playoff appearance, Montreal actually finished dead-last against the pass last season, and also produced the third-fewest interceptions. The team kept the better performing parts of last year’s unit while turning-over the weak-points this offseason.

Evans, Reid and Loffler return as starters from last year. Evans is the most accomplished player in this group, having been a part of Calgary’s Grey Cup win in 2018, before having a solid 2019 with the Als at corner. Reid was the most active player in the unit, producing 74 total tackles, 3 interceptions and 2 sacks at the half-back position in his first season as a CFL starter. Loffler was having a solid statistical season but injuries held him to just 6 games. Otherwise, he’s had a good CFL career and has plenty of starting experience from his time with the Blue Bombers from 2016-2018.

The new faces are Murray and Glass. Murray, has actually spent the last two seasons with the team but has not played a prominent role. He takes over from last year’s starter Tommie Campbell, who had a decent run in Montreal but struggled consistently last season. Glass meanwhile, is Montreal’s big offseason addition, as he comes over from Edmonton after establishing himself as a key component of one of the league’s best secondaries. He made plenty of plays in coverage last season, and the Als needed someone with his skills with the ball in the air.

As a whole, this defense leaves plenty to be desired, with plenty of inexperience. However, the saving-grace are the standout veterans, such as Muamba and Bowman, that prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the barrel.

Special Teams

On special-teams, Montreal is one of the teams that appears to be planning to use two different players for handling kicking and punting duties.

Santoso figures in as the punter, and as we discussed earlier, is a CFL newcomer. He spent last season with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, but only saw action as a kick-off specialist.

Crapigna, meanwhile, has been an accurate CFL kicker through four seasons, and converted 81.5% of his attempts last season in Toronto.

Alford, will resume his role as the return-specialist, where he excelled last season in limited-action. He only returned 9 punts across three games, but managed to score an impressive 2 touchdowns. Can he have a healthy season in 2020? That’s going to be the key for this guy.

Final Word

As we close the book on this offseason review, it is time for our final thoughts about the 2020 Montreal Alouettes.

Montreal’s offseason wasn’t the most splashy in the league by any stretch, but it was productive. The standout signings, to me, are Roosevelt on offense and Glass on the defensive-side.

This is a team that is well set-up for a playoff-return in 2020, but their season will ultimately hinge on a few key factors.

The first is can this team overcome the loss of such an impactful running-force in Stanback. In some games last season, such as in a key week 4 win over Hamilton, he simply took over. With him off to the NFL, does this running-game have the power to generate yards between the tackles behind a pretty average offensive-line? For that reason, I can see a scenario in which Montreal is one of the poorest short-yardage teams next season.

Another tiping-point will obviously be how Vernon Adams progresses in his second-season as a starter. He was looking like an MOP candidate by season’s end in 2019, but will he be able to continue improving as opposing defenses get more film on him? I have faith given what he showed last season, but it is something to keep in mind nonetheless.

The final main factor that’s related to the previous one is the depth of this roster. Looking around, Montreal has a handful of really high-quality starters, but plenty of spots have question marks. On offense, the team lacks few plus-starters on the offensive-line, while on defense, there are new unproven players at each level. This puts the onus on the Als’ true stars, mainly Adams on offense and Muamba on defense, to play at their highest level.

Luckily for Als fans, I do believe that is going to happen. Montreal should feel good about their chances for repeated success in 2020 because they have finally appeared to have found their answer at quarterback. Adams, being in my mind the best quarterback in the division, should give this team a leg-up on Ottawa and Toronto, while also giving Hamilton a scare at the top of the division. Still, for their general Grey Cup hopes, I think they need another year of roster-building.

Did we miss any offseason additions? Do you agree with our analysis? Be sure to let it all out in the comments below!

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