It looked like the B.C. Lions were going to get more intimidating. Ricky Foley (shown above bringing down Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant last season) appeared to have decided to return to the Lions after attempts to catch on with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets. Foley, last year's Canadian player of the year, joins another ex-Lion who recently returned from the NFL's Miami Dolphins, fullback Rolly Lumbala. Even while the Foley deal was on, B.C. wasn't completely getting the band back together, though; former defensive player of the year Cameron Wake has found a starring role in Miami, and former wide receiver Ryan Grice-Mullen elected today to sign with Saskatchewan instead of heading back to the West Coast. Still, Foley may have proved to be a significant addition for the Lions.
The Foley deal appears to have crashed off the rails, though. According to a club press release yesterday that has since been removed from their website, the deal was done and Foley was back in the fold. However, Foley's agent, Paul Sheehy, tweeted late last night that reports of a deal were premature and said he'd provide more clarification in the morning. He didn't provide any this morning, but just tweeted that Foley would sign with the Argos instead.
It sounded like the Lions were all set to get quite the deal on Foley. Ian Walker of The Vancouver Sun wrote that Foley turned down a higher offer from Toronto to come back to B.C. That seems a little surprising, considering Foley's connections to Ontario; he was born in Courtice, his parents still live there and he went to school at York University. However, he told Walker that his comfort level with the players and coaches in B.C. made the difference:
‘I won Canadian of the Year there [B.C.], led the league in sacks there and won a ring with those guys, while Toronto was a bit of the unknown," said Foley, who signed for two years plus a team option.'
‘I walk in that locker-room [today] or the next day and get hugs and kisses rather than stares and mean mugs. I like those guys and I really feel with Casey [Printers] there and guys getting healthy that, despite the team's record, we have a good shot this year. I really do think we're going to turn things around.'"
If Sheehy's report is to be relied upon, there are going to be some significant implications coming out of this. It's unclear why Foley would suddenly reverse course midstream after making those kinds of comments, but it's certainly not going to lead to good feelings between B.C. and Toronto.
Foley's addition wouldn't have been vital for an already solid B.C. defence, but it would have helped. The Lions have been near the top of the league in team sacks for most of this season, but haven't put up dominating individual performances. Defensive end Brent Johnson, defensive back Ryan Phillips and defensive back/linebacker Korey Banks are all tied for the team lead with four sacks apiece, which would put them in a tie for 10th overall in the league rankings.
Adding Foley to that mix on defence would have given B.C. a dominant individual threat up front, forcing teams to alter their blocking schemes and perhaps leaving more holes that blitzing players like Banks and Phillips can exploit. He was absolutely dominant last season, finishing tied for the league lead with 12 sacks and adding 51 tackles and two pass knockdowns en route to winning the league's Outstanding Canadian award (which he's pictured receiving at right).
Instead, he'll be going to a Toronto team that has struggled to bring quarterbacks down this season. They haven't been awful defensively overall, but they haven't got a lot of pass-rushing pressure from their defensive line. Foley certainly has the talent to remedy that, and that could help to turn things around for the Argonauts.
It may take him a little while to adjust, however. Foley spent most of his off-season in camp with the Seahawks, where he was working as a defensive end against bigger and less mobile offensive linemen than the type usually found in the CFL. He didn't last long with the Jets (four days on the active roster, four more days on the practice roster), but there were indications they were going to try to use him as a linebacker, similar to the role Wake now plays in Miami. Now, he's on his third team in three weeks, and he's back in a league with a different set of rules and considerably different personnel. He's succeeded at this level before, and there's no reason he can't do so again, but it may not be an instantaneous process.
Regardless of how Foley does on the field, the bigger story is going to be finding out exactly what happened here and how he went from saying he was with the Lions to signing with the Argos. This is going to be a story to watch, and you get the feeling it's only just begun.