Whenever a player is on a Canadian Football League negotiation list, rumours start to fly. For the Montreal Alouettes, first it was Tim Tebow. Now, it is Michael Sam who was cut from the St. Louis Rams this weekend and has not been picked up by another NFL team.
But that is where the similarities end. Because unlike Tebow, Michael Sam has a skill set that might be perfect for the CFL. Now, I am sure that Sam will explore every possible avenue in the NFL first. He will probably even find a non-football career, with his public appeal after being the first openly gay NFL draft pick, is more lucrative than the CFL.
However, if Sam wants to someday make the NFL, the CFL may be his best route. Think of the flaws of Sam’s game. He’s in between a linebacker and defensive end and has no true position. He’s a little too small or a little too slow for either. He’s also very good at rushing the passer, but is a little more suspect on run defence.
Well, when it comes to size, there’s someone he can look to for some motivation. Cameron Wake of the Miami Dolphins was an undrafted free agent who couldn’t stick in the NFL following a career at Penn State. He ended up going to the B.C. Lions in the CFL and excelled. He got to the NFL and became a star.
Wake is 6’3, 258. Sam is 6’2, 261. If Sam is undersized, all it means is he needs a chance to prove he can play. The CFL can provide that opportunity. Now, this doesn’t mean that Sam can walk in and start for the Alouettes. In fact, pass rushers at linebacker and defensive end may be the strength of the entire organization.
However, Sam sticking in professional football and proving what he can do would be a clear path to the NFL. The Alouettes already have Duron Carter who may make the jump after Andrew Hawkins and Marc Trestman have already done the same in recent years. And that’s just from the Alouettes.
The Indianapolis Colts have Jerrell Freeman (Saskatchewan) and Henoc Muamba (Winnipeg), both linebackers who came from the CFL along with Wake so there is precedent of players becoming NFL players after taking time in the CFL. The Colts also had Justin Hickman (Hamilton) who was waived in June.
Also in Sam’s favour is that the NFL is going towards a 4-2-5/Nickel base defensive alignment to counteract passing offences. The CFL, who has the advantage of an extra man on both sides of the ball, has employed a 4-3-5 which is part of the basis of the NFL’s changing alignment.
I don’t know what Sam will choose to do after not being named to an NFL practice squad. The Alouettes have reached out to him. But unlike a certain left-handed quarterback, Sam makes a lot of sense and might be Sam’s best chance to show his stuff.