Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Alex Green gets tackled by Edmonton's Almondo Sewell, left, and Alex Bazzie, right, during the first half of CFL football action in Hamilton, Ont., on August 23, 2018. Montreal Alouettes GM Danny Maciocia said he expected to look towards defensive help in CFL agency. Maciocia did just that Tuesday, signing six defensive players, including Sewell. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Montreal Alouettes GM Maciocia dips into free-agent waters to shore up club’s defence

Danny Maciocia held true to his word Tuesday.

Last week, the Montreal Alouettes GM said he expected to look for defensive help in CFL free agency. Maciocia did just that Tuesday, signing six defensive players hours after the free-agent period began.

Almondo Sewell, a six-time CFL all-star with Edmonton, was among four American defensive linemen Maciocia signed. The others included Nick Usher (Edmonton), Michael Wakefield (Ottawa) and Woody Baron, who played his first two seasons with Montreal (2018-19). Linebackers Patrick Levels and Chris Ackie, of Cambridge, Ont., both returned to Montreal after signing with Hamilton and Toronto, respectively, last year. The CFL didn’t hold a 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were trying to identify some people who can rush the passer, that can create some havoc behind the line of scrimmage, who can create turnovers and shorten the field for our offence,” Maciocia said during a video conference. “It’s all about getting the quarterback, in my opinion, off his midline and I think the names we mentioned are going to sustain that type of pressure.

“It doesn’t always have to translate into sacks. It has to translate into pressure, it has to translate into quarterback hits, it has to translate into hurries, to getting the quarterback to throw the ball when he’s not ready to throw the ball. That’s when I think we can be at our best.”

Macoicia said Sewell and Ackie signed two-year deals. The other four were one-year contracts.

Maciocia also had an agreement in place with American defensive back Ciante Evans but said the player contacted him Tuesday and had a change of heart.

“I think he might’ve had another offer out there and has decided to go elsewhere,” Maciocia said.

Evans did, signing later Tuesday with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Linebacker Henoc Muamba, the CFL’s top Canadian in 2019 with Montreal, hit the open market Tuesday. Maciocia didn’t sound optimistic that Muamba would return for a third season with the Alouettes.

“I think the door is closed but not necessarily shut,” he said. “Obviously he’s talking to some other teams (and) I don’t know if anything is going to come to fruition.

In the six-foot-four, 288-pound Sewell, Montreal gets a six-time CFL all-star who has registered 282 tackles and 60 sacks in 139 career games with Edmonton.

Also Tuesday, Calgary signed quarterback Canadian quarterback Michael O’Connor, an Ottawa native who dressed for nine games as a rookie with Toronto in 2019.

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