Former NFL coach Mike Sherman, centre, poses for photos with team president Patrick Boivin, left, and general manager Kavis Reed, right, during a news conference in Montreal on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. The Montreal Alouettes have hired Sherman to fill their vacant head-coaching position. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Montreal Alouettes open to dealing first overall pick in CFL draft

Kavis Reed is open for business.

The Montreal Alouettes general manager has the first pick overall in the 2018 CFL draft, but said Monday he’s open to trading it.

“We’ve had some inquiries about the pick,” Reed said during a conference call. “If an offer comes our way that will allow us to improve our roster in the short- and long-term we’d entertain it.”

Reed said the Alouettes have narrowed down their potential choices for the first overall selection Thursday night to five prospects. Included in that group are Trey Rutherford, a six-foot-five, 312-pound offensive lineman at UConn, and Mark Chapman, a six-foot, 180-pound receiver at Central Michigan.

Rutherford, of Markham, Ont., appeared in 44 games at UConn — including 10 as a true freshman in 2014 — and saw action at fullback as well as both guard and tackle spots but considers guard his natural position. Chapman, a dual Canadian-American citizen, had 59 catches for 875 yards and five TDs last season at Central Michigan.

Neither Rutherford nor Chapman signed NFL contracts last weekend after being bypassed in the draft. So if they’re selected by a CFL team, either player can sign immediately and not miss any time with their new clubs.

“Both those individuals had stellar collegiate careers and we’ve watched them very closely like most of the prospects,” Reed said. “They’ve awarded themselves the opportunity to be in the conversation.

“Them and three others have been highly vetted, we’ve spoken to the agents and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Montreal also recently worked out Ryan Hunter of North Bay, Ont., but the Bowling Green offensive lineman signed a free-agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday.

The Als secured the No. 1 selection after posting a league-worst 3-15 record last season. While he’s open to dealing the first overall pick, Reed said moving it or trading down will have to make sense for the Alouettes.

“One of the things we’ve been very diligent about doing is being certain we understand exactly where we’re willing to move to if we were to move the pick,” he said. “When it comes to that pick … we want that person to be a contributor at some point this season so we’re not just going to move back for the sake of moving back.”

Reed admits Montreal has holes to fill.

“We always want to address the offensive line, we always want to take a look at depth we have in the receiving corps,” he said. “Our linebacking corps will be a priority as well as we look to get better in our special-teams corps.”

Montreal struggled at quarterback last year as veteran Darian Durant had more interceptions (16) than TDs (15). Durant is now with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, leaving journeyman Drew Willy — entering his seventh CFL season — as the Alouettes’ most experienced quarterback.

This off-season Montreal signed Josh Freeman, a 2009 NFL first-round selection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Alouettes’ muddled quarterback situation is hardly ideal for new head coach Mike Sherman, who had Hall of Famer Brett Favre under centre when he was the Green Bay Packers’ head coach (2000-2006).

Sherman liked what he saw from Montreal’s quarterbacks during the club’s mini-camp in Florida earlier this month, but has definitely tempered his enthusiasm.

“What I saw at mini-camp was we have quality players at that position,” he said. “But at the same time with shorts on, without a pass rush, without all the other nuances that come with the game of football it’s hard to evaluate until the lights are on and it’s real.

“Would we prefer to have a returning starter who’s a star player that we expect to play every game? Absolutely. But I do think from watching them down in Florida at the mini-camp, we’re going to have a very competitive camp. I think we’re going to have to make a decision fairly early in order to get that player who’s going to be our starter the reps he needs to get ready for the season.”

Sherman said the onus will be on Montreal’s coaches to adequately prepare all players, including the starter.

“It’s on us to develop these quarterbacks,” Sherman said. “But it’s not just about the quarterback.

“It’s about did we fix our defence? Did we help our special teams? We lost games a lot of ways last year. I’m hopeful and confident we’ve plugged some holes, particularly on the defensive (and) special teams side. Offensively, the offence has to do a great job as well.”

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