Alouettes' leading receiver Austin Mack signs with NFL's Atlanta Falcons

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The defending Grey Cup-champion Alouettes have suffered their first significant player loss with the signing on Monday of receiver Austin Mack by the Atlanta Falcons.

Mack, 26, worked out last week with the NFL team and made the announcement of his contract signing on X (formerly Twitter), posting a series of photos. The Falcons’ logo is in the background on a wall. It’s believed Mack received a signing bonus of close to US$100,000.

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Mack, who came to the CFL last season, was Montreal’s leading receiver. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound native of Fort Wayne, Ind., caught 78 passes for 1,154 yards while scoring four touchdowns. He was the Als’ nominee for the most outstanding player award, was named a league all-star and was an integral part of Montreal’s 28-24 championship victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Mack was the game’s leading receiver, catching six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Als general manager Danny Maciocia said he wasn’t surprised by the news of Mack’s signing.

“He’s in that age category where the NFL will take a look,” Maciocia told the Montreal Gazette from Houston, where went for Monday’s night’s NCAA college football championship game between Michigan and Washington. “He gambled on himself. This opportunity came up. Clearly Atlanta wants him. I think they made him a fair offer with some incentives and he couldn’t turn it down.”

Mack’s joining a team that appears to be in some disarray.

Atlanta fired head coach Arthur Smith hours after its season-ending 48-17 loss at New Orleans on Sunday. The Falcons (7-10) had an outside chance of winning the NFC South with a victory but were outscored 31-0 in the second half. It marked Atlanta’s third consecutive season without a playoff appearance or winning record. The Falcons are thin at wide receiver behind Drake London.

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Mack was an undrafted free agent with the New York Giants in 2020, catching seven passes for 91 yards. He also had brief stints with Tennessee and San Francisco. He played collegiately at Ohio State.

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While Mack’s departure will be felt on the field, the Als still have a core of returning receivers, including Canadian Tyson Philpot, who scored the Cup-winning touchdown, Cole Spieker and Tyler Snead.

“As far as we’re concerned we’ve been in this predicament before,” Maciocia said. “We’ll huddle up internally and see what our options are out there. We’re all looking for the next Austin Mack as we speak.”

Despite not having an owner last February at the start of CFL free agency, and after losing receivers Eugene Lewis, Jake Wieneke and starting quarterback Trevor Harris, the Als (11-7) finished second in the East Division. Montreal had a 6-7 record in mid September, but capped its season with an eight-game winning streak, including the playoffs.

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