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Walters can’t flinch in this game of chicken

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris fires a pass against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the 2013 Grey Cup in Regina.

RYAN REMIORZ / CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris fires a pass against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the 2013 Grey Cup in Regina.

Walters can’t flinch in this game of chicken

 

Hank would be a good fit, but Bombers can afford to walk away

 

 

HENRY Burris is right to try and sweat a rookie GM as he contemplates signing what could be his last contract. That doesn’t mean Kyle Walters needs to fold and give the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer everything he wants.

No doubt, Walters wants to deliver Blue Bombers fans a splashy free agent signing and nothing moves water out of the CFL pool like a legitimate starting quarterback, but the GM needs to exercise patience and discipline.

Sure, turning the Bombers’ moribund offence into a ball-moving, touchdown-scoring machine would make summer better for everyone here, but they need more than a QB and he can’t park all his salary cap money in the Hank’s bank account.

The deal the Bombers have offered Burris — the CFL’s passing leader the past two seasons — is solid. Well over $300,000 per season with a two-year term. No other team in the CFL is in a position to make such an offer and as much as the Burris camp wants to rumble about multiple offers, Winnipeg’s is the best out there. Walters doesn’t need to negotiate against himself.

Burris’s representatives have not contacted the Bombers since last Friday and agent Chris Gittings had this to say to Free Press reporter Paul Wiecek on Saturday.

"There’s more than one team involved — there’s multiple teams," Gittings said, before later adding, "We’re not going to put an artificial deadline on this. There’s no reason to do that from our perspective."

Maybe not from their perspective but Walters is in a different position and with the CFL bumping free agency up to Feb. 11, just a week away, the Bombers need to know what money they’ll have to spend and what positions they need to target. Walters needs an answer from Burris and he should demand it soon. End of the week and the deal expires should be Walters’ message to Burris and Co.

The Bombers know how much money they can afford to spend on the quarterback position and still have money left over to improve the rest of the roster. This team was 3-15 last season and it sucks in a lot of places. Expensive places, such as the offensive line.

One would think Burris would want to get a fair deal done and leave Walters time and money to improve the rest of the roster. Burris, of course, has to be loyal to his family first and foremost and get the best deal possible. There aren’t many paydays left for Hank and he needs to make sure he’s Smiling every two weeks when the cash clears. But there’s a limit to what Walters can and should pay.

Walters can’t be held hostage by Burris or the sins of Joe Mack. He needs to follow his plan and his schedule. If Burris doesn’t fit into it, so be it. There are other ways to rebuild.

Bombers CEO Wade Miller gave Walters the funds to go and build a legitimate front office which now includes Hall of Fame quarterback turned scout Danny McManus. If it’s the development route the Bombers have to go, they’ll be fine.

Winnipeg hasn’t been able to find its own quarterback for over a decade in large part because they haven’t devoted the resources needed to achieve success in this area. That has changed and Walters has to have the conviction and discipline to know and live this new reality.

Signing Burris is clearly the best alternative for the Bombers. Walters isn’t playing a negotiating game. He wants Burris and he wants him bad. Close to $700,000 is tangible evidence. But if the deal isn’t there he can’t chase it.

One mistake won’t fix the hundreds made before it. It’s time for this franchise to start acting like one with a plan. Walters has one and he wants to execute it. Miller is set to support him.

This week will be a big one for the Bombers. Either way. They’ll either get Burris and be immediately better for it. Or they won’t and we’ll know the team is in good hands. Hands strong enough to say no to a bad deal and believe that they will secure the future through scouting, discipline and execution. One great player is great. But every player has an expiry date.

A competent front office is the present and the future secured. That’s what Bombers fans should really want.

 

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 3, 2014 C3

History

Updated on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 7:13 AM CST: updates with full writethru

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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