The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have re-signed defensive tackle Bryant Turner and are in the final stages of negotiations on a new deal with slotback Clarence Denmark.
But the biggest news to come out of a teleconference call this afternoon between Bombers GM Joe Mack and the local media was that linebacker Marcellus Bowman had what was described as "major knee surgery" just last Thursday and now faces "months and months" of recovery and rehabilitation.
Bowman is due to become a free agent on Friday and it was widely thought he would attract significant interest across the CFL if the Bombers were unable to lock him down before Friday.
But with Bowman’s future now so uncertain, it’s likely what sounds like a courtesy contract offer Mack has extended to Bowman will in all likelihood be Bowman’s only offer.
"I’ve had a conversation with his agent and in deference to the fact that Marcellus has been such a good player and such a good person, I am willing to do something from a contract standpoint to keep him on the team... The tough thing for all of us is the procedure he had, it could be a fairly lengthy rehab process. And I’m talking months and months.
"So the fact I reached out to Marcellus, to be quite frank, is really in deference to what he’s done for us in the past and just to make him feel part of the team. Because right now, it’d probably be problematic that he’d even be ready by training camp."
Mack said it’s not entirely clear when Bowman suffered the knee injury and he declined to discuss the specific nature of the injury, citing privacy concerns for Bowman.
Mack said he was hopeful linebacker Terrell Parker, who was on the Bombers roster last season and saw limited action, could step up and assume Bowman’s role at weak-side linebacker. "But aside from that, we’ll likely be aggressive and try and find some free agents, probably in the States, to come up and compete," said Mack.
In other news, Mack said both non-import defensive lineman Fernand Kashama and import cornerback Deon Beasley remain unsigned and will be exploring free agent waters as of tomorrow.
The only other potential Bombers free agent is Jason Vega, who it was reported weeks ago has signed a deal with the NFL’s New England Patriots.
With Vega gone and Kashama potentially gone, Mack was asked about the state of his defensive line. "Obviously it hurts losing Jason and we’ll see what happens with Kashama, but we still have Alex Hall, Bryant Turner, Andre Carroll, JT Gilmore, Kenny Mainor, Youri Yenga -- so I think we’re still in pretty good (shape). But you’re always looking to upgrade that."
Mack said he doesn’t see a lot of defensive line help becoming available in CFL free agency starting tomorrow and he will most likely be looking south for some further help.
Former Bomber -- and current Saskatchewan Roughrider -- Odell Willis would appear to top the list of available defensive linemen likely to become available tomorrow, but Willis wore out of his welcome with the Bombers front office long ago.
Mack told reporters that he had targetted five potential CFL free agents this winter, but all five have since already signed contracts. Mack refused to name names, but one of those potential free agents was obviously quarterback Mike Reilly, who signed with Edmonton last month after being traded by B.C.
Mack sounded lukewarm to the prospects that do remain in the CFL free agency that begins Friday, none of whom include proven quarterbacks -- the Bombers most dire need.
"I don’t see anyone who would be on the same plateau as those other five players (Winnipeg targetted)," said Mack. "I think there were five players who we thought could contribute right away. I don’t think from what we see right now sitting here today that there’s anybody we feel definitively (who becomes available tomorrow) would upgrade us."