The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have aquired pending free agent QB Drew Willy from the Saskatchewan Roughriders and signed him to a contract extension.
The Bombers announced Thursday afternoon that they traded WR Jade Etienne to the Riders for the rights to negotiate with Willy and then signed him to the extension. Terms of the new deal were not disclosed.
"Drew is a quarterback we have always thought had very high potential in this league. He immediately upgrades us at this position, and we really look forward to him being a part of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers moving forward," Bombers GM Kyle Walters said in a statement.
"I am really excited to join the Blue Bomber organization. The support the team gets from the province of Manitoba is remarkable. With such a deep history, the fans, the new stadium, and the direction the team wants to go, it’s going to be a great place to play. The people within the organization have shown genuine interest in me, and as a player, you can’t ask for anything more," Willy said in a statement.
The club said Walters, Willy and head coach Mike O’Shea will all be made available to the media at a news conference Friday afternoon at Investors Group Field.
Willy (6-3, 215, Buffalo, born November 13, 1986 in Randolph, New Jersey) has spent the past two seasons in Regina as the backup to Saskatchewan Roughriders starter Darian Durant. He has started just two games -- both of them in 2013 -- and has completed just 101 passes in his CFL career.
Prior to joining the CFL, he spent time on NFL practice squads in Indianapolis, Baltimore, San Diego and with the New York Jets.
Willy was scheduled to become a free agent next Tuesday at which time the Bombers could have negotiated with him for free. But the club was determined not to take any chances this time around after losing out on the CFL open market twice in the past week in their quest to find a veteran starting quarterback.
The Bombers tendered offers to both Zach Collaros and Henry Burris in the past week only to come away empty-handed after the players chose to sign instead with Hamilton and Ottawa, respectively.
While Willy was clearly Winnipeg’s third choice in their search for a new QB, club sources have been saying for weeks that he is highly regarded by their new assistant-GM Danny McManus -- something the club reinforced today in including a quote from McManus in their statement announcing they’d acquired Willy.
"Drew has the attitude and determination you look for at the quarterback position. He is physically and mentally tough, and can endure the challenges a quarterback faces, day in, and day out...He is a quarterback with great promise in our league," McManus said in a statement.
As for Etienne, the Riders acquire a receiver the Bombers drafted fourth overall in 2011 but who mostly disappointed in three seasons with the Bombers. Etienne finishes his time in Winnipeg with 20 catches for 276 yards and 2 TDs, almost all of it produced in 2013.