The asking price was too high, there was too much uncertainty and at the end of the day, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers believe B.C. Lions quarterback Mike Reilly was going to end up in Edmonton no matter what they did.
"There was just too much uncertainty," Bombers general manager Joe Mack told the Free Press Thursday afternoon after the Edmonton Eskimos announced they had acquired Reilly -- the most coveted potential CFL free agent this winter -- from the Lions and signed him to a contract extension.
"We had no opportunity to speak to the gentleman and we’d had no feedback at all and nothing to go on," said Mack. "And purely from a practical standpoint, why would you sign (with Edmonton) early unless there’s absolutely where you wanted to be in the first place.
"Because two weeks from now, he would have increased his overall leverage because he would have been a free agent."
Mack said the Lions also approached the Bombers about trading Reilly to Winnipeg prior to the quarterback becoming a free agent on Feb. 15. Mack didn’t say what terms the Lions offered, but he didn’t dispute published reports on Thursday that B.C. was seeking to swap first round draft picks with Winnipeg this year -- B.C. drafts seventh overall while Winnipeg drafts second overall -- and also wanted a third-rounder.
Mack said the Bombers were told they wouldn’t be allowed to speak to Reilly prior to Feb. 15 unless they did that deal and he felt that simply wasn’t a deal he could do.
Mack repeated that he feels the fact Reilly signed with Edmonton today rather than going to free agency and potentially becoming the subject of a bidding war between the Eskimos and Bombers suggests Reilly never really did seriously consider Winnipeg.
"If you think about it from a negotiation standpoint -- why wouldn’t you wait a couple of weeks and see where the market was at, unless you’d already decided that’s where you wanted to be."
The deal the Eskimos cut with B.C. to acquire Reilly so that they could negotiate a contract extension appears to have been less costly to them than the one the Bombers were offered: the Lions said the Eskimos swapped second rounders with them -- they will now draft 11th overall and Edmonton will draft 14th overall -- and Edmonton also sent the Lions their second rounder in 2014.
Mack was asked whether it concerns him that, if he’s correct, Reilly so obviously preferred to play in Edmonton than Winnipeg. "No. He’s from Washington, Edmonton’s a lot closer to the state of Washington than Winnipeg is. There’s a whole bunch of things that go into anyone’s personal decision like that."
The Bombers have four quarterbacks already under contract for 2013 -- Buck Pierce, Alex Brink, Joey Elliott and Justin Goltz.