The Winnipeg Blue Bombers went fishing in the CFL free agent pool on Tuesday and, for the first time in recent memory, landed a big one.
Former B.C. Lions wide receiver Nick Moore -- the third leading receiver in the CFL during the 2013 season and one of the most coveted free agents this year -- signed a deal with the Bombers Tuesday TSN reports will pay him over $175,000 a year for at least the next two seasons.
Moore said in a conference call Tuesday he decided to sign with the Bombers after speaking to GM Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O'Shea on Tuesday.
"I liked what they had to say and what they had to offer me. Their plans with this organization -- the future of this team, it looks bright," said Moore.
Moore also liked the idea of reuniting with newly signed Bombers QB Drew Willy -- the two men worked out together for a few months immediately after college and have remained friends in the intervening years.
"I know Drew's a great player. I know he's just waiting for his time," said Moore. "Hopefully, this is his opportunity and he'll take full advantage of it. And I know he will."
Moore had a breakthrough season with the Lions in 2013, catching 73 passes for 1,105 yards and six TDs. His receiving yardage in 2013 trailed only S.J. Green of the Montreal Alouettes and Fred Stamps of the Edmonton Eskimos.
The Ohio native has played three seasons with the Lions, but struggled at times in his first two years. His career numbers are 110 catches for 1,554 yards and nine TDs.
Moore received offers from multiple CFL teams, including one from his former employers, the Lions. After the signing was announced and the Lions publicly wished Moore good luck with his new team, the Lions sent out two tweets from the team account -- one that depicted a particularly bitter weather forecast for northern Manitoba and a second one that was a photograph depicting some containers of mosquito repellent.
The Moore signing came near the end of a day in which the Bombers struck out in their hopes to sign some other key non-import free agents. Montreal offensive tackle Josh Bourke, who the Bombers were very interested in signing, pre-empted what would have been a fierce bidding war for his services by re-signing with the Alouettes just as free agency opened.
Montreal's Shea Emry, who the Bombers were also interested in as a non-import linebacker replacement for Henoc Muamba, who signed last week with the NFL's Indiannapolis Colts. Emry chose to sign with the Toronto Argonauts instead.
And former Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Craig Butler also spurned an offer from the Bombers -- and at least two other teams, including B.C .-- to sign with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
In addition to the Moore signing, the Bombers also signed a pair of free agent non-imports on Tuesday -- wide receiver Rory Kohlert and special teams player Graig Newman.
Kohlert will be familiar to Winnipeg fans -- he played for the Bombers the last two seasons and was widely expected to be a big part of the team's plans to field more Canadian receivers in 2014 until he was claimed by the Ottawa Redblacks in the expansion draft in December.
Kohlert never did sign with Ottawa, however, and simply re-signed with Winnipeg when he became a free agent. Kohlert had 45 catches in 2013 for 493 yards and three TDs and Walters said in a statement even bigger things are expected from him in 2014.
"I'm relieved and excited to be back," Kohlert said in a phone interview. "I think it's a good fit for me in Winnipeg. I think it's a good opportunity for me to play and do well."
The Bombers had still yet to confirm Newman's signing as of Tuesday night -- they were still waiting for some paperwork to be completed to make it official -- but the Newman left little doubt where he expects to play next season, asking Bombers punter Mike Renaud in a tweet Tuesday what it would take for Renaud to part with his jersey No. 9.
Newman comes to the Bombers from the Saskatchewan Roughriders, where he had six defensive tackles, a sack and 12 special teams tackles in 2013. Newman has also played safety.
The Bombers did not make Walters available on Tuesday, but have scheduled a news conference for today.
Meanwhile, just two of the 11 former Bombers players who became free agents on Tuesday had signed with other teams as of Tuesday night -- former Bombers DB Brandon Stewart signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, while former Bombers OL Justin Sorensen went to the Edmonton Eskimos.
Also on Tuesday, Redblacks quarterback Kevin Glenn raised some eyebrows with a tweet from his personal Twitter account that read in part: "I'm trying to get traded they said it will be either Winn Sask or BC they won't trade me to east."
Glenn also tweeted some disparaging comments about the Ottawa organization at about the same time, calling Redblacks management "snakes" and accusing them of lying to him. Glenn later popped back up on Twitter to say his account had been "hacked" and disavowing any knowledge of the earlier tweets.
Glenn was expected to be the starter in Ottawa next season until the Redblacks signed free agent Henry Burris last week.
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