Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue taking hard look at Bauman

Would love to land Canadian receiver, but must weigh cost

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The simple and easy solution -- the New York Yankee solution -- would be for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to open up their chequebook and have Chris Bauman fill in the dollar amount.

And then the Canadian-talent starved club would just sit back and watch as the free-agent receiver -- and pride of Brandon -- made a triumphant return to his home province.

But it's never that simple in CFL free agency.


Earlier this week three Canadian players were dumped into the market in advance of the Feb. 15 expiration of their contracts -- Bauman and veteran offensive tackle Alex Gauthier, both released by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg-born cornerback Donovan Alexander, now ex of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Bombers, as the team with the worst record last season, have first dibs in the waiver process and have until 3 p.m. Monday to put in a claim. Bauman, in particular, has long been rumoured to be at or near the top of the club's wish list.

"Nothing would stop us from claiming him," said assistant GM Ross Hodgkinson. "It's just do we see an advantage in claiming him with the notion that we're going to get a deal done?

"All we could do is delay process by a week (before bidding would be officially open to all teams) and I don't see any real point in that right now.

"Would we like to increase our depth at that position? Absolutely. But there are other things we have to factor in and he has to factor in."

At least three other teams -- Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal -- are said to be interested in Bauman and his early release means he possibly can get an early jump on free-agent money before the market officially opens.

"It's been an interesting process, but it's been fun," Bauman told the Brandon Sun.

"I wasn't expecting (to be put on waivers) and (Ticat GM Bob O'Billovich) Obie just called me up and said they were going to do it. They want to move forward, so either way, the sooner it gets done, the better, for both sides.

"(Winnipeg is) close to home and all my friends and family are there... so we'll see what happens."

Bomber management is wrestling with these questions:

-- Is Bauman, the 26-year-old former first overall pick by the Ticats in 2007, on the cusp of greatness or someone who may never match expectations? He flashed his skills when pressed into action near the end of last season, but finished 2010 with only 17 receptions for 298 yards and three TDs while primarily serving as a backup.

-- Is Bauman good value (rumours are the bidding could hit $125,000), knowing the club has Canadian pass catchers Brock Ralph, Cory Watson, Aaron Hargreaves, Scott McHenry, Markus Howell and prospect Josh Bishop already under contract for 2011?

-- Is Gauthier, who played here in '07-08, potentially a better fit, even if he is 34?

He's a Canadian left tackle and therefore a ratio breaker -- Winnipeg used imports Kelly Butler and Andre Douglas at the tackle positions last year -- and hasn't missed a game in five years.

-- Is Alexander, who lost his starting gig with the Riders last year, worth a look? (Word has it he'll rejoin Eric Tillman, who traded for him while in Regina, with the Eskimos).

-- Are the Bombers better served to use their money to instead lock up the current starters like Jonathan Hefney, Obby Khan, Dorian Smith -- all scheduled to become free agents in less than two weeks -- or sweeten the pot to keep Phillip Hunt from signing in the NFL?

"We have to make sound business decisions," said Hodgkinson. "We're at the point where we have to prioritize what money we have to spend and where we think it's best to spend it.

"The other thing is at some point your (free-agent) wish list changes, either because you get outbid for them or you've spend the money you've planned to spend. That's where we're at."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2011 C3

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