Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Free-agent feeding frenzy

Bombers have a lot of space to fill and plenty of money to spend

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Strap yourselves in, CFL fans -- this is going to be a wild day for three-down football.

The final day for re-signing players in the CFL came and went Monday without much in the way of last-minute signings, meaning it is going to be an all-out feeding frenzy today when CFL free agency opens promptly at 11 a.m. CT.

While there could still be some last-minute signings this morning -- nothing quite focuses the mind of a general manager like a clock ticking down the final minutes to free agency -- it now seems clear there is going to be a stunning number of CFL all-stars, veteran starters and coveted non-imports on the market when the clock strikes the designated hour today.

So, what's on the buffet table today for Bombers GM Kyle Walters, who has the onerous task of lots of roster holes to fill but also the luxury of lots of money to spend?

Well, if Walters wants a non-import star linebacker to replace the non-import star linebacker he lost in Henoc Muamba -- who signed in the NFL last week -- Walters could do no better today than Montreal's Shea Emry, a 2012 East division nominee as top defensive player and top Canadian? And Emry is going to be listening -- reports Monday out of Montreal suggested the linebacker is determined to test his market worth today.

Strike out on Emry? Saskatchewan LB Craig Butler -- another non-import and the leading tackler for the Riders in their Grey Cup season in 2013 -- would be a nice consolation prize.

Don't get Butler either? Well, then how about Argos LB Robert McCune, who had 99 defensive tackles last year and who Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea knows well from his time in Toronto.

Or maybe Walters' priority today is to add a little more protection for the new QB he signed last week, Drew Willy? Well come on down Montreal's Josh Bourke, a ratio-breaking non-import tackle and former CFL outstanding lineman. There was talk in Montreal Monday that Bourke and Als management were getting closer to an extension, but talk is cheap and there was still no confirmation of a deal yet by Monday night.

And if Walters is signing a new stud lineman to stand in front of Willy today, he might as well give him the second most prolific tailback in the CFL last season to stand behind him -- Saskatchewan's Kory Sheets, who is also a pending free agent. Sheets has said he'd like to go back to Saskatchewan if he cannot find a gig in the NFL this winter, but Sheets also wouldn't be the first player to have his mind changed by better money elsewhere.

A top pass rusher? Calgary's Cordarro Law and B.C.'s Keron Williams were still unsigned Monday night, although there was late word that the Lions had tendered an offer to Williams. Also still unsigned Monday night was former Bomber Alex Hall, who the Bombers shipped to Saskatchewan late last season in exchange for non-import offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld. The Bombers still have Neufeld -- wouldn't it be a kick if they got Hall back too if Hall's quest to play in the NFL doesn't work out?

And then there are all the receivers out there -- which is good, given that as of Monday night the Bombers had still not re-signed WR Chris Matthews, the league's top rookie in 2012. For starters, former Bombers receiver Rory Kohlert -- who was plucked off the Bombers' roster in the expansion draft by the Ottawa Redblacks -- has still not signed in Ottawa and it's widely expected the Bombers will make a bid this morning to get him -- and his non-import status -- back in Blue and Gold pronto.

Add to Kohlert such standout pass catchers expected to also hit free agency today as BC's Nick Moore and Edmonton's Cary Koch and you've got a lot of receiver talent expected to be on the market.

Or maybe it's a new cornerback Winnipeg wants most today? Well then, Toronto's Patrick Watkins -- all 6-5 of him -- is expected to be waiting by the phone today.

Or, finally, maybe it's a new kicker Walters wants today? Well then, Toronto's Swayze Waters -- who has a close relationship with Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea, who used to be Toronto's special teams coach -- was still unsigned as of Monday night.

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2014 0

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