Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

So, Kyle, WHAT'S PLAN C?

Burris opts for Redblacks as Blue GM Walters comes up empty again

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Nothing, it seems, will come easy to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who used 2013 to reach a state of rock bottom.

A pair of desirable quarterbacks on the open market in the last week -- first Zach Collaros and then veteran Henry Burris -- have chosen other teams instead of accepting offers from the Blue and Gold and the franchise's position of greatest weakness continues to be just that.

Burris opted for the expansion Ottawa Redblacks on Tuesday. When the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who signed Collaros, released Burris last week, he quickly received a reported offer of two years and nearly $750,000 from the Bombers.

Burris took three years from Ottawa, and some reports put the first year as high as $465,000.

So while the Bombers never heard back from the Burris camp, that's not a number they would or could have considered for a quarterback who, accomplished though he is, will be 39 by the start of the 2014 campaign.

Kyle Walters, Winnipeg's rookie GM, has no illusions things would just start humming along under a new regime.

"I don't know, certainly it's not a secret that Winnipeg in the last few years hasn't had the greatest reputation as a destination due to the way the team was run, due to the record, all that sort of stuff," Walters said Tuesday from Ottawa, where he's attending league meetings. "Does that make things more challenging? Yes it does. Are Mike (O'Shea, Winnipeg's new head coach) and I aware of that? Yes we are.

"And we're prepared for that. How do you fix that? You be open, you be honest with players. You continue to do the right things and you start winning football games and it's going to change.

"But it doesn't change overnight. If you want to talk about a frustration thing, you try to fix things immediately and it just doesn't work like that."

Does the double snub of the last week sting?

"No, not at all," Walters said. "You can't take anything personally. In our opinion, we put a fair offer out there and we're not prepared to or going to mortgage our future over any one player. We need to do what's right short-term and long-term for our organization and that's what we're going to do.

"We'll be build through scouting. We'll build through the Canadian draft. And that's our long-term goal, to be successful here."

Walters said that the organization's staff has been meeting regularly to consider options and contingencies. The goal, he said, was preparedness and at no time was the team "all-in" on any quarterback.

So, where to turn, now that Burris has left the picture?

Rumours abound that the Redblacks would take a high draft pick from the Bombers for Kevin Glenn, who was Ottawa's first pick of the expansion draft.

No doubt they would. But would the Bombers offer? Unknown, but it's sounding unlikely.

Would the Bombers simply wait for Glenn to be cut free as the latest domino falling? Maybe, but Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins said Tuesday the team will take its three pivots to camp (including expansion-draft selection Thomas DeMarco).

And then there's pending free agent Drew Willy of Saskatchewan.

The market opens next Tuesday -- the CFL and its players agreed Tuesday to move up the free agency date from next Saturday -- and more is likely to be known then.

"That's one route," Walters said. "And I have a good relationship with all the GMs on other teams and have sort of reached out and put feelers out and started talking about that route as well, trade possibilities.

"And as important as that, maybe not immediately but down the road, our scouting department... making sure we are doing a better job of getting young quarterbacks on our neg list and making sure we're working these guys out, which we are doing. And again, that's something that hasn't been done in the sense that we don't have any young quarterbacks in the hopper coming up. And we've got to start."

While all this is turning into a daytime drama, Walters and company have other areas on which they are focused.

That's also hard to do if you don't know how much you're shelling out for your highest-paid player, a quarterback.

Winnipeg has more than a few spots that could use an upgrade, not to mention trying to keep some of its own free agents in the stable, such as linebacker Henoc Muamba, who recently worked out for the NFL's Ravens, the Baltimore Sun has reported.

"We've got our eyes on all kinds of free agents," Walters said. "As I've been saying all along, the quarterback position and your Canadian talent is the key to success in the CFL.

"We're aware of what needs to be done and we've got Plans A, B, C and we're trying to be prepared for every possible scenario (including) dealing with some of the frustrations that you mentioned. We'll overcome them."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 5, 2014 D3

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