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Bombers GM looks to tie up loose ends as free agency looms

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The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have lost an intriguing young prospect to the NFL.

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The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have lost an intriguing young prospect to the NFL.

The Bombers released Canadian defensive back Tyrell Ford, a 24-year-old drafted 13th overall in the 2022 CFL Draft out of the University of Waterloo, to allow him to sign a deal with the Green Bay Packers on Tuesday.

The Niagara Falls, Ont., native worked out for at least seven NFL teams this off-season. He only started one game at cornerback for the Bombers, but Ford’s athleticism cemented him as an NFL prospect. Ford had the best 40-yard time at the 2022 CFL combine (4.42) and was in the Top 10 for vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill, and 20-yard short shuttle.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

Winnipeg Blue Bombers General Manager Kyle Walters expects several signings will be announced within the next week and a half.

His brother, Edmonton Elks quarterback Tre Ford, has also worked out for numerous NFL teams.

“There’s certain organizations, and Green Bay is one of them, they’ll go back and look at all the pro-day numbers and any of the guys that are in that upper percentile, they track them down. He’s young, he’s got huge upside, and there’s zero risk for the Green Bay Packers,” said Bombers general manager Kyle Walters in a phone interview from Kananaskis, Alta., where the CFL’s winter meetings are taking place.

“They’ve just signed a young guy that’s got one year of pro football under his belt that tests like an NFL defensive back.”

Despite releasing him, the Bombers still control Ford’s CFL rights until February of 2025.

Walters and the Bombers are still waiting to hear if they’re going to lose receiver Dalton Schoen to the NFL. Schoen, who led the league in receiving touchdowns and yards en route to being named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie, has worked out for the Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, and most recently, the Cincinnati Bengals.

Prior to coming up north to try his hand at the three-down game, the Kansas State product was under contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, Washington Commanders, and Kansas City Chiefs.

“It’s very different between him and Tyrell. Tyrell was an unknown coming from a Canadian college that put up these ridiculous testing numbers, so they went off of no game film this year for his evaluation,” said Walters.

“But Dalton’s been down there. He played in the Big 12, NFL teams are familiar with him, he’s been in camps, so the process is a little bit different there… I think there will be a lot more discussion involved for the NFL teams in regard to Dalton.”

Regardless of what happens with Schoen, Walters has a busy few weeks ahead of him with 17 pending free agents. CFL free agency opens for business on Feb. 14.

The most notable names without deals are receiver Nic Demski, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick.

Walters expects several signings will be announced within the next week and a half.

“Nic’s actually going to come in on Friday when I’m back and we’ll have a chat. We’ve had some talks and I am cautiously optimistic that’s one we can get knocked off sooner rather than later,” said Walters.

Jeffcoat, 32, is coming off a down year where he had just four sacks and missed six games due to injury.

“When Jackson’s healthy, he’s virtually unstoppable. Now I don’t know that his best years are behind him. I do know that our training staff and weight staff and Jackson are going to sit down and come up with a plan for this off-season,” said Walters. “It’s nothing major, it’s just these little nicks that we’re hoping we can alleviate from Jackson because if he’s playing all game, he’s dominant out there.”

Receivers Greg Ellingson and Rasheed Bailey, centre Michael Couture, return specialist Janarion Grant, defensive back Nick Taylor, and defensive tackle Casey Sayles are some of the other important pieces without contracts.

Perhaps the biggest storyline surrounding the team, one that is coming off of a heartbreaking 24-23 loss in the Grey Cup to the Toronto Argonauts, is whether or not they look to free agency to replace kicker Marc Liegghio. Liegghio is under contract for 2023.

“Like every position, we’ll go over our list. You can’t really talk to anybody right now so you’re waiting and seeing across the board. We’ll see as it gets closer to February what our plan is and whether or not we’re going to upgrade at any spots through free agency. We’ll see.”

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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