Blue Bombers GM says, ‘We’re pretty much done spending’


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A busy off-season spent retaining much of its talent from last season made for a quiet day for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as CFL free agency officially opened on Tuesday.

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A busy off-season spent retaining much of its talent from last season made for a quiet day for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as CFL free agency officially opened on Tuesday.

The Bombers started with somewhat of a splash, confirming last week’s news that receiver Kenny Lawler is back in Winnipeg on a two-year deal. Lawler was the team’s top target during the league’s weeklong “legal tampering” period, resulting in a contract that will pay the 28-year-old around $260,000 this season and $300,000 in 2024.

Shelling out that kind of money didn’t leave a lot left over to see what else might be out there.


Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters says there’s still room to add depth to the team’s roster.

“We’re pretty much done spending,” Bombers general manager Kyle Walters early Tuesday afternoon. “My talks with agents is, ‘Keep me posted.’ We’re always looking to add some depth and maybe some young guys that haven’t had a good shot somewhere else and are looking for a change of scenery. At a minimum range price-point, maybe we can add some depth. As far as spending, there’s not much. We’re done.”

Much of the heavy lifting took place over the past few months, as Walters re-signed close to 20 pending free agents, several of whom are key contributors.

Among those returning is quarterback Zach Collaros, who has won the league’s most outstanding player the last two years, as well as starters in offensive linemen Stanley Bryant, Jermarcus Hardrick and Patrick Neufeld; receivers Nic Demski and Janarion Grant; defensive linemen Willie Jefferson, Jackson Jeffcoat and Jake Thomas; linebackers Adam Bighill and Kyrie Wilson; and defensive backs Alden Darby Jr., Winston Rose and Desmond Lawrence, among others.

“We’re still in that winning window. We’ve been to three Grey Cups, had a good run last year, came close to winning three in a row,” Walters said. “Bringing that core back was essential, so I’m looking at it like we’re still in that winning mode right now, which is the point of bringing most of the guys back and saying, ‘Let’s go for another run with this core.’ Salary cap will go up a little bit the following year and at some point, with an aging team, some guys might move on, some guys might retire and free up some cap space in those areas.”

While the Bombers were able to retain several pieces from last season, there were a few casualties.

With Lawler signing such a lucrative contract, the Bombers had to say good bye to receivers Greg Ellingson and Rasheed Bailey. Ellingson signed a one-year deal with the Montreal Alouettes, while Bailey remains a free agent in search of his next contract.

Centre Michael Couture, who had been with the Bombers his entire six-year CFL career, signed for one year with his hometown B.C. Lions. Couture warranted a higher asking price than that of Chris Kolankowski and Tui Eli, both of whom will battle for the centre position in training camp come spring.

The defensive line also took a hit, as Casey Sayles was courted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who inked him to a two-year contract that will pay him $200,000 annually. Walters hoped to retain the American DL, but the money he had put aside wasn’t in the same range Hamilton was offering.

“With Casey, we thought we were in the ball park but it turns out he got a much bigger offer. But Ricky Walker’s in the building,” Walters said. “We plan for these. ‘If certain guys are going to leave, are we covered?’ We try to cover our bases and those are two examples. Michael Couture’s price point was going to be higher than the other guys but we’re OK with the guys in the building. It’s the same with Casey. Ricky can play at a pretty good level and is going to get an opportunity to play more now.”

Despite defensive backs Nick Taylor and Mercy Maston also be moving on, Walters believes the secondary is in good shape with the emergence of players such as Demerio Houston, Jamal Parker and Evan Holm. The search for a short-yardage quarterback is also underway, as Dakota Prukop informed the team that he’ll be playing in the USFL this year.

Walters added the scouting staff will be responsible for bringing in competition for all areas of the roster, including at kicker. Only Marc Liegghio remains under contract as far as kickers go, but the Bombers GM said he won’t be alone come training camp.

“That will be a priority for us,” Walters said. “We’ll regroup after this week and start saying ‘How do we fill out our training camp roster, where are the battles.’ There are a lot of contracts still to be offered for training camp and the kicking situation certainly is one area where we expect to have a bigger competition in rookie camp. Maybe a global, an American, another Canadian. We have a wide range of options to go out there and compete to see who is going to be our kicker and punter.”

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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