Lawler returning to Bombers

Receiver has agreed in principle to two-year deal with Blue and Gold


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The Kenny Lawler sweepstakes began in earnest this week, with the Edmonton Elks receiver doing his rounds across the league, taking full advantage of the CFL’s “legal tampering” period ahead of free agency.

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The Kenny Lawler sweepstakes began in earnest this week, with the Edmonton Elks receiver doing his rounds across the league, taking full advantage of the CFL’s “legal tampering” period ahead of free agency.

After days of seeing what was out there, Lawler has chosen to return to where it all began. Sources told the Free Press Tuesday that Lawler has agreed in principle to a two-year contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The language is important here, notably the “in principle” part, as Lawler is not officially signed, with no contract registered with the CFL and CFLPA. Lawler, like all pending free agents, can receive multiple deals throughout the week, with the Elks then getting two days ahead of free agency on Feb. 14 to exclusively negotiate with their player.

Lawler would then have to make a decision prior to the market officially opening, either to sign with a team or become a free agent. While it will take days to confirm, sources say it’s “a done deal” and that Lawler is headed to Winnipeg.

Lawler has already turned down interest from other teams and has spoken with Bombers president and CEO Wade Miller. The plan is to fly Lawler into Winnipeg in the near future to formally sign the deal and do a media availability.

It’s a massive piece for a Bombers team that was already being viewed as the leading contender to win the Grey Cup this season. Let’s dig a little deeper into what transpired with Lawler, among other news and notes, in the latest version of CFL Rundown.

1) What remains unclear at this point are the details of the contract, which is expected to carry a hefty price tag. Recent reports say Lawler was asking for a three-year deal totalling upwards of $1 million. That’s a raise on the $305,000 he earned in 2022, which made him the highest paid player outside of quarterbacks. Lawler had a strong season in Edmonton before a collarbone injury derailed his season. The 28-year-old reeled in 58 catches for 894 yards and five touchdowns in just 12 games, all while being thrown to by a handful of quarterbacks.

2) We know the Bombers wanted him, we know Lawler loved his time in Winnipeg. It was just a matter of finding a way to make it work, with efforts from both sides beginning as soon as the tampering period opened. There was no way Winnipeg was able to shell out Lawler’s asking price; they just don’t have it, at least not in 2023 given everyone they’ve managed to re-sign. My guess is the first year will come at a reduced price, with the second year likely around the $300,000 mark. While certainly a high cost, Lawler is considered one of, if not the best receiver in the league.

3) I see this as a brilliant signing, specifically for this reason: the Bombers have an aging core, so there has to be some thought their Grey Cup window might soon be closing. It can be argued Lawler was the missing piece last season, and with him now on board, the Bombers are clearly all-in on their efforts to cement themselves as a dynasty after falling to Toronto in last year’s championship game.

4) With Lawler, Dalton Schoen and Nic Demski, who signed a three-year extension on Sunday, the Bombers have arguably the most dangerous receiving group in the CFL. Could Rasheed Bailey be next to re-sign?

5) The Roughriders made a significant splash this week, signing defensive end Pete Robertson to a one-year deal. Then they inked Anthony Lanier to a one-year, $250,000 contract, making him the league’s highest paid American defensive lineman in the CFL. The duo combined for 17 QB sacks in 2022.

6) Lanier feels like a clear overpay, but the Roughriders had to make some noise heading into free agency and they’ve been open about their desire to improve on the line of scrimmage. They haven’t had much luck bolstering their O-line, however, as they were given the pass from Drew Desjarlais in favour of Ottawa despite offering more money and a similar situation is likely to happen with centre Michael Couture, who appears destined to sign with his hometown Lions after six seasons in Winnipeg.

7) I wrote last week, after losing out on Bo Levi Mitchell to Hamilton, the obvious and smartest choice for the Roughriders for their QB this season is Montreal’s Trevor Harris. Multiple reports say Saskatchewan has offered Harris a multi-year deal to play in Riderville. They’re also reported to have an interest in fellow Alouette, receiver Geno Lewis, and have already reportably agreed to terms with another Montreal pass-catcher, Jake Weineke.

8) If you’re wondering why it’s quickly becoming the Saskatchewan Alouettes, it’s because Montreal remains a tire fire. Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette does a good job breaking down the dysfunction amidst the unstable ownership situation and how it’s affecting GM Danny Maciocia from keeping players or adding free agents. Not a good look for a club that seemed to be building momentum last season. The last word was the Alouettes were in talks with some local investors, so here’s hoping for the best.

9) The Argonauts had a signing spree this week, announcing six big extensions over the weekend. Back in the Double-Blue are a pair of CFL all-stars in receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and linebacker Wynton McManis. Receiver DaVaris Daniels, safety Royce Metchie and kicker Boris Bede are also back for another year. Not a bad haul for the reigning Grey Cup champs.

10) Speaking of the Argos, QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson has informed the team he plans to play football, though it’s unclear exactly where. Bethel-Thompson is checking out options in the U.S. but told Toronto if he does play in the CFL this season, it will only be with the Argos.

11) I’ve been getting a lot of emails asking about the future of Andrew Harris and the truth is I have no idea. Harris will be 36 years old come the new season and after dealing with injuries the last couple years, including a torn pectoral muscle last year that required surgery, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him wrap up his impressive career after beating his former team in the Grey Cup. It also wouldn’t be a shocker if Harris stayed in Toronto as a player or coach or maybe even a player-coach. Harris talked a lot over Grey Cup week about how he got a chance to coach his teammates while rehabbing from injury, to the point it almost sounded like a sales pitch. Guess we’ll wait and see.

12) Other notable signings: QB Matthew Shiltz (HAM); RB Sean Thomas-Erlington (HAM); QB Nick Arbuckle (OTT); DE Malik Carney (HAM); DB Alden Darby (WPG); KR Janarion Grant (WPG); DB Garry Peters (B.C.).

13) Congratulations to CFL official Brian Chrupalo for being part of the Class of 2023 to be inducted into the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame. The NAIAHF was established in 2022, built to recognize the leadership and achievement in individual or team athletics and includes athletes, coaches, builders, officials, trainers, media members and teams.

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.


Updated on Tuesday, February 7, 2023 10:01 PM CST: Fixes typo

Updated on Wednesday, February 8, 2023 9:18 AM CST: Adds links

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