October 20, 2019

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Opinion

Bombers betting on balanced budget, team

This may be the first season in some time in the CFL where paying less for your quarterback ends up meaning more.

Days away from the first pre-season game of 2019, it is clear that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers plan to separate themselves from the rest of the West Division by being the most balanced and least QB-centric team.

A good test to determine if your team is top heavy at the pivot position, and therefore full of holes elsewhere on the roster, is to ask yourself who the second-, third- and fourth-highest paid players on the team are, after the quarterback. If you're a half-million dollars away from being able to contemplate this answer — as several teams in the West are, with $700,000 QBs — it’s fair to say your team has gone all in on one position and one player.

If anyone tells you that Winnipeg doesn’t have the most balanced and complete football team in the CFL right now, it’s fair to assume they haven’t been paying close attention. After Matt Nichols at the top of the team’s salary heap, you’ve got layers upon layers of upper-echelon players that are at or near the top of their position, making in the $200,000-plus range.

Stanley Bryant leads an offensive line that should be tough to play against. (Andrew Ryan / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p></p>

Stanley Bryant leads an offensive line that should be tough to play against. (Andrew Ryan / Winnipeg Free Press files)

This may be the first season in some time in the CFL where paying less for your quarterback ends up meaning more.

Days away from the first pre-season game of 2019, it is clear that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers plan to separate themselves from the rest of the West Division by being the most balanced and least QB-centric team.

A good test to determine if your team is top heavy at the pivot position, and therefore full of holes elsewhere on the roster, is to ask yourself who the second-, third- and fourth-highest paid players on the team are, after the quarterback. If you're a half-million dollars away from being able to contemplate this answer — as several teams in the West are, with $700,000 QBs — it’s fair to say your team has gone all in on one position and one player.

If anyone tells you that Winnipeg doesn’t have the most balanced and complete football team in the CFL right now, it’s fair to assume they haven’t been paying close attention. After Matt Nichols at the top of the team’s salary heap, you’ve got layers upon layers of upper-echelon players that are at or near the top of their position, making in the $200,000-plus range.

By not overpaying at quarterback, the Bombers were able to afford receiver Chris Matthews. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

By not overpaying at quarterback, the Bombers were able to afford receiver Chris Matthews. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

You’ve got Stanley Bryant leading an offensive line that has had to tinker with its scopes a bit, but should still be very good. And Andrew Harris in the backfield, at the top of his game, complemented by an up-and-coming Nic Demski. Because Nichols is not making a half-million dollars more than these guys, they were also able to add Chris Matthews, who instantly became No. 1 receiver and has more big-game experience than anybody else in the league.

On defence, while the Bombers will have something to prove in the secondary, by not paying their pivot an astronomical amount of money, they didn’t have to let their heart-and-soul middle linebacker go (see: Solomon Elimimian in B.C.), and they were able to add a game-changing threat off the edge in Willie Jefferson — who could not have been a steal of a deal in an open marketplace.

The kicker is as good as there is right now in the CFL, and this team even has promising depth at quarterback. All of these luxury items were available to Winnipeg because they didn’t mortgage their future by potentially overpaying at the quarterback position during the offseason.

Now, to be fair, historically speaking, it hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing to have a disproportionately paid quarterback in the CFL. If you look at the last five Grey Cup-winning teams, the QBs, respectively, were Bo Levi Mitchell, Ricky Ray, Henry Burris, Mike Reilly, and Mitchell — all future hall of famers. And all of those players were, or are, at the very top end of the salary scale. They call it a quarterback-driven league because as your quarterback goes, so does your team.

For many, if not most, franchises in the CFL, this has been and is the approach to building a winner, and it has been that way for some time now.

Do whatever it takes to land yourself an elite gunslinger, and make do everywhere else. There has to be a limit and a point where chasing these Tier 1 tossers starts to affect the rest of your team negatively, and we will see if that threshold has been crossed in 2019.

Has the increased price-tag of holding down one of these future hall of famers now gotten so high that it will assuredly cripple the rest of a roster? There has got to be a law of diminishing returns in here somewhere and the Blue Bombers are counting on it.

Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

Doug Brown

Doug Brown
Columnist

Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

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