December 13, 2018

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Blue Bomber Report (10–8–0)

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Bombers have long list of free agents to deal with this off season

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods</p><p>Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Jovan Santos-Knox is one of many free agents that the Bombers will have to re-sign or replace this off-season.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Jovan Santos-Knox is one of many free agents that the Bombers will have to re-sign or replace this off-season.

Jovan Santos-Knox rose to the upper echelon of CFL defenders in his second season, but a fractured bone in his left foot knocked him out of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ two playoff games.

His next move will be very interesting. As a pending free agent, he could generate interest from a number of CFL teams.

“I love it here,” said the 23-year-old weakside linebacker from Waterbury, Conn., who registered 82 tackles — the league’s eighth-best total in 2018. “Winnipeg gave me my first opportunity to play professional football, so I want to try to do everything in my power to stay here. I don’t really know the process... I’m going to take it step by step and see how this thing goes.”

But first things first. He must rehab an injured foot that was strapped into a walking boot as his teammates vacated their lockers Monday morning. Santos-Knox said he put off possible surgery in order to be available for Sunday’s Grey Cup game.

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Jovan Santos-Knox rose to the upper echelon of CFL defenders in his second season, but a fractured bone in his left foot knocked him out of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ two playoff games.

His next move will be very interesting. As a pending free agent, he could generate interest from a number of CFL teams.

"I love it here," said the 23-year-old weakside linebacker from Waterbury, Conn., who registered 82 tackles — the league’s eighth-best total in 2018. "Winnipeg gave me my first opportunity to play professional football, so I want to try to do everything in my power to stay here. I don’t really know the process... I’m going to take it step by step and see how this thing goes."

But first things first. He must rehab an injured foot that was strapped into a walking boot as his teammates vacated their lockers Monday morning. Santos-Knox said he put off possible surgery in order to be available for Sunday’s Grey Cup game.

"It was tough," said Santos-Knox, who suffered the injury during Winnipeg’s regular-season finale in Edmonton. "I would’ve killed to have been out there. It hurt every day, knowing I couldn’t be out there with my brothers."

The key question for Winnipeg’s defence involves middle linebacker Adam Bighill, who had an all-star season in which he is the West’s nominee for most outstanding defensive player. The 30-year-old could become a free agent in February and was cagey about his future.

"It’s going to start with my family," Bighill said. "It’s always going to be what’s best for my family. From there, you just kinda weigh the other factors, but most important is family."

His family has an off-season home in the Vancouver area and he may have options to return to the NFL. Bighill joined the Blue Bombers midway through training camp after being released by the New Orleans Saints for a bargain rate of US$175,000.

It is "too early to tell," he said of any potential NFL destinations.

Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea wasn’t prepared to engage in any speculation about free agency. The Blue Bombers will have at least 20 players who could be in the market for a new place to play, but it won’t be an uncommon scenario in the league that remains without a new collective agreement in place.

"I’m not worried about free agency right now," O’Shea said. "I don’t know if the players are or not. I think they understand pro football and every season, teams are going to change somewhat. But I don’t think guys are walking around in the room right now thinking about free agency. I think they’re thinking about relationships with their teammates."

One major area of concern could be on the offensive line, where starters Stanley Bryant, Matthias Goossen and Sukh Chungh are pending free agents.

"I’m not thinking about anything like that now," said Goossen, a division all-star for the first time in 2018. "I love this team and I’m still trying to process (the loss in the West final). It’s one of those days you weren’t expecting, right? Obviously, every season comes to an end but... it’s one of those things, right, where there’s so many moving parts."

"I love Winnipeg and Winnipeg has been great to me. It’s my fifth year and I’ve lived here full time almost four of those seasons. It’s been great."

In Winnipeg’s defensive secondary, starters Taylor Loffler, Brandon Alexander and Kevin Fogg are in need of new contracts while defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Tristan Okpalaugo and defensive tackles Drake Nevis and Jake Thomas are among those poised for free agency.

"Hopefully, I get the opportunity to come back," Okpaulaugo said. "Because we’ve got some unfinished business. I really love this organization and love the feeling we have on our defence."

Nevis and Thomas also indicated they wanted to be back in 2019.

"Yeah, I want to be back here," Thomas said. "It’s what took so long last year. I was weighing my options and I couldn’t think of going anywhere else than here. I think we have a good group of guys. Hopefully, a lot of guys come back and we take our shot at the title."

Kicker Justin Medlock, the club’s most outstanding special teams player for the past three seasons, also seems likely to return after pondering retirement following the 2017 season.

"I’m ready to come back," said Medlock, 35. "I’m sure I’ll have a talk with the GM and Osh and see how things play out."

Slotback Weston Dressler, 33, and linebacker Maurice Leggett, 32, are in the twilight of their careers but continue to be valuable contributers.

"I’ll always want to play football," Dressler said. "That’s not the question... Most of the time, it’s not up to the player to make those decisions. I want to play and hopefully there’s enough people that want me to be part of a team."

"I’m sure everyone knows I want to be back," said Leggett, who suited up for nine games during an injury-plagued season. "I love this city as well as the team and we’ll see what happens."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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History

Updated on Monday, November 19, 2018 at 11:16 PM CST: updates headline

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