February 23, 2018

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Record: 12–6–0

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Blue Bomber Report (12–6–0)

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Opinion

Bombers likely eyeing big fish

Ticats' Dean, Argos' Woods could be good options after already-successful off-season

John Woods / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES</p><p>The Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ Larry Dean, seen leaping over Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Dominique Davis during a game in October, could push the Blue and Gold to the next level.</p>

John Woods / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ Larry Dean, seen leaping over Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Dominique Davis during a game in October, could push the Blue and Gold to the next level.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are due for a change in how they fish for new players.

Whereas in previous off-seasons, the Bombers have had to bottom trawl — or drag a large net across an entire ecosystem of CFL free agents to revamp their roster — expect them to address this year’s open season with a single, split, bamboo fly rod, and go after only one or two of the more impactful fish.

With the market hours set to open at lunchtime today, as usual, there will be plenty of river monsters for the taking. Players such as Ted Laurent, DaVaris Daniels, Jerome Messam and Tommie Campbell should be in that body of water, as well as current Bomber players such as Jamaal Westerman and T.J. Heath.

The danger of this fishing season is always paying above-market price for your catch, as the difference-makers in this body of water can be bid on by multiple teams, and in the long term, these inflated prices can end up limiting the amount of improvements a franchise can make in other areas.

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The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are due for a change in how they fish for new players.

Whereas in previous off-seasons, the Bombers have had to bottom trawl — or drag a large net across an entire ecosystem of CFL free agents to revamp their roster — expect them to address this year’s open season with a single, split, bamboo fly rod, and go after only one or two of the more impactful fish.

With the market hours set to open at lunchtime today, as usual, there will be plenty of river monsters for the taking. Players such as Ted Laurent, DaVaris Daniels, Jerome Messam and Tommie Campbell should be in that body of water, as well as current Bomber players such as Jamaal Westerman and T.J. Heath.

The danger of this fishing season is always paying above-market price for your catch, as the difference-makers in this body of water can be bid on by multiple teams, and in the long term, these inflated prices can end up limiting the amount of improvements a franchise can make in other areas.

With a highly successful off-season already in the books, with extensions to players such as Stanley Bryant, Weston Dressler, Maurice Leggett, Justin Medlock and Chris Randle, and new acquisitions Adarius Bowman and Darian Durant entering the fray, it is the opinion hereabouts that the home team should singularly chum the water for either a Larry Dean from Hamilton or a Bear Woods from Toronto.

They are both experienced, import middle linebackers, they both had at least 90 tackles in 2017, they are both in their early 30s, and they both could be the final, elusive element that pushes a Blue and Gold roster into the next realm of competitiveness.

If they sign either one of those players, and don’t mooch for another single bite, you could still consider the 2018 retooling an epic success.

It’s not only what you do in free agency that affects the future of your roster, but what you don’t end up doing.

For every signing of an older, proven, American talent such as Bowman, you essentially negate signing three other unknown international players at entry-level prices to two-year deals. The consistent winners in this league draft and develop their own expensive Canadian pieces, and constantly unearth younger and cheaper talent for their imported parts, so they can pay for their franchise players.

Every time a team pays top dollar for an established American veteran, not only are they revealing weakness in an ability to unearth and develop their own imports, but they also end up limiting what they can pay for their "fixed cost" roster elements such as home-grown offensive linemen and star quarterbacks.

So why endorse the acquisition and price tag of an experienced, import middle linebacker when a team could pay less and get a longer-term finding and develop one themselves?

Because when you’re a team knocking on the door of post-season success such as the Bombers are, you don’t necessarily have the ramp-up time to groom a player unfamiliar with the nuances and pace of the Canadian game.

Middle linebackers are usually the foremen of the defences they play on, and are not only responsible for getting everyone lined up right, but for setting the physical tone on the gridiron.

So if there is ever one "American" position — outside of quarterback — where experience, acumen and proven talent supersedes the more cost-effective approach, it can be the position at the heart of your defensive dozen.

While it may appear, thus far in the 2018 off-season, that this team has approached the marketplace with an "if you can’t stop them, outscore them" mantra, the defence should benefit from the return of its key pieces, a new defensive line coach, and another year of maturation from its pass rush.

It’s clear that this leadership mantle believes that once its pass rush is consistent and exceptional, the coverage in the back end will follow, so if they can land a proven middle fixture to set both the tone and the table, there should be much to look forward to.

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

Twitter: @DougBrown97

 

Read more by Doug Brown .

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