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This article was published 25/3/2015 (2449 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Drew Willy owned this town last July and August -- hello "Willy-peg" -- but contract talks between the Blue Bombers and his agent aren't exactly pointing toward a deal that will soon see him put pen to paper.
In fact, unless the Willy camp budges off its asking price on a new deal -- they are said to be seeking in the neighbourhood of $400,000 -- there's a very real possibility the quarterback could play out the final year of his contract this season.
So a club that spent eons trying to find some stability at quarterback may now be willing to roll the dice they can re-sign their No. 1 gun after the 2015 Canadian Football League campaign.
"There are a variety of factors at play, as there are with any negotiations," said Bomber GM Kyle Walters this week. "I'll just say conversations are ongoing with Drew's representatives and, out of respect for the process and everyone involved, we will keep the details of those talks in-house."
Willy was 7-10 in his first year as the Bombers starter, finishing with 3,769 yards passing -- third in the CFL and the best by a Winnipeg passer in seven seasons. He threw for 14 touchdowns against 17 interceptions and finished with a QB-efficiency rating of 83.9.
But his numbers also took a serious nosedive in the second half of the season as he was repeatedly pounded behind the line of scrimmage. The Bombers yielded a league-high 71 sacks last season, with Willy the victim of 66 of them. To put that total in perspective, the last time the Bombers won a Grey Cup, in 1990, they surrendered a league-low 26 sacks.
Willy earned around $280,000 in the first year of his deal and is to make the same this season. Contract talks are said to have been cordial, but Willy's representative is seeking a new deal that would pay him around the same as Mike Reilly of the Edmonton Eskimos, but more than the first year of the new four-year extension the Calgary Stampeders signed Bo Levi Mitchell to earlier this month.
Saskatchewan Roughriders QB Darian Durant is believed to be the CFL's highest-paid pivot, as he'll earn around $500,000 in 2015.
All this isn't to say the Bombers don't want Willy back, because they do -- especially as rumblings grow louder Robert Marve, his promising understudy, is interested in chasing his NFL dream after his contract runs out following this season.
The club has spent considerable cash in free agency to upgrade the offensive line in front of Willy, signing all-star left tackle Stanley Bryant, veteran centre Dominic Picard and former Hamilton Tiger-Cat right tackle Marc Dile. while adding a potential deep threat at receiver in former Toronto Argonaut Darvin Adams.
That activity, understandably, has taken a serious bite out of the money in the salary cap Walters & Co. have at their disposal -- including how much dough they can pile up for Willy. There's a possibility of a bridge deal of sorts, where Willy gets a smaller raise this year with a bigger base salary after that.
But the more likely scenario, at least as negotiations stand right now, is for the club to opt to get a better read on Willy as a franchise QB this year by lining up a superior O-line that can keep him off his back, by giving him more weapons at his disposal and another year with the same offensive co-ordinator in Marcel Bellefeuille.
If this season unfolds as they hope and he lights up defences while leading the club to the playoffs, they know they'll be held up for ransom by Willy's camp next winter. And that's a big, fat cheque they'd then be more willing to write.
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