Winnipeg Blue Bombers General Manager Kyle Walters admitted to having to sweeten the pot by a few thousand dollars. But the organization is willing to bet that in the end, the investment in luring free agent Slotback Weston Dressler to Winnipeg will have been worth it- on and off the field.
The Blue Bombers announced on Tuesday Morning they have signed the two time CFL All Star to a two year deal- reportedly worth about 175 thousand dollars per season. The Football Club would not provide any financial details. Dressler became a free agent on January 14th when he was released by Saskatchewan for refusing to accept a reduction to his reported 240 thousand dollar annual salary.
Walters actually felt pretty confident he had a deal done with Dressler and his agent late last week after submitting the original offer for the 8 year veteran out of the University of North Dakota. “There were some good negotiations, and then it was – we’re gonna hold off,” said Walters about the response he had from the Dressler camp. “They were waiting for some more offers to come in and just wanted to sit on it. So I said okay. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go- but it didn’t feel right. But I hadn’t worked with this agent before so I didn’t know if this was his standard operating procedure.”
Monday Night Walters said he reached out to Dressler’s agent to follow up and was told all the offers were in and “let’s figure it out.” According to Walters the remaining negotiations went pretty smooth and they were able to “finish it off.”
If Dressler’s agent was bluffing, Walters will never know. But there wasn’t a great deal of difference between the ask and the give, so it really didn’t matter in the end. What Walters does know is the football club has been improved significantly on the offensive side of the ball. “He’s a proven receiver, one of the best in the league,” was how the GM responded to being asked what Dressler will bring to the team. “He’s a veteran presence, he’s gonna come in and show everybody on offense- across the board- what a winner looks like from a work ethic standpoint. And that’s what we talked about as well. Just to bring him in and raise the overall expectations. And he’s excited to do that.”
Bombers Offensive Coordinator Paul LaPolice was in on those discussions, as well as the recruitment of Dressler who he had worked with in Saskatchewan when he was the Roughriders Offensive Coordinator prior to returning to Winnipeg as Head Coach in 2010. Former, and now current team mate Drew Willy was also in constant contact as the Bombers utilized every advantage they had to convince Dressler this was his best option.
LaPolice will be installing a different system on offense that will include more movement, so it’s not quite as simple as Dressler taking over Nick Moore’s position at slotback. But Dressler will be replacing Moore as the Blue Bombers highest paid pass catcher. And Walters says the addition of Dressler had zero impact on the team’s decision to more or less cut ties with Moore, who was only healthy for 24 of the 36 games in his 2 seasons with the Blue and Gold. “We made an organizational decision. Prior to anything to do with Weston Dressler- we were gonna move on from Nick Moore,” says Walters. “I talked to Nick’s agent weeks ago and Mike has had a good long talk with Nick and the message was basically we wouldn’t be making a contract offer prior to free agency.”
Walters is expecting most of the deals after 11 a.m. CST on Tuesday, February 9th to be one year because that seems to be the direction players want to take who still have NFL aspirations. But that wasn’t an issue with Dressler. “Maybe it’s because Weston had already gone that route and at his age he’s settled into the notion of being a CFL guy, and finishing his career as a CFL guy.”
One thing the Blue Bombers will be careful of is not over-using their new weapon. Walters expects that Dressler will be used as a “sporadic punt returner, who when he goes back there every once in a while, you hope something big will happen.”