Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM, Kyle Walters says the idea of being labelled a potential “big spender” in CFL Free Agency is “relative.” But Walters did confirm the team has the financial ability to plug a few holes when “the bell rings” at 11 a.m. CST Tuesday Morning.
And the Blue Bombers will have some spots to fill on the depth chart after Walters confirmed Friday Morning the Winnipeg Football Club is moving on from the likes of Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu, Defensive Backs Demond Washington and Lin J Shell, Special Teams Captain MP Pontbriand, and Offensive Lineman Selvish Capers. Of the list of 10 Bomber pending free agents, Walters says the only player he is still trying to re-sign before Tuesday is back up DB Graig Newman. “I’ve had discussions with Graig’s agent so he’s the one I anticipate, when you go through all those names, Graig will be the one that we’ve still had some discussions with and I think they were going to take the weekend and sort it out and see if the numbers are a good fit or he’s gonna go.”
Walters says he re-structured contract extensions with a number of players over the off season to create cap space for Free Agent Tuesday. But just because there are dollars available, there are no guarantees when the other eight teams get involved in the bidding process. “Just because you anticipate signing one or two free agents, you don’t know if that’s going to come to fruition because everyone’s thinking the same thing.”
And the players everyone will be talking to, if they do become free agents, are Canadian starters. Like Defensive End Ted St. Laurent of Hamilton, Ottawa D Lineman Justin Capicciotti, and Running Backs Andrew Harris and Jerome Messam. “I’ll say this,” shared Walters during his media availability session on Friday. “Anytime a quality Canadian starter is a free agent, they will get a lot of attention across our league.”
The Blue Bombers have their priority list- and some of the names expected to be near or at the top include Winnipeg born Harris, Hamilton Placekicker Justin Medlock, and smallish but speedy Saskatchewan Receiver Ryan Smith. Walters is confident of one thing. Most of the deals being done on Tuesday will not be “long term” with players and agents all looking for one year contracts for two reasons. Some of the Americans want to have another shot at the NFL. All believe there’s more money to be had by an escalating salary cap. But Walters says we’re only talking about 50 thousand dollars. “When you do the economics of it and you see the escalating costs of the Quarterbacks salaries and the Canadian Starters. And now you see the American Receivers and Offensive Tackles- the salaries are growing much faster for those high end guys than that cap’s going up.” And Walters believes there will be a trickle down effect – as early as 2016. “I think there’s gonna be tough decisions for each team in the months leading up to the season when you start looking at salaries and how do you afford to pay those high-end guys. There’s some give and take when you start talking about that for sure.”
Aside from free agency, Walters said it’s anticipated highly regarded Offensive Line Coach Bob Wylie will return for a 3rd season. And Walters says newly acquired DB/LB Macho Harris will give the team some options at SAM Linebacker along with returnees Chris Randle and Maurice Leggett.