WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers made a second trade in 24 hours Monday in hopes of boosting a struggling offence and solidifying the defensive line.
The Bombers completed a trade with the Montreal Alouettes late Monday afternoon for import quarterback Ricky Santos. Going the other way to the league-leading Als (9-2) are Canadian defensive linemen Riall Johnson and Shawn Mayne.
After losing 33-14 to Montreal on Sunday, the Bombers (3-8) announced a five-player deal with the Calgary Stampeders.
Winnipeg acquired receivers Titus Ryan and Jabari Arthur and defensive lineman Odell Willis in exchange for receivers Romby Bryant and Arjei Franklin.
Winnipeg also received Calgary’s picks in the fourth and sixth round in the 2010 draft, while the Stampeders got the Bombers’ third-round pick in 2010 and rights to an unnamed player off Winnipeg’s negotiation list.
The six-foot-two Santos has been on Montreal’s nine-game injured list (toe) this season after signing with the Alouettes in 2008. The 25-year-old University of New Hampshire product attended minicamps with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008.
The Bombers are tied with Toronto (3-8) for last in the CFL and play a critical game Saturday when they host the Argonauts.
Bombers head coach Mike Kelly had already had his daily meeting with reporters before the Santos deal was announced.
But he had been asked if it really mattered who his receivers are if his club’s quarterbacking doesn’t improve.
“I would say there was probably some truth to that,” Kelly said.
“But I don’t want to pin everything on the quarterback. We did have numerous balls dropped (against Montreal). We had probably one of our more explosive plays of not only (Sunday) but of the entire season called back because of holding.
“We are collectively all taking our turns at holding ourselves back.”
The play Kelly referred to was a 54-yard pass from quarterback Michael Bishop to running back Fred Reid that would have taken the Bombers deep into Als’ territory in the second quarter.
Kelly said Bishop will start at quarterback Saturday.
Bishop completed 9-of-19 passes against Montreal for 145 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was taken out late in the second quarter and replaced by Casey Bramlet, but went back in again in the fourth quarter.
Bramlet, who arrived in Winnipeg last week, was 1-of-8 for 13 yards and two interceptions in his first CFL game.
To make room on the roster for Santos, the Bombers released QB Bryan Randall.
Kelly said he was frustrated and disappointed with his inconsistent offence.
“There’s just some things that could be to a point of ridiculousness, to be quite honest with you,” Kelly said.
“It’s a real challenge and a real struggle. I’ve been counting the rotations on the ceiling fan above my bed. We’re just gonna continue to try to find answers. That’s the best we can do right now to help these guys out.”
And even if some fans say he should quit, Kelly said he’s never quit anything in his life and he’s not about to start now.
Ryan, Arthur and Willis may be in the lineup against the Argos, he added.
With the angry atmosphere surrounding the team, the newcomers from the Calgary trade could be forgiven if they feel like they’ve been yanked off a sunny beach and dumped in Siberia.
Ryan, a six-foot import rookie used mainly by the Stamps on kick returns, said he learned of the trade when he was watching TV, then his agent called him.
So what does he think of joining a CFL club that has fans wearing paper bags on their heads and calling for Kelly to be fired?
“That’s not good,” Ryan. “Hopefully, you know, things will turn around. There’s positive thinking, you know. Just try to keep it positive and do what we can do.”
Arthur, a Montreal native who was Calgary’s first pick in the 2007 CFL draft, was driving to Winnipeg to continue his second CFL season in a new city. He’s coming off the nine-game injured list this week after breaking a foot in the pre-season.
Willis roared out of the gates in his rookie campaign, racking up six quarterback sacks in his first four games. He didn’t pick up any sacks in the next five games and was put on the practice roster.
When Calgary signed defensive linemen Charleston Hughes and Tearrius George after NFL tryouts, Willis became expendable.
Both Ryan and Willis said they’re just happy to have work.
“I’m in pretty good game shape,” Willis said. “I’m just ready to add what I can do to the team and just help us win ball games.”