As free agency nears, CFL.ca is breaking down each team’s potential needs, wants and wish lists. Today we take a look at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
As simple as it might sound, Kyle Walters’ job of making things right in Winnipeg once again is a daunting one.
Filling the Void?
With the departure of Henoc Muamba opening up a big hole on the defensive side of the ball, expect Kyle Walters to pursue capable linebacker to fill his void. Is Robert McCune the right man for the job?
Following a second-straight season without playoff action in the Manitoba Capital, sweeping changes were made on all levels of the organization.
First, the interim tag was removed from Walters’ title, giving him full autonomy to restructure the football product to his liking.
As a result, Walters began surrounding himself with recognizable and successful names such as Danny McManus and Ted Goveia, who were both handed roles as Assistant General Managers.
But the most significant move of the Bombers’ off-season so far arrived when Walters announced the hiring of Mike O’Shea as the team’s new head coach.
Since then, Walters has been slowly solidifying his roster, hoping to produce a much more competitive team than the one that took the field in 2013.
The Work Done So Far:
Prior to the beginning of free agency, Walters had 22 potential players that needed to be dealt with.
Less than a month after the Grey Cup, Walters went to work on scratching some items off his to-do list. First off were the extensions of punter Mike Renaud and offensive tackle Steve Morley.
Following the New Year, Walters come to terms on a new deal with fullback Michel-Pierre Pontbriand, defensive back Alex Suber, offensive lineman Chris Kowalczuk and defensive lineman Ryan Lucas.
But the biggest and most noteworthy on-field move for the Bombers saw the team go out and acquire QB Drew Willy from the Roughriders in exchange for receiver Jade Etienne.
Willy has since been named the team’s starting pivot heading into training camp.
Another significant move made by Walters was the release of linebacker Henoc Muamba, who was granted his release to pursue an opportunity in the NFL.
The Bombers still have 11 players who can potentially hit the open market.
Among them are tailbacks Chad Simpson and Will Ford, both of whom will generate some interest from teams who need a punch out of the backfield.
Sticking with the offence, the Bombers also might lose the services of tackle Andre Douglas, receivers Akeem Foster and Chris Matthews, as well as lineman Justin Sorensen.
Defensively, stalwarts like Brandon Stewart and 2011 Most Outstanding Defensive Player Jovon Johnson could test the market. They can potentially be joined by defensive JT Gilmore and lineman Kenny Mainor.
Who could be on their radar?:
Should Foster and Matthews choose to test free agency, the Bombers will no doubt be in the market for an impact receiver.
As of now, the Bombers could use a pass catcher to compliment the likes of Clarence Denmark, Terrence Edwards and Cory Watson, so it’s possible they go after the likes of Johnny Forzani, and potentially Cary Koch.
The same applies to their backfield, where it’s possible that they lose both Ford and Simpson to other teams.
That said, the Bombers could look towards the recently released Chris Garrett, who played with the Bombers during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
But the biggest hole the Bombers will need to fill is that of Muamba’s spot in the middle. Looking at available linebackers, it’s possible that O’Shea takes a stab at bringing in Robert McCune, who knows him from his days in Toronto.
Other linebackers that could wind up in Winnipeg are Shea Emry and Jamall Johnson.