WINNIPEG – Under the scrutinous eyes of the entire Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan base, GM Joe Mack has been meticulously going over his many options.
With 11 of his players needing new contracts, his off-season to-do list is a long one. It also doesn’t help that almost all of them are starters, as Deon Beasley, Marcellus Bowman, Clarence Denmark, Chris Garrett, Jonathan Hefney, Johnny Sears, Bryant Turner and Jason Vega are all on the brink of entering the free agent market.
While Feb. 15 is still two months away, Mack has been hard at work at trying to get his marquee players back in Winnipeg Blue and Gold.
“Most of our free agents are American players, and I’ve spoken to every one of them and their agents,” Mack told BlueBombers.com.
“We’d like to have them all back, and probably within the next week to 10 days I’ll circle back again and see if we can progress with our negotiations. It’s an ongoing process, they don’t officially become free agents until February 15, so we’d like to get some of them done before then but that’s at their discretion,” he added.
Arguably the most intriguing name on the Bombers’ list of pending free agents is quarterback Justin Goltz. Goltz threw just eight passes for 39 yards this season, but has garnered high-praise from Bombers Head Coach Tim Burke as well as Mack. In a QB situation as sticky as Winnipeg’s you can expect Mack to take a good hard look at his various options , including that of re-signing the 25-year-old pivot.
“We’re having discussions with Justin’s agent right now and I would foresee him coming back sooner rather than later,” said Mack.
“He’s intelligent and he also has one of the strongest arms out of all our quarterbacks and he’s a good athlete. He hasn’t gotten much playing time, but he has great potential, great work ethic and he’s a quality individual so we think he has a chance to compete for a higher spot in the overall depth chart moving forward,” he added.
Goltz is just another piece to what is a confusing Blue Bombers QB puzzle. Last season, he was one of four Winnipeg quarterbacks to throw a pass, as Buck Pierce, Joey Elliott and Alex Brink all saw significant action under centre.
Elliott led the way in passing yards with 2,101, followed by Brink’s 1,391 and then Pierce’s 951. Pierce, now 31, entered the 2012 campaign as the undisputed starter, but underwent major injury trouble and only appeared in seven games.
While Pierce has displayed in the past that he’s capable of leading and succeeding as a starting quarterback, his injury history has raised several eyebrows as to whether or not he’s the quarterback of the future for the Bombers.
As a result, Mack has been keeping his eyes and ears wide open.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about the quarterback situation but that’s still evolving,” said Mack.
“First of all, Buck and Joey were a bit banged up and we’ll probably wait to see what our medical staff has to say in the new year. We’ll continue to have discussions and a lot will be predicated on what quarterbacks will be available.”
Still, Mack is in no rush to figure out who will be behind centre for his team in 2013.
“We’ll have to try and figure out as a staff who we want to be at mini-camp so we can continue to evaluate the quarterback situation,” he said.
“Obviously it’s paramount for us, but that can be an evolving process that probably won’t come to more clarification until maybe March of early April.”