Winnipeg Blue Bombers General Manager Kyle Walters has done a masterful job of retaining most of the core players who helped end the 29-year Grey Cup drought for the franchise in 2019.
But the one key cog in the team’s success who very likely won’t be returning is kicker Justin “Money” Medlock, who remains undecided about the 2021 CFL season heading into the start of free agency at 11 a.m. CT on Tuesday.
Perhaps there would be clarity from Medlock if there was the same kind of certainty a season will be played in the Canadian Football League this summer and fall. But no one has that answer, so Walters indicated during a Monday morning conference call the Bombers were planning on moving ahead without the 37-year-old Santa Clara, Calif., native.
“Justin is working full-time and just hasn’t been ready to commit to anything for 2021,” said Walters. “It has been a nice luxury for us to have arguably the best kicker in the history of the CFL and just put his name in there and not have to worry about it.
“We talk every year: ‘Ok, what’s the plan if Justin decides to retire this year?”
Walters made it clear that no final decisions have been made by Medlock, including retirement. But the succession plan did begin during the 2020 CFL draft when the Blue Bombers selected Marc Liegghio of Western Ontario in the fifth round.
The plan was to have Medlock mentor Liegghio, but that was scuttled, so the young man touted as perhaps the greatest kicker in USports history will try to make the best of the situation without that veteran presence to guide him.
And Walters indicated that there will be competition for Liegghio at training camp.
“There are still good American kickers down there that can do them all. And the global draft is filled with Australian kickers that are solid players as well,” Walters added.
“It behooves us to plan for the worst-case scenario that he’s (Medlock) moving on.”
As for free agency day, Walters does not expect the Blue Bombers to be major players. A good portion of the reduced salary cap has already been invested on the key pieces from the 2019 roster. And with two draft classes from 2020 and ’21 competing for special teams or practice roster spots, Walters feels he’ll be in “kicking tire mode” on the remaining talent that is available.
“With each year that’s gone by, we’ve gotten a little bit less active through free agency — just adding a piece here and there,” said Walters.
“This off-season we really focused just on trying to bring the main core back that won. Once we were able to do that, there’s just not a lot of money left to be spending.”
It’s expected receivers Lucky Whitehead and Daniel Petermann will also explore opportunities that will provide them with more playing time. Meanwhile, unsigned special teamers Kerfalla Exume and Thomas Miles could also be on the move, but for different reasons.
Read more: Winnipeg Blue Bombers release 2021 schedule
“Kerf’s just deciding, he’s got a baby on the way. Staying close to home in Montreal is an option,” shared Walters on last year’s special teams coverage standout.
As for homegrown product Miles?
“I know Thomas is weighing his options. He’s deciding if he wants to move on from football into a career. He’s a real sharp young man and he’s got a bright future after football,” was how the GM described that particular scenario.
Walters says if a player is available via free agency who can provide competition or depth at a good value, there might be some conversations. “But there’ll be no big splash, I can’t imagine.”