The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are going to lose at least one of their starting offensive lineman from their 2021 Grey Cup championship squad.
The Bombers released guard Drew Desjarlais on Tuesday to allow him to pursue a contract in the National Football League. He would have become a free agent next month.
The Bombers drafted Desjarlais with the fourth overall pick in the 2019 CFL Draft. He quickly earned a starting job early in his rookie season and never relinquished it.
The 24-year-old appeared in 32 games the past two seasons.
Blue Bombers general manager Kyle Walters said Monday that Desjarlais worked out for 12 or 13 different NFL teams over the past month.
“You can’t replace him,” said Walters. “He came in and won a starting job as a Canadian O-lineman halfway through his first year, and established himself as one of the best guards in the game.”
But the Bombers believe they already have another starter waiting in the wings.
“I think somebody like Geoff Gray who’s been working and grinding, and is ready to step up and play,” Walters said. “And Liam Dobson who we drafted last year. I think if he doesn’t get an NFL shot he will come in and be able to compete.”
A pair of Desjarlais’ now former teammates have already signed NFL contracts. Defensive back DeAundre Alford signed with the Atlanta Falcons, and defensive end Jonathan Kongbo inked a future contract with the Denver Broncos.
The Bombers already signed starting offensive linemen Stanley Bryant, Jermarcus Hardrick, and Patrick Neufeld, but starting centre Michael Couture will be a free agent on Feb. 8 if he doesn’t sign a new contract.