You would think the opening day of free agency would be a busy day for a CFL General Manager. But with his work wrapped up, Bombers GM Kyle Walters spoke with the media a mere 90 minutes after the window opened.
“We’ve been to three Grey Cups, had a good run last year and we’re close to winning three in a row. Bringing (our) core back was essential.”
And he did. The Bombers re-signed Zach Collaros, Willie Jefferson, Jackson Jeffcoat, Adam Bighill, Stanley Bryant, Jermarcus Hardrick and several other veterans well in advance of Tuesday’s free agent deadline. The Bombers could have as many 20 of the 24 starters on offence and defence back this year.
One of the four new starters will be former Bomber — and now current Bomber — Kenny Lawler. The 28-year-old receiver returns to Winnipeg on a two-year contract.
“We do have a majority of the same guys back,” says Walters. “But we sat down and said, ‘What’s the one key piece here?’ And it was ‘Kenny Lawler’ across the board. That type of playmaker that can single-handedly make a play to win a game for us.”
Walters says the Bombers tried to deal for Lawler at the trade deadline in 2022, but couldn’t make it work with the Elks. Now they have him back, but at a significant cost — not only the salary (reportedly more than $550 thousand over two years), but the Bombers lost receiver Greg Ellingson to the Alouettes and they are unlikely to re-sign Rasheed Bailey.
“If you want to go after a Kenny Lawler, as we discussed that’s the market,” says Walters. “And you have to take a deep breath and go, ‘If this is the guy we want and this is the (salary) range it’s going to be,’ and get it done.”
Walters says the Bombers are likely done in free-agent shopping. Now the focus goes on to the kicking game, and what Walters will do with incumbent Marc Liegghio.
“There’s a lot of contracts still to be offered for training camp. And the kicking situation certainly is one where we expect to have a bigger competition in rookie camp this year where I expect to see maybe a global, an American, another Canadian — a wide range of options to go out there to compete to see who will be our kicker and punter.”
Bombers rookie camp will open on May 10.