Blue Bomber general manager Kyle Walters made it clear in his press conference last week that, as has been the case in past years, he would be very aggressive in free agency. When free agency kicked off at 11:00 AM CT earlier today, Walters didn’t disappoint.
Eleven days removed from the signing of four-time all-star slotback Weston Dressler, the Bombers added seven players to their roster within the first five hours of free agency. Here is a rundown of the Bombers’ signings and departures along with some speculation about moves to come.
RB Andrew Harris – National
Harris led the Lions’ offensive attack for the past five seasons, recording 6,898 yards from scrimmage. A Winnipeg native, Harris will be the first Canadian player to start at running back for the blue and gold since Sean Millington in 1998. Harris’ contract with the Bombers is three years in length.
RB Pascal Lochard – National
Lochard, drafted 14th overall by the Lions in 2014, has just three carries in his young CFL career. A former star with the Laval Rouge et Or, Lochard will serve as depth behind Harris to maintain the Bombers’ national starting spot at running back. Lochard’s contract with the Bombers is a two-year deal.
SB Ryan Smith – International
Smith, fresh off a 991 yard season with Saskatchewan, follows fellow University of North Dakota alumnus Weston Dressler to Winnipeg. Still just 24, Smith is quickly blossoming into one of the CFL’s best deep threats; his 16.8 yards per reception average last season was league-best among all CFL receivers with over 700 yards. Smith’s new contract with the Bombers is two years in length.
C Jeff Keeping – National
Keeping, a former teammate of Blue Bomber head coach Mike O’Shea, joins the Bombers in the twilight of his CFL career. Capable of playing both guard and centre, Keeping, 33, will bring ten seasons of experience to a Blue Bomber offensive line that features two young starters in Matthias Goossen and Sukh Chungh, both 23. Keeping was named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 2013. Keeping’s contract is a one-year deal.
DT Keith Shologan – National
Shologan, an eight-year CFL veteran, joins the Bombers to become the club’s starting nose tackle. Shologan joins the Bombers after recording a career-high seven sacks with the RedBlacks in 2015, an impressive number for a player at a non-traditional pass rushing position. Expect Shologan, a Canadian, to rotate with incumbent national defensive tackle Jake Thomas. Shologan’s new contract is a two-year deal.
DT Euclid Cummings – International
Cummings, 24, joins the Bombers from Toronto where he notched eight sacks in his first full season as a starter in 2015. At 6’4 and 281 pounds, Cummings is expected to start at defensive tackle alongside newly acquired Keith Shologan. Cummings’ contract with the Bombers is a one-year deal.
K/P Justin Medlock – International
Medlock, the most accurate field goal kicker in CFL history, joins the Bombers where he is expected to take over all three kicking duties with the club. Medlock is coming off an all-star season with Hamilton that saw him connect on 89 percent of his field goals and 94 percent of his converts. Medlock’s deal with the blue and gold is two years in length.
The Bombers had nine free agents hit the market today. The lone player with whom the club was still negotiating as of Monday, Graig Newman, signed a two-year deal with his hometown Roughriders shortly after free agency opened. Former Bomber slotback Nick Moore signed a one-year contract with the Lions. Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu, meanwhile, came to terms on a one-year contract with the Toronto Argonauts. Former Bomber Demond Washington is expected to find a new CFL home over the coming days.
Remaining players of interest
Even with today’s additions, the Bombers remain thin at a few key positions. Expect the club to bring in some competition at right tackle — Joel Figueroa, Jake Olson, and Levy Adcock are all possible upgrades over incumbent Jace Daniels. Remaining positions of interest include international defensive back and international receiver.
As discussed in last week’s salary cap piece, the Bombers will need to clear most of the dollars spent on today’s free agents from their existing roster. CFL teams are not required to be salary cap compliant until final cuts are made at the end of training camp, so it’s unlikely any releases are imminent. Expect as many as four Bomber veterans to be cut prior to training camp.
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